The TV in the small room was on mute, showing me CNN anchors interviewing congressmen on the current Democratic Convention. I sat down on the chair and leaned my head back, ready for an hour of lying there with my mouth open. My dental hygienist (whose name will be changed throughout this piece due to my not knowing her name) took my retainers to the back to be cleaned as I watched the newscast.
“Are you tired of all this politics crap? You want me to change the channel?” Diane, the hygienist, asks, her voice chippy as usual.
“I’m actually kind of a politics nerd. So just leave it.” I smile at her.
“Oh! Well, usually the patients ask for me to change the channel because everyone is over the politics.”
I nod and there’s silence.
“So what made you become a political nerd?” (You need to imagine her voice…it’s like your friend’s mom’s voice when you’re visiting, constantly offering lemonade.)
“Well, I’m an immigrant,” I tell her, “And when you’re an immigrant, you’re always a hot topic. So you gotta choose: either you tune in or you avoid it. I choose to tune in.”
“Ah yes,” Karen (the same hygienist) sticks both hands in my mouth, “I’m totally fine with immigrants. That’s my viewpoint. As long as they’re being productive in society.”
The scraping digs at my gums and pulls up from my bottom teeth.
“I mean, it’d be like an American going to another country and just not doing anything. I don’t agree with that.”
You see, I tend to speak up when something like this is said to me. If you’re someone’s grandma, you’d probably call me “mouthy.” I call it “outspoken.” But in that moment I couldn’t respond because she had a sharp object poking at and scraping my teeth.
But here is what stopped short of my mouth:
The idea that any immigrant would leave their family and livelihood to go to another country to “not do anything” is in itself ridiculous. So I agree, though I have yet to meet an immigrant like that.
I would’ve followed it with a joke or a smile because my mom taught me to be amicable.
I already have a problem with people avoiding politics. It leads people to believe Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides to the same coin. Someone who believes that is not worried a Trump presidency would directly affect them. That person is probably not of color given that Donald has bad-mouthed immigrants, Muslims, and his candidacy has inspired David Duke to run for office. That person worries about theories and the idea that both candidates are equal symbols of depravity or lawlessness or whatever. They don’t think about how Donald would do away with Obama’s executive action like DACA, and Hillary wouldn’t. Or about how he has promoted violence toward minorities in his rallies, and she hasn’t.
Avoiding politics also made them not watch the RNC and witness how horrific those speeches were. I was hoping the Republican Convention would be enough to scare people back to their senses, but what good did it do if people weren’t watching?
But my biggest problem with Sharon, the hygienist, was that she would think something so ridiculous about a reasonable human being. When she thinks of immigrants, she considers them to be so different from her that they would do something so nonsensical that she herself would never consider doing. Vivian herself wouldn’t move to another country to do nothing. But these immigrants….well, they do.
I think it’s the lack of exposure. Lori looks around herself and thinks she sees no immigrants, either because she is actually not around them or she thinks immigrant is such a negative word that she wouldn’t associate her friends and coworkers with it.
So if there are no immigrants around her and if we continue being misrepresented and underrepresented in the media, causing people like Tina to not literally see us, then obviously we’re sitting around at home not doing anything. (And randomly going to the dentist, apparently.)