When I was a kid there was a wall that separated West and East Berlin, and I imagined the Iron Curtain was a real curtain, cutting one half of Europe off from another. I actually went to Poland on the train before the wall came down, and the experience is still stamped in my memory, even though it was nearly 30 years ago. A wall is never the right option, just ask anybody who has lived alongside one.
I realized a long time ago that it’s easy to feel a significant distance from a lot of things that are happening in the world when you live in the US, that there is a real false security blanket that you jump and hide under. It’s easy to forget about certain things because they are so far away and not on your doorstep… Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the reality of the world when it feels so distant. It’s not hard to find a small spot in this vast country that feels somewhat safe. Everyone needs somewhere where they feel like they belong.
But belonging is apparently only allowed if you tick the right boxes. Otherwise it’s just fake news, bad judgment, and rank with deception and disappointment.
You know, you think that you’ve heard everything; your skin is thick enough to deal with all the ignorance; words don’t hurt, they have no idea, it is their fault, but they don’t know ME or my family etc etc. But every day one phrase out of all of them lingers and chips away at your confidence, at your armor. You scroll through social media and you see one report of arrest and deportation after another, and these people are YOU. These families are YOURS. You don’t know them personally, but you do, you know what happens when one of you doesn’t answer the phone, isn’t home on time. You know the questions, the fears, the heartache, and also the happiness, and the joys. It doesn’t matter where we are from, we all get it. And with every person who gets picked up my heart hurts. I see people sharing the articles and saying how disgusting it is and how this can’t be happening here and how it’s not possible and this is not the US...
But it is.
I see comments from people I actually thought I knew, berating the fact that some politicians care more about immigrants than homegrown Americans, and I wonder if they actually follow what is happening in Congress, or do they just decide that creating a divide is more important than fighting the real enemy? A person who has been here since they were a year old and is now 30 shouldn’t be represented because there are still homeless people on the streets?! The logic makes no sense and I don’t understand why people even use it.
I hear the words, the backhanded comments that are made to ensure we know full well we don’t have the same rights as them, that we are criminals, that we made a choice and we need to deal with the fallout of that choice. I hear the words, telling us our kids are not as important, that we only had them to secure a spot in this country. I hear the unsaids, the looks, the fake concern, the “well you could have thought of that befores”... Why do you think we keep our distance?
I’m disappointed. I’m so disappointed. I’m disappointed in this country I finally thought was my home. I’m disappointed in those who still call themselves “expats” so they can pretend they are different from those who are immigrants. I’m disappointed in those who have become citizens and who aren’t trying to fight for our rights, because they don’t have anything to lose anymore. I’m disappointed in those of you who got married and are too scared to lose your own status that you won’t stand up for those who never had one to begin with. I’m disappointed that people won’t read through the bills and the articles and between the lines and understand that these immigration policies affect everyone adversely, whether they are citizens or not.
But my heart is still warmed by those who care; by the Dreamers who face the risk of deportation every day but are still out there, protesting, making their voices heard; by the real allies and the real friends, the ones who don’t roll their eyes when they see us share another FB post or blog post, who call and write to their reps every day; and by the articles and books I read that show me that we ARE important and that there are people who are willing to fight and stand up for us, especially those who have so many other battles to fight of their own.
I know I should probably keep my mouth shut and my head down and hope that by being silent it will all be OK. But remaining silent in the face of injustice isn’t something that I do, whether it affects me directly or not. This particular topic does affect me directly and it’s not easy to not get emotional about it, to remain strong and to still trust, to still believe we have a place here.
I’m not going to tell you to call your reps anymore. You can’t force people to be involved... It’s a hard lesson to learn, but also a necessary one. I’m not going to ask you to donate your money or your time or your energy towards a cause that you don’t understand or that doesn’t affect you directly. If you can’t stand up for the kids who stood next to you when you all pledged allegiance to the flag back in elementary school, then my words aren’t going to change your views. If you can’t muster up the energy to protest the deportation of immigrants who served in the US Army, then I doubt you are going to care about the cooks and cleaners and farm workers and nannies and everyone else that you don’t ever notice.
There is a lot of narrative around extraordinary immigrants, those who are going places, making huge differences, and while those awesome people should be celebrated we must also remember that all of the others, who often do the things that most people take for granted, those who work two, three jobs, are also human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the extraordinary and forget about the rest. Especially because of the narrative this government likes to parade around, comparing Dreamers to gang members, and all (non-white) immigrants to welfare thieves. NO human is illegal.