Family history

Just another illegal, drinking
(Sidenote: The White Elephant has the best brunch in ACK)
***


Hello sweet friend,

What did you do this week?

I was so distracted at Whole Foods that I almost checked out in the 10-items-or-under line-- until I counted my produce on the belt: 12 items. I pretended not to be mortified as I repacked my monogrammed Boat & Tote, and snuck away to the regular line.  

Yes, I am hyper-focused on being The Best, Untouchable, at all times. My father (may he rest in peace) was welcomed into the US via his "exceptional ability" in business, and yet I have always felt the need to prove myself, to prove that I wasn't a "drain" on the system.



I didn't realize I needed to prove this until elementary school. A substitute teacher called my mother one afternoon, to lecture her on her child plagiarizing. No 5th grader could write this way, with such vocabulary, especially not one "with my kind of background." (As a 17 year old, I wrote about this experience for my MLitt, to explore the concept of "unaware outsider.") 

I don't know my mother's reaction. We don't speak about these things. My immigrant family taught me, instead, through suppressed replies, through the silent pedagogy of "chin up." Every time they pretended to ignore the subtle indignities of a new country, a new language, I saw their message: every moment here should be unquestionably cherished. (I never reported being sexually harassed by my professor in med school.)  

Is that why I was in med school in the first place: to prove my utility? Why I left the glamour of the Ivy League to return to my small town, bringing with me a form of medicine so new, I had to start an entire department to address it?

On my mother's side of the family, I have a slightly different immigrant story: we were Italian Jews that left during the war. Yes, THAT kind of Jew. The kind skittish enough to safeguard the unity of their family. The kind willing to do anything to improve their children's lives: leaving behind everything... including their religion. Another form of asylum-seeker, from whom I internalized: there but for the grace of God go I. 

Native Americans probably didn't care that his ancestors were also handsome

But then I look at my husband: he is the one who descended from illegal immigrants. Yet he has the most naturally easy, ingratiating way about him. Aside from his father, he is the most charming man I've ever met.

Of course, we have a different way of talking about his illegal ancestors: we call them "Mayflower Descendants." And "Daughters of the American Revolution." He's never felt the title of "animals" or "infestation."

My husband's other ancestors came over during essentially open borders: the time of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty welcoming with open arms. They too were once "uneducated, unskilled" drunkards with a brogue. Now, in retrospect, they were "integrating" and "contributing to the economy;" in retrospect, they entered "legally" just by showing up.

Is that the source of his confidence, that he too will be accepted, "just by showing up"?

I would walk on hot coals for my child

Where does this leave my son? The son who, should we be separated even for the making of a Keurig Tea, will run frantically through the house, demanding "mama! mama!"

Although immigrants are being lambasted for this desire, it is no different for me than anyone else: I want the best for my child. I want his life to be better than my own-- more perfect, less complicated. (And that is really saying something, because I have p-ri-vi-le-g-e beyond measure.)

I want my son to have a combination of our habits: the smile that can relax an orthopedic surgeon screaming at a nurse, the punctiliousness that sends follow-up emails confirming a phone discussion.

But even as I am my own apologist in the paragraphs above, I wonder: is that what everyone is so angry about? My immigrant-story success?

Isn't that how the augment is changing: now it's not just illegal, but all brown immigrants, that are coming to "take the country away"? Brown immigrants are so guilty until proven innocent, that we took away their children by the thousands? 

Here is the brown immigrant's conundrum: 
work, and you are stealing jobs
don't work... stealing resources
*
stay in your country: lose hope for your children
seek asylum in the greatest country on earth: lose your children


So let me end my weekly missive with the pro-life exhortation: all lives matter. 

I don't care if you are Republican, Democrat, Third: we have to stop villainizing God's children.

(What have we come to? Now stating "it's wrong to steal babies," is a controversial viewpoint?) 

If you hear that nursing infants are being ripped from their mother's desperate arms, and your gut reply isn't heartbreak, fear, and a vision of your own child, your own mother.... 

if your reflexive instinct involves the words "laws", "illegal," what they "should have done", who's "fault" it is, what they "deserve", "if they didn't want this to happen," "deterrents," "hype," "policy," "but what about X marginally related issue"...

why is your first instinct to deflect?

Reflect on why, when you hear that any government, anywhere, is committing systematic child abuse: why isn't your reply empathy and grace?

Why doesn't your heart break for innocent children?

Those are the lives on the line: innocent children.
  • This is not about adults (who are all sinners, every one of us). 
  • This is not about politics.
This is about a humanitarian crisis perpetuated in our house. 

Please reflect on your reaction to this humanitarian crisis, in light of these words: 
A NEW COMMANDMENT I GIVE YOU
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
SO YOU MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER
(john 13:34)

There is no place for argument in this love.

In the world, yes, there is a place for policies, politics, debates, laws, and explanations. (I think immigrants would be the first people to say: we need laws, please do not let the Bad Guys- from whom I'm fleeing- come here too.)

But if we do not begin with love before laws, we are hopeless. We are hopeless, and useless.

I am worried that we are becoming a country without this commandment, without love, without heart.

Doctor's orders


Words are the only way I know to open and heal the heart-- scalpels are only for tissue. 

Please read these words as drops from my heart, transfusions of love onto the page... and hopefully into your own heart. Love One Another.

(To help reunify the separated families, please consider donating.) 

Until next Sunday,
I remain,

Wishing you the health of happiness,
Mama, M.D.

P.S. I read this poem in the very smart comments section of an incredible blog post:
"home"
no one leaves home unless 
home is the mouth of a shark 
you only run for the border 
when you see the whole city running as well 

your neighbors running faster than you 
breath bloody in their throats 
the boy you went to school with 
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory 
is holding a gun bigger than his body
 you only leave home
 when home won’t let you stay. 

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing 
until the blade burnt threats into 
your neck 
and even then you carried the anthem under 
your breath 
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper 
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. 

you have to understand, 
that no one puts their children in a boat 
unless the water is safer than the land 
no one burns their palms 
under trains 
beneath carriages 
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey. 
no one crawls under fences 
no one wants to be beaten 
pitied 

no one chooses refugee camps 
or strip searches where your 
body is left aching 
or prison, 
because prison is safer
than a city of fire 
and one prison guard 
in the night 
is better than a truckload 
of men who look like your father 
no one could take it 
no one could stomach it 
no one skin would be tough enough 

the 
go home blacks 
refugees 
dirty immigrants 
asylum seekers 
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out 
they smell strange 
savage messed up their country and now they want 
to mess ours up 
how do the words 
the dirty looks 
roll off your backs 
maybe because the blow is softer 
than a limb torn off 

or the words are more tender 
than fourteen men between 
your legs 
or the insults are easier 
to swallow 
than rubble 
than bone 
than your child's body in pieces. 
i want to go home, 
but home is the mouth of a shark 
home is the barrel of the gun 
and no one would leave home 
unless home chased you to the shore 
unless home told you 
to quicken your legs 
leave your clothes behind 
crawl through the desert 
wade through the oceans 
drown 
save 
be hungery 
beg 
forget pride 
your survival is more important 

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear 
saying
leave, 
run away from me now 
i don't know what i’ve become 
but i know that anywhere 
is safer than here

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