Journalists Tell America’s Story Every Day

Allie Shah at the StarTribune has a story in today’s paper that is a poignant and powerful, intimate look at today’s continuing echoes of American history. This is what excellent journalism does — shows us the broader world, makes us feel what others’ lives are like, connects us. The beauty and sadness of the tale is deepened by Kyndell Harkness’s riveting photographic portraits.

Dr. Mohamed Aden Ali is a Minneapolis Somali whose sister was killed in a bombing in their homeland of Somalia, where she was serving as minister of health. Ali will go back to the disintegrated country for a memorial service for his sister, and is torn between staying there to help his native country and his fellow Somalis, or returning to Minnesota where he has been tending to the thousands of transplanted Somalis here.

This is America. Famine in Ireland, religious intolerance in England, totalitarianism in central Europe, pogroms in Russia, armbands in Germany — people fled to a new land, new chances to take, new freedom. That’s how the country was built. Then emigration expanded, from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America. And the European immigrants who’d become Americans were less eager to see that the newest immigrants were just like them, only different. The same in motivation, in desire, in having faced hardship and refused to let it determine their lives and their children’s futures. But different in skin tone. And America wasn’t such a welcoming place for many who passed through horror to follow their dreams here.

A story such as Ali’s helps us remember we are all one family, no matter our faith, our faces, our forebears or fate. Here’s a man who has been taking care of his refugee brothers and sisters, all torn from a homeland in chaos. He’s a doctor, heads an organization to help all Somalis, is a man who would make any community great, any country great. We need this man, and should welcome him, not just because he’s a doctor but because he’s a compassionate man who cares about his community here and his community an ocean and continent away. This is as true of him and his fellow Somalis as it was of the German, Scottish and Scandinavian ancestors who brought my family here two centuries back.

Our local paper did a fine job today showing us that the whole world is local, and that our neighborhood is the world. And we readers can wish this neighbor well as he faces a terrible choice, but one that will lift and enliven him and whichever community he chooses, however the story ends.

— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from

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