Some immigrants are luckier than others. We were embraced by complete strangers when we came to the States. “Welcome to America!” “God bless you!”

Then there is the Iraqi man in Texas who went outside to look at his first snowfall and was shot dead in front of his home. His welcome wagon was, shall we say, a little less festive.

What makes one person a target and not another? Was it simply that the color of his skin was darker than ours? Or were we lucky to be dealing with people slightly less crazy than the ones in Texas?

When we lived in Idaho, our neighbors pointed their many guns at everything else that moved–the squirrels, the birds–but not at us, at least as far as I can remember. Not that there was any love lost between us. They didn’t like us because we had an accent and spoke to each other in our native language. Actually, they were drug dealers, so they were paranoid and didn’t like anybody very much.

I was told when I came to America that I should fear the big cities with their muggings, but the scariest time I’ve experienced here has been the five years we spent in Boise. Still, we didn’t get shot. Since America is portrayed around the world as the country where people get shot, this was a big deal for us.

I guess this rambling post is to reflect on the randomness of fate. What decides which human beings live and die? Whether or not you look like the type of person who gets killed. And if you do, whether or not you are doing something “suspicious”. Whether or not you live somewhere where weapons get waved around in public, or a more civilized area like the one I currently inhabit, where the residents keep their weapons hidden in their homes. Whether or not the nutjob down the street finally reaches his tipping point. So many things can go wrong.

Some of us just happen to be lucky.

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So just as I decided to be whiny about it, I’ve been given a good reminder of why I should be grateful to live in Portland.  The entire Internet has been mocking the Idaho gubernatorial debate today, with its wacky Bible-quotin’ conspiracy-theory-spoutin’ candidates.  This brings back lovely memories, as I used to live in Idaho.  Only for a short time, but still, wow.

The Idaho of today seems at least slightly less homophobic, as one of the debaters opined that gay people love each other more than he does his motorcycle.  I can still remember the guy at my Boise school who told me that if he found out a person was gay, he would have no problem whatsoever with killing them (shudder).  Then there were the male students in my college class (a college class!) responding to a female professor’s lecture by saying that yes, in fact, women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  While the boys were a bit more rude about it, the girls explained to me in a nice and polite way that they were going to submit to their husbands when they got married.  I think my jaw dropped to the ground and stayed there for the entire five years I lived in that state. 

In the end, it was too much for us.  We couldn’t handle Idaho.  Having just come from a stint in Holland and New York, the culture shock was too extreme to overcome.  We were singing on the day we packed up our U-Haul to leave.  And then it was time for our romance with Portland to begin.

I would like to add that there were a few wonderful and open-minded people I met in Idaho as well.  I feel for them–it’s not an easy life for those brave individuals.

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