Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a word or phrase bubbles up from deep within the realm of memory. As I studied the excellent 2008 USCIS Ombudsman’s Report to Congress, out from my cerebral hard drive popped “Hello Out There!” — the title and opening and ending lines of William Saroyan’s outstanding 1942 one-act play. The play is about angst, the existential cry of the human spirit beset by a world of injustice, but also about hopeful beginnings. (In high school I played the smallest of bit parts — the jailer — a ten-second walk-on with no lines.)
As I wondered why this phrase suddenly popped in my mind, into my consciousness came another meaning of “hello,” pronounced with an adolescent sing-song intonation that stresses the last two syllables, as in “HellOOo.” This slang meaning of “hello,” as confirmed in www.SlangSite.com, expresses astonished incredulity at another person’s naivete.
Pondering the two meanings of this common salutation, I at last made the connection to the Ombudsman’s report. On one hand, his report is a deep-throated “Hello Out There!” — an earnest clarion call alerting us in detail to the many problems and dysfunctions of USCIS, and a hopeful urging to our nation’s leaders for resolute action. On the other, the report may well evoke a skeptical and smarmy reaction from members of the public and the immigration cognoscenti whose hopes have been dashed repeatedly by countless broken promises and initiatives that failed.
I take the quixotic view of the Ombudsman’s report. If he can help in achieving even a glass half-full of his many worthy recommendations, and earlier unanswered suggestions to his predecessor, our country will be well served.