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“Brian, is your police department going to send me back?”

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March 1, 2017

Mayor Brian Smith, Irvington
Mayor Brian Smith, Irvington

I have been trying to learn Spanish since I was about 10. To practice I often engage in small talk with bussers and servers in local restaurants. We chat about where they are from, but mostly about soccer as I am a huge fan.

On the Friday night after the inauguration, my wife Keira, our 11-year-old son Ronan and I were having dinner out (our daughter Bella was babysitting). One of the busboys and I were having our usual banter about Real Madrid versus Barcelona (¡Hala Madrid!). As the conversation ended, he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Brian, is your police department going to send me back?”

A few days earlier, my wife was asked a similar question by a local housekeeper in town, so perhaps I should not have been as surprised as I was. The waiter (who speaks English as well or better than I, so I assume he has been here a long time) hurried over to hear my reply. Though still a bit stunned, I clearly remember looking at my son who was sitting across from me. After a long pause that I am sure was disconcerting to my restaurant worker friends, I answered forcefully: “We are never going to do that!”

From their faces, I sensed that they took little comfort in my reassurance, and I realized in that instant that our country had changed much more than I had hoped it would.

One of my weaknesses is my blind optimism. I will likely benefit personally (financially anyway) from a lot of policies coming out of Washington by the flick of a pen. But I think the greatest damage coming out of all this will be to that optimism—and to my total belief in the moral superiority of the United States.

Brian C. Smith is the mayor of Irvington

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