I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere. Leaving a place as a child sometimes has that effect. Because I didn’t live in Moscow long enough to establish an identity I can’t quite think of it as home; in any case, the country I left at age seven no longer exists so there’s nowhere for me to go back to. I’ve been searching for that home-feeling in every place I’ve lived since.
In the country I came from travel was severely restricted. You couldn’t just get on a plane and go wherever you liked. I thought of that while looking through photos from the recent airport protests. Up until quite recently most people in this country could assume that if they got on a plane they didn’t have to worry about being let back in upon their return. But we don’t live in a country like that anymore.
In the thirty-nine years I’ve lived in this country there have been many times I’ve been appalled by the actions or policies of its government but never until these past few months have I wondered whether the fundamental underpinnings of the place were under existential threat. The unmoored feeling brought on by the daily assault of the current administration against this country and the people it is supposed to govern is so all-encompassing that it has left much more eloquent and shrewd voices speechless. There are many times on most days that just a passing thought on the subject will make me feel untethered from reality.
I see others around me grasp for some constructive way to respond. They go to protests and sign petitions, trying to make their voices heard. Many have never before felt the need to participate, so perhaps we can thank the troglodytes in power for inspiring civic interest in the populace. At Bernice’s the other day I saw a diehard Miller Lite drinker with an Amstel in his hand. He’d heard that Miller was a big backer of the current regime and wanted to make his disapproval count in the only language corporations understand.
The other night I went into a pizza place run, improbably, by an aged Asian couple. While the man disappeared into the kitchen to warm up my slice of sausage, the woman, with no prompting, offered this thought to me in broken English, “America. Used to be good. Now? PFFFTHHHT.” —making the sound of a suddenly-punctured deflating balloon.
Will we come to a point when all the people worried about being let into this country stop wanting to come? When my parents brought me here all those years ago it couldn’t have been with the hope that the doors would lock behind us on anyone else who wished for a better life than where they came from. I’m fortunate not to have to worry about being deported like so many people I know are nowadays but that bit of security doesn’t make me any less ashamed of what’s going on. America was supposed to be a refuge for those who weren’t wanted elsewhere but is being transformed into a country bent on keeping outsiders out. PFFFTHHHT indeed.
So where is there to go now?