One of the novels my students can choose from during their course work is a piece titled Enrique’s Journey. It’s about a young man whose mother leaves him when he’s just a toddler. She doesn’t say goodbye because she cannot bear the guilt, and she makes a difficult trip through Honduras and Mexico to the U.S. hoping for better opportunities to send money back to her children so they can eat. As a teenager, Enrique decides to go after her. He faces multiple failed attempts, robberies, beatings, traveling in cramped trucks or on the tops of freight trains. Every time I speak to a student about this novel, he or she expresses either shock at the knowledge immigrants faced these obstacles and still face them in 2018, or shares a relatable story about a family member.
I am not proud to be an American. I don’t know if I ever have been. Am I proud of people like my Bop, who fought in World War II to keep us safe? Of course. Am I thankful for the rights I possess? Yes, but they all come with a price. When I learned the truth about Christopher Columbus years after my elementary school taught me to memorize songs of his heroism, I realized that the United States holds a consistent history of treating human beings as disposable.
Right now, according to The New York Times, the richest 1% of our country owns more wealth than the bottom 90%, and the bottom 90% hold 73% of the nation’s debt. Yet we pretend that a Mexican family living in poverty and working field jobs that no white people apply for and a single mother on food stamps are the causes for economic disparity in this country. Because it feels better to blame a scapegoat than to admit we’ve created this problem ourselves.
The current zero tolerance policy regarding immigration (and the policy instituted to separate families which took effect on 4/6/18–look it up) and this administration’s focus on trivial petty issues like the significance of the national anthem and the presence of “In God We Trust” plastered on office walls in public schools (teachers don’t have supplies and students come to school hungry but officials can ensure that these posters are printed and disseminate-I’ll save that for another discussion) reveal our priorities and our shortcomings and our willingness to distract from the ripping away of basic human rights. (I don’t even care if that was a run-on sentence. Deal with it.)
Our current leader idolizes dictators and how their citizens respond without question, standing upright, at attention. Sir, yes, sir. Blind acceptance and allegiance. Out of fear.
It breaks my heart to read the experiences that photojournalists and nurses are reporting in the detention centers where we as a nation are placing children and separating them from their parents. I cannot fathom spending my life’s savings and traveling for weeks to find hostility and discrimination and abuse. I cannot imagine my child being ripped from my arms and taken to some fabricated “tender age center” full of children ages 2-5 who do not speak the language and maybe don’t speak any language at all. Who will come for them? Who will comfort them? How will the people manning those centers treat them? Since this is a new practice, we are learning as we go, and is that what we do in America? We learn as we go and play with the lives of innocent children?
It hurts me. But it doesn’t surprise me.
I wish I had more money, influence, or power to affect change. Regarding other issues, I’ve contacted local, state, and federal representatives who are supposed to be working on behalf of the people, but at this point, my husband sit and look at each other with the same sentiment: “What do we even do anymore?” They don’t care and they don’t listen. The electoral college made a decision that solidified the direction of this country deeper down a hole of oppression and marginalization.
This is America.
Our administration and those supporting him tout themselves as pro-life. Let’s see the fruits of the labor of the pro-life:
Elementary and High school students gunned down in hallways and classrooms. Immigrant children ripped from their parents.
Quite the opposite. What are we? I call it Anti-Life. Anti quality of life. Anti human rights.
Our administration has the audacity to insult progressive leaders of countries like Canada, where citizens have universal health care and where mothers receive paid maternity leave to support their physical and mental health as well as that of the child.
We can’t even dream about living on that level, but we are supposed to stick our heads in the sand, sing the national anthem that only guarantees you freedom if you’re the right race and the right ethnicity and the right gender and the right socioeconomic status and the right sexuality. And we’re supposed to hope that they don’t come for us.
These are the messages my America raised me on:
Boys: don’t cry. Man up. Get money and bitches.
Girls: Get married, have the babies, clean the house, satisfy your man, get back to work 30 days after having a baby and don’t bitch about it.
Mentally ill: It’s all in your head. Suicide is selfish. Get over it.
Autistics: Sorry your parents got you vaccinated. We don’t have resources for you right now.
Blacks: If you would just do what the cops tell you, then this wouldn’t happen.
LGBTQ: Your presence offends us and makes us uncomfortable so just stay in the closet.
Muslims: We fear you.
Latinos and Asians: Speak English.
Native Americans: Why are we even talking about you? Stay on your reservations with your polluted water where you belong.
Poor: It’s your fault. Work harder.
Rapists and sexual offenders: Well, at least you didn’t sell weed. You can be on probation. Just try not to do it again.
Drug addicts: You did it to yourself.
Victims of rape: But did you say “no” though?
Teenagers: You can’t even vote and you know nothing. Why should we even listen to you? Go pass your Algebra EOC and learn how to barricade yourself in a classroom behind a bookcase.
Rich: You’re doing everything right. You are everything we aspire to be.
This is America. These are the messages our current administration perpetuates. And if you support it, you are complicit.