New Colossus

Twas the night before July Fourth, and honestly I’m not sure how to feel.

Do I celebrate freedom, when so many are in cages?

Do I celebrate democracy, when the popular vote didn’t win?

Do I celebrate liberty, when my rights are decreasing?

Do I celebrate the military, in which I have family serving?

Do I celebrate the pursuit of happiness, when I seldom see it?

Honestly, I don’t much feel like celebrating Independence Day. It feels a little too ironic and short-sighted. It feels like we haven’t come so far from where we were 200 years ago. And I guess that bothers me. But I think that there’s something to be said about the here and now.

A couple hundred years ago, my ancestors began coming to America. They were escaping persecution, famine, war, the plague and more. They wanted to start over. And some came with nothing. Some came with their families, some came with more. But one by one they all came. One or two had been here in America since time immemorial, but almost everyone came from somewhere else. They were met with uncertainty and fear. They may have treated others kindly, or maliciously, I don’t know.

For most of my life, I wondered about those people. About what it must have been like to travel to somewhere they had no ties and just start over. I didn’t know their names then, but I wondered what they thought about, how it felt, why they chose what they did. And I know that coming to Kansas wasn’t the same thing, but it has many similarities.

Image result for statue of liberty immigration

I drove through the night, we had car trouble, we left so much of our stuff behind. We came here without knowing anyone here. We came here to start over, and to be educated. We came with what we could stuff in our tiny vehicle and said goodbye to our parents, friends, homes. I remember passing cornfields I’d looked at for decades and wondering when I would see them again. I remember taking pictures of places we’d worked, we’d visited, just to keep the memory of how things were. I remember leaving in the dead of night, knowing it would be a long time before I’d feel comfortable with my choices.

And when we got here, nothing made sense. It was like exploring a new place with no understanding of where anything was, who anyone was. We were alone here for three ish weeks. And it was the longest, loneliest three weeks of my life. School began and things felt more familiar. Ish.

All that to say, I didn’t come to Kansas because I was afraid for my life in Ohio. I came because I needed a chance at a better future.

I watch the news, as much as I can stomach, and I see the people coming to the borders, asking for no less than I did. Asking for no less than my ancestors did. And they are being denied. And it breaks my heart and boils my blood.

I am incredibly lucky to have had ancestors who took a chance on somewhere completely foreign. I am no less fortunate to have made my own journey for the same reasons. But the people coming today are being forced away, shoved into internment centers, subjected to all kinds of humanitarian terrorism. The difference between them and myself or my ancestors is one single thing. My ancestors were largely white and came from Europe. And that is not, in any way, acceptable.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
The base of the Statue of Liberty

This is my anthem. This is who I am. This is the America I believe in, not the tyrannical, dictator-led America that everyone sees. I stand for the immigrant’s America.

 

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Spirit Bands

This took place over a decade ago, but I feel like it’s pertinent. I’m doing my best to report it with integrity.

When I was in 6th grade, the administration of the school came up with the idea of spirit bands. They were little bracelets in our school colors that could be used for what was considered special rewards: going first in lunch lines, bathroom privileges and things like that. We were told that if we did not have bands, we could not buy juices or carbonated drinks at lunch, we would sit at a table designated for non-wearers and would have to wait for everyone else to get lunch before we could. You could lose your band if you were in trouble-which meant that any trip to the office took away your right to go to the restroom until you earned your band back (a process which took an indeterminable amount of time). They said it was to encourage us to be good students.

Image result for spirit bands

Now, in sixth grade, we were about 12. None of us had had really solid world history, and we were mostly innocent children. And then one day, we asked-well, what about people with diabetes? If they don’t have bands, they can’t get lunch. And if they can’t get lunch, their blood sugar could be at risk. The response was a very hesitant “they should have bands”. And that, my good readers, is when the revolution began.

Someone, I’m assuming someone with an older sibling, began to talk about how this was just like Nazi Germany-people being segregated based on an arbitrary division, handed down by those in power. A systematic oppression. We sent round a petition. We stopped wearing the bands. We did as much as 11 and 12 year olds could, to stop a system we believed to be unjust.

And we were met with some pretty furious administrators. I’m sure they were not happy about the spending of thousands of dollars on things they thought would be useful. I’m sure they were not happy that a bunch of 6th graders compared them to Nazis. I’m sure that was uncomfortable. But we won. None of us had to wear those bands anymore.

So why am I telling you this?

Because if, as a child of 11 or 12, we knew that something was unfair and we were able to change the tides, think of what we can do now, as adults? When there are actual Nazis to fight, deep injustices to rebel against.

I get it-being angry about this administration is hard. It’s been a long battle so far and we’re still going. It’s exhausting. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. But resisting it is what is right. And what is right may not always be what is easy-but it is always what is right.

Think about all the terrible things that have happened since the 2016 election was revealed. Think about all the people you’ve had to leave in the past because they were accepting of a man who can destroy human rights with a sweep of his hand. Think about how many marches and letters to your representatives and how scared and angry you are.

And then think of all the millions of people who were marching with you. Who sent their letters too. Who stood up and said “Me too.” Who stopped thinking of just themselves and started working for the greater good. Think of the justice workers, the resistance, the handmaids, the people who are fighting with all they have. Because for each atrocity that the current dictator engages in, there are those who refuse to remain silent about it. Who whistle blow. And think about how you are not alone.

I know it’s hard-especially when you get onto social media and you see trolls and bots repeating the same terrible lies you grit your teeth at. Trust me. I know it’s infuriating to be gaslit. But keep going.

If not for yourself, for the thousands of children who are now at the mercy of people in Washington. For the thousands of children in foster care and abusive homes. For the thousands of women who do not have access to reproductive health care. For the thousands of LGBTQ people who are afraid they will face conversion therapy. For the thousands of people of color who are judged harshly for nothing more than the melanin of their beautiful skin. For the thousands of religious minorities who are afraid to practice their beliefs in public. For the thousands of immigrants who face the tyranny of America because they face death in their own home. For the thousands who do not have a voice of their own.

Keep going.

Keep fighting.

Where Are The Children?

As many people are aware by now, almost 1500 children have been lost by my government. And I want to talk about it. Because it needs to be talked about.

But also, I want to talk about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzales, the 20 year old Guatemalan woman who was shot at the border of the United States.

Imagine graduating college with an accounting degree, and being unable to find a job. You decide that your only option is to leave behind everything you knew, your own people, coming on a journey that left you with very little to your name, seeking safety. You’re tired, exhausted really, ready to collapse when you finally make it to the border of a country that you believe will accept you in. And in a rapid turn of events, you hear “This is what happens. You see?” And then you are no more. Your family screams, but you do not hear, because you are dead.

Ella no merecía morir. Nadie merecían morir. Su familia vengan para vivir una vida mejor y todos somos responsables de eso.

She did not deserve to die. No one deserved to die. Her family came in order to live a better life and we are all responsible.

Image result for claudia patricia gomez gonzalez

Of the 7000 children who were separated from their parents this past year, almost 1500 of them are “missing”. These lost children of America were given to “foster” families-some of whom were known human traffickers. The American Government saw fit to sell children into slavery.

Our government-no matter how much or little you agree with it-sold children into slavery. 

Just keep repeating it until you puke. Because that’s what I did. And then get active. Jam the fax machines in congress. Jam the fax machines in your governor’s office. Donate to the ACLU and SPLC. Find the children. Because no matter which agency, under whose orders, these are the people who represent America. And until all of the children are found and brought to safety, this is all our faults.

Our fault for being apathetic. Our fault for being lazy. Our fault for allowing this pompous, fascist dictator to remain in office. Our fault for accepting oppression as safety. Our fault for brushing off the news as “sad”, as “at least it doesn’t affect me”, as anything other than our responsibility. Our fault for not shutting down slavery-even though it is 2018. Our fault for not demanding equality loud enough, often enough.

So rise up people. Rise up with your rage, your sadness, your inequality. This is a war we’re fighting. And if we lose? It’s not just immigrant children who will suffer.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

And while we’re at it-where is the justice for the First Nations? Did you know the police incited violence at Standing Rock is still unfinished? There are innocent protesters who are still facing trials for defending their rights.

Where is the justice for African Americans? The NFL fining teams for kneeling during the anthem is against everything our country stands for. This protest was everything that was claimed to be acceptable-peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive, silent, safe. If you can’t respect that, you’re a hypocrite. Where is the justice for the people of color who are shot for no reason other than the underlying racism in America?

Where is the justice for the children who are more likely to be shot that someone who is currently serving in the military? Where are the safety precautions? The stricter regulations? Where is the political outrage over the fact that America is fighting a war it didn’t even recognize it had? And where is the justice for the victims who are blamed for the actions of those school shooters? The children who are slut shamed (or prude shamed)? The children who are gaslit for every incident that happens to them-much exactly the same way the adult Americans are gaslit into believing that hopes and prayers are the answer?

Where is the justice for women? For people in poverty? For immigrants? For religious minorities? For victims of sexual assault and rape and domestic violence?

And the list, I promise you, goes on. And on. And on.

If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.

Where I Come From

For the longest time I was a member of ancestry.com. I simply couldn’t afford to pay the fees, and had to take a brief pause. However, before I left, I was able to find the name of the town my great grandfather came from as well as the boat he sailed on to come to America. Also of interest, I found the church that a 7x great grandfather was baptised in.

There is no problem locating the church, as it is in Ireland, and the records are quite precise.

But I cannot find the little town that my Russian great grandfather came from. So I guess, if anyone has any idea how to go about finding it, or knows anything about small places in Russia which may or may not exist anymore, I’d be interested in speaking with you.