On Voting

Did you guys hear Donald Trump’s speech on immigration? He gave it right after his random trip to Mexico. It was very scary. He talked about dangerous immigrant aliens roaming neighborhoods, committing crimes that are so heinous they’re unimaginable. It was over an hour of just really scary, really inflammatory words. You could hear his audience’s reactions. I think Donald is fueled by their reactions. So his speeches get more and more alarming the more his crowds respond with cheers and yelling and chanting.

“Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone.”

This week, I am starting to realize people don’t vote. More specifically, I’m realizing people my age don’t vote. People who can easily talk about how toxic Donald’s campaign has been for this country, who would never want him as president—they actually didn’t vote in the primaries (Donald won in Ga) and aren’t registered to vote in November.

I really can’t understand that. It’s very hard for me mainly because I can’t vote. Also because I will directly be impacted by whoever becomes president just like I was directly impacted by President Obama who signed DACA into existence.

But I also think there needs to be some sort of responsibility that American citizens should feel. Especially if you’re a woman. Especially if you are Black. But even if you’re White, there are people who fought at some point for you to be able to vote. There are people who thought this was really important. That having the ability to cast one vote actually reflected your wholeness as a human being and citizen. To be counted meant you are there, you are heard.

And here we are now. And there are people who are terrified of a potential Donald presidency, with all this talk of stop and frisk, and deportations, and banning muslims and refugees. But some can’t vote. Or people know that one vote won’t change anything. But what if all my friends voted? What if people who care about these issues actually came together and changed a state’s affiliation? It’s happened before. And this time around, it can happen again. (Ga is actually being considered a purple state right now as Hillary is running closer to Donald than Obama did to Romney in 2012.)

So, you guys, if you know me. If you care. Please. Please vote. It’s not only a right. It’s a responsibility.

P.S. People who think that non-citizens are going to try to vote need to sit down and do some deep-common-sense-thinking. Why would an undocumented person or someone who’s here with a temporary visa go into a govt run event and expose themselves in any way? Why draw attention to ourselves? Why risk our whole livelihood?? For one vote? Do you think we are that stupid or that patriotic? I’m very confused by this logic.

 

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We are all Skittles 

Donald’s campaign put out a new ad. Let’s take a look:


There are lots of problems here. But let’s focus on how this depicts an extreme narrative of “us vs them.”

Here, the refugees aren’t brown nameless people. They’re not children washing up on coasts. They’re not mothers and daughters and fathers and brothers. They’re not even dangerous terrorists (though, that’s the implication given the recent events in Chelsea). No. They’re candy.

While they’re candy, we’re the decision makers. We’re the human holding the bowl of Skittles. We’re the hand choosing whether or not to take a handful. We’re the consumers.

And the “Syrian refugee problem” is ours. Ours to control or handle or benefit from. Ours to suffer. Because this is all so hard for us in this continent, right?

But are we not Skittles too?

 

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By making Syrian refugees into an “other” so extreme, we stop thinking of them as people like us. And that’s a defense mechanism. We don’t want to think that we could possibly be in the same dire circumstances.

The sympathetic of us say, “Wow. I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t live like that.” But that assumes they can. It assumes they have some sort of super endurance. They must have something that we don’t have. And by thinking they’re super-equipped to face extreme circumstances, we think they’ll be ok. They may even be ok if they stay there. They’ve known war, right? It’s the Middle East, after all. They know what they’re doing. They’ll be fine.

This defense mechanism keeps us safe in our thinking that we could never go through such horrible war…after all, we weren’t made for it. We don’t have what it takes like they do.

It reminds me a poem by Warsan Shire. “Do they not know that stability is like a lover with a sweet mouth upon your body one second and then next you are a tremor lying on the floor,” she asks.

She continues: “All I can say is, I was once like you, the apathy, the pity, the ungrateful placement and now my home is the mouth of a shark, now my home is the barrel of a gun.”

If they’re Skittles, we’re Skittles. And stability is frail. And we can’t act like being born in privilege or living in safety makes us any different than those born in war.

“I’ll see you on the other side.” Shire ends it.

Pizza Meetings

We used to meet every month or so over affordable Fellini’s pizza, the four of us. Then Tai moved away and we stopped meeting. But today we reunited for dinner. Same place. 

Tai is part Latinx and part black. Frances is black and from Mississippi. Quiana is part Japanese, part Latinx and part black. I’m Brazilian. It’s a fun mix. 

We spend a few moments in the beginning catching up and eating our slices, but once that’s over we dive into why we’re really here: for conversation about politics and the state of our society. 

Things the people sitting around us probably overheard:

“God sure loves telling women to give up their education and careers! Way to stick to the status quo, God!”

“He never seems to ask that from men, though.”

“Why is it ok to make fun of rednecks? That’s something I need to check myself on.”

“Frances is ahead of everyone when it comes to Twitter. Or podcasts. Or tv shows.”

“What if I run for office and get stuck in California?”

“You won’t get stuck. You’re not Marco Rubio and Florida.”

“He’s woke. But he’s like a NyQuil sort of woke. He’s a little drowsy.”

“I don’t feel like it’s my job to inform oppressive people that they’re oppressive.”

Let’s just say we were trying to make sure we adjusted our volume according to who was sitting around us.  

There’s just something about meeting up with people who respect what you say, who listen, and who generally agree with you. I left feeling like these are people who genuinely enjoy being around me, who are happy to see me arrive and sad to see me go (but glad to watch me leave 😁😉). And I want to make sure I surround myself with people like that more often. 

Here’s a picture of the lipgloss Quiana keeps in her purse. Is it a problem? You decide. 

My Dentist Visit

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.)

Getting Political

Let’s talk politics. Why? Because we have to. I have to.

I read an article once that a brown Canadian woman wrote after the Paris terrorist attack and she talked about her body being political. There was no way she could avoid it: being brown, being a minority, being a woman—she was political.

Especially since white people are considered the norm in the country, when an immigrant like me has an opinion, it’s “the immigrant opinion” or “the female perspective” or something else that makes it sound less-than or like an other’s opinion.

So when people say they would rather not get political, I can’t really say I have that option. My life is political. My immigration here. My stay here. My going to school here. My writing here. My language here. My family.

I’m constantly being talked about by politicians. I’m a problem people are trying to solve. I am part of a number to be sent home. To be helped. To be incarcerated.

The Republican Convention last week was scary. And the Democrats start theirs today with already a lot of drama. But I wanna make sure you guys are ready: I’m gonna get political. I have no other option.