I have sadly, sadly neglected this blog.  However, I have continued writing and editing for my local Democratic party chapter.  I posted this over on their blog, and thought I would share here, as well.

As I look at pictures of women and children getting tear gassed at our border, my mind can’t help but drift back to a time when I was a frightened little kid.

Back in the 1980s, my parents made a brave decision which a lot of Americans on both sides of the political aisle would have approved of. They stood up to the Communist government of our native Poland. They became active members of Solidarity, the trade union movement which fought against totalitarian oppression and for free speech, fair elections, better working conditions. Because of this, my parents were blacklisted by the government and unable to find employment anywhere. The threat of arrest was always looming over them. There were contingency plans for who would take care of me if they were taken away.

My father decided that, for the good of the family, we would leave Poland.

My parents managed to obtain visas for a six-week vacation to Holland–our suspicion has always been that the government was happy to get rid of us because we were troublemakers. Nobody who saw us leave would have been fooled by the vacation bit. Our little Volkswagen bug was filled to the brim with sheets and pillows, clothing and books, so much so that it almost broke down at the border between East and West Berlin. After many adventures, we made it to Groningen, a town in the north of Holland which would become our home for the next few years, and there my parents made their next brave decision.

We overstayed our visa.

Yep, that’s right–we broke immigration law. It was our only chance at a new life, since there was no way the Communist government in Poland would have officially allowed us to move elsewhere. As weeks and then months went on, the realization hit me that this really wasn’t a vacation and I really wasn’t going back home. I suffered from intense homesickness, but in time, I got used to Dutch culture and I grew to like living in Holland.

And I’m so grateful that the Dutch government didn’t just immediately kick us out.
I’m even more grateful that they didn’t arrest us, or separate me from my parents, or attack us with tear gas. The Dutch understood that we were asylum seekers and they put us through the normal asylum appeal process. In time, the Berlin Wall would fall, and with it Communism–much sooner than we thought it would–and at that point, our asylum claim was denied due to the changed political situation. But we were given a fair shot.

And while, yes, we had some scary times in Poland, what we went through is nothing compared to what some of the refugees trying to get into our country have experienced. The families from Central America who have seen family members get kidnapped and killed. The Syrian kids whose homes were bombed into rubble. And we can’t extend a helping hand to them? Because these people are “illegal”? Since America is supposed to be such a devout nation, I will speak in a language it might understand–like the Pharisees in the New Testament, you are obsessed with following the letter of the law, not the effect it might have on the life and spirit of your fellow human beings. Jesus would not be proud.

When I have brought up my family immigration history to Trump supporters who are all about keeping the migrants out, I get only silence in return. People literally don’t want to discuss it. I can guess why this is–there are only a few options for how one can respond, none of them very pleasant. One would be to admit that you’re wrong about the refugees and maybe we should allow some of them in–not something a MAGA fan would be willing to do. Another would be to tell me that yes, Holland should have deported us back to Communism–again, not a point that a conservative would enjoy making.

And then there’s the worst possibility of them all–that if the Trump supporter were being honest with me, they would say “Well, we would be okay with you coming in as a refugee, because your skin is white. You’re European, so we can empathize with your fear and pain. But these migrants–they’re brown-skinned, they’re Latino, they’re Muslim. It’s just not the same thing.”

I suspect that this is what’s behind the silence, and that is a painful conclusion to reach.
To those who think that way, I would say this: You’re not only hurting the migrants, you’re hurting our country, too.

Immigrants make this country stronger and better. We work hard, we’re innovative, and America is enriched by including many different cultures, religions, traditions.

My family has been incredibly lucky. I can’t simply turn my back and close the door on other desperate families, other frightened kids. Let’s give them a chance at a new life, too.

Advertisements

I, too, am an immigrant.

I may not be brown-skinned, but I’m still here to take your job.  My parents took your jobs, too.  I’m not sure if these are jobs Americans just won’t do.  All I know is that we’ve worked our butts off to build the life we’ve got in this country.  And I know undocumented immigrants who work even harder.

I may not wear a hijab, but I know what it’s like to be a refugee.  I know what it’s like to fear the government of my old homeland, and to hope and pray that I will be accepted in my new one.  And yet what my family experienced is nothing compared to those fleeing their bombed out houses and lives in Syria.

I’m lucky to have white skin, so I don’t stand out too much.  Unless I speak and you hear my accent, you may think I’m one of you.  Even if you do hear my accent, you won’t mind, because a European accent is sexy/cute.  I’m just another fortunate person enjoying the fruits of this country’s success.  “God bless you!  Welcome to America!”

But I can never allow myself to feel too comfortable.  Because in a society which needs scapegoats, nobody is ever really safe.  And you need scapegoats.  You’re angry and frustrated.  Things haven’t turned out the way you hoped they would, so you’re looking for someone to blame.  This will not end well.  Today the scapegoats are the people coming across the southern border.  Tomorrow they might be anyone who speaks a foreign language in public, or anyone who doesn’t salute the flag quickly enough.  Someday, the scapegoat might be you–the person who’s pointing the finger right now.

I can also never allow myself to point the finger, because that would make me an ugly hypocrite.  I am grateful to be able to live here, and I can’t close the door on others who want to come in, only because their culture is different or their religion makes me uncomfortable. After all, we immigrated from a country which, at the time we left it, had a Communist political system.  What if my family was automatically suspected of wanting to spread Communism?  Everyone from that part of the world could have been a radical Communist, right?  What if we were considered too high-risk to be allowed into the States?  Doesn’t matter that my family actually opposed Communism.  Many refugees today are running away from ISIS-style fundamentalism because they hate and fear it, but we are suspicious of them anyway.

So when you talk about how we should keep “them” out and how “they” make us unsafe, I can’t help but feel a little anxious.

I was once one of “them”.  I still remember what that’s like.  And no matter how Americanized I become, I will never be exactly like you–I will always be an immigrant.

It should really be called the Department of Desperate Losers, he thought.  Losers because they were not from America, and Desperate because they so badly wanted to get here.

He rubbed his hands together.  He loved this part.  It was the beginning of a fun new game.

In front of him sat a stack of computer file printouts, personally selected for him.

He grabbed the first one and started reading through it.  Her name was Maya.  She was a 15 year old girl from Syria.  She liked mathematics and soccer.  He looked at the file in shock.  Who could have possibly picked this one?  After a moment, he finally noticed the Post-It note on the cover sheet.  “Just kidding,” it read.  He made a mental note to find out who was responsible for this joke.

The next one was better.  She was Vietnamese, and she was past the legal age.  Very thin–he liked that.  But while skimming her bio, he found out she was politically active and had been part of the opposition movement in Vietnam.  In fact, this was why she was trying to leave the country.  He shook his head.  That sort of thing only caused problems.

There was the file of a Colombian girl who was much too athletic for his tastes.  Once again, he congratulated himself on his decision to make full-body photos mandatory with all immigration applications.  “You’re fired!”  he said as he placed her application on the reject pile.

He didn’t want a woman to wrestle him.  He wanted someone who would be as perfect of a wife as Melania.

Ah, Melania.  What a woman.  Always so quiet, and when he gave her permission to speak, always so classy.  And a knockout–that went without saying.

She looked a little sad at that last party.  He could understand how she was feeling.  It was bittersweet for him, too.  They had such good times together.  But he was a realistic man.  And reality was that Melania was past her expiration date.

It wasn’t all bad.  He would get to pick out a fresh new babe.  And Melania would be fine. She would go on to do…well, whatever it was that older women did.

More ladies–from Mexico, from Somalia.  He suspected that his staff was trying to be politically correct and do that whole diversity thing with the candidates.  He breathed a sigh of relief when he got to the women of European heritage.  Finally…this was the good stuff.

Oh, yes.  A blonde from the Czech Republic.  Gorgeous face.  And those knockers.  Talk about merit-based immigration.  She would be getting extra points for sure.

And then a bombshell from Sweden.  A brunette this time, with legs for days.  Definitely a ten.  But not pretending to be someone she wasn’t.  No weird hobbies, no PhDs.  Just solidly feminine.  He could appreciate that kind of honesty.

He would gladly save her from the terrorist hellhole that was Sweden.  He felt a tiny twinge.  Was it sympathy?  Maybe it was an erection.  Whatever.

Might as well end it right here, he figured.  Could it get any better?  Who knows, but he didn’t have the attention span.

And then he was hit with another one of his brilliant ideas.  Why not have both the Czech chick and the Swedish chick come over here and fight it out?  The lucky winner would get his hand in marriage and American citizenship.  Of course the entire thing would be filmed.  It would make a fantastic TV show.  They could wrestle in…in something.  He would figure it out later.

There was a light knock on the door of the office, and Seth peeked in.

“Having fun, Mr. President?”

The President spread his fingers over the desk.  “This is so great, Seth.  So great.  Thank you for this.”

“Excellent.  Take your time, Mr. President.  We’re discussing some policy issues in the other room.”

“Good job, Seth.”  This was his genius, he reflected–he had such fabulous people working for him.

The door closed again, and Donald went back to ogling pictures of hot girls.

“Being President is seriously the best job ever,” he thought.

America is a scary place these days.

As I leave my house in the morning, I have to dodge bullets from angry black people trying to shoot me up.  I can barely make it down my driveway.  I’m pretty sure the Black Lives Matter movement is responsible for this.

Even if I survive that, I still have to make it past the ISIS terrorists lurking behind every corner.  So many suicide bombings in my neighborhood.  We should have never let those suspicious refugees in.

And then there’s the commute, with crazy cars veering all over the road.  I’m a well-informed citizen, so I know what that’s about–illegal immigrants driving drunk.  And you think any of them will get deported?  Nooooo…  (Although to be fair, it could also be the hippies smoking that legalized pot.)

No, they will continue living in our country, taking our welfare and stealing our jobs (maybe at the same time!)  Right along with the Asians and other foreigners stealing our factories and our manufacturing.

What’s a frightened white person to do?

Thank God we have a strong leader like Donald Trump running in this election.  He will make all those scary people go away…somehow.  He will make America safe again!

At least…safe for me…right?