Thursday, February 16, 2017

There is no right way

Not every immigrant story starts out the same way.

Case in point: "My parents came over on a sponsored visa program, backed fully, and entered the port of NYC with the sun on their backs and a good road ahead. They did it the right way."

There is no right way. There's only the way it happened.

Some of us arrive in the dead of night on a rocking sea, vomit-covered shirt soaked and stained - the boat of tied-together rafts and tires falling apart as it hits the shore. Others stowaway on big steamers that chug their way towards the assumed golden shores of America, weeks and weeks hiding beneath cargo. Then there are others who strip down to their underwear, their belongings in a single plastic bag, plunging their bodies into the cold waters of that snaking river to rise, shaking yet determined, on the other side. 

Before these the many who sought their dreams boarded boats and simply arrived, suitcase in hand. Our ancestors out there dreaming and doing. There were no papers, no illegal entry, just people who were seeking the pinnacle of dreams that had been lost, destroyed for whatever reason in the world of their birth.

You see, we beam our brightest light out into the world, welling hope into people who have lost theirs. The "huddled masses" as we see them from our lofty high point. Then, as they reach our shores, having been beckoned by the false reveries and blinding promise, we shut the light off and leave them stranded. 

"I'm sorry, you can't really come here. Yeah, we're pretty proud of our country, but wait in line for twenty years and do it the right way."

We're big on bragging on who we are as a nation, the all-giving U.S.A. 
Look at how grand we are! 
Look at how benevolent are our people! 

And in the next breath we are shunning the ones who seek entry, judging them by their countries who spit them out, or a country that can no longer help them rise. 

In one big breath I've seen praise for God tumble out of lips, the whispered words imbuing a sanctity to living for Him - the one above all. In the next sentence are muttered words of fear and restraint saying, "We mustn't allow any more people in. We must take care of ourselves first!" 

I no longer care to hear your words on God. I, too, know him well. He has been my solace and keeper. He loves me as he loves you. The wide spectrum we now find ourselves on puzzles me, that to think we are to turn inward instead of outward as He demands. 

The condescending slide of words that inject a vicious stream into my blood saying, "You know what's right. Stop thinking differently than the rest of us." 

But you see, I know who I am.

I reject that because maybe for the first time in my life, I know that I am thinking for myself; I know that what I believe is true. I see the shaking heads and those of you walling yourselves in for the long haul. The sealing away of what we think are helping hands, now only meant for those who are deemed worthy to be helped.

If it weren't for that snaking river, the one that cuts through some of the harshest terrain in the U.S.A, I would never have met the one for me. My children wouldn't exist. Today I thank God that there are those that do defy our system for entry, that swim or run or drive across the border - any border - and inject LIFE into a place that would stay singularly desolate. No longer open to the diversity that brings culture and openness. 

We make it harder than it needs to be. 
Hard to enter a country with so much room to breathe.

In the rejection of that otherness, is the rejection of usurped land and the peoples that dwelt on it for thousands of years. We want to paint it with white, forgetting and leaving behind the history of its devastation. The slow creep of "civilization" that overtook, killed, burned, and cast out the brown faces that lived and dreamed there. Faces painted as "natives" and "heathens" and "uncivilized." The sweep that also took over Mexican lands and made them American, forgetting that the border is not now where it once was. With one fell swoop it erased the lines and in doing so erased a people that while still living there, are now invisible. 

Let them all in. Let them live. Open up the borders. Stop fearing.

There is no right way to enter. There is only how it happened. 

And whether we welcomed, or didn't.