You’ve Got a (refugee) Friend in Me

boy-standing-in-refugee-camp-in-gevgelija-serbia-dsc_8453.jpgI wrote this post but i didn’t feel good about it so I sent it to one of my oldest and most reasonable friends (let’s just call him Christian Laettner – no resemblance to any real person is unintentional – and I’ll refer to him as Wally going forward – my buddy BLEEDS Duke Blue. He has a tattoo of Bobby Hurley’s face across his chest.).

Wally and I go WAY back. We went to college together in southeastern Virginia (I’d name the school but there’s no need to embarrass the institution because of my enrollment. Ain’t like the school did me any wrong). We were on the same freshmen hall and I was in his wedding and I count him among my closest friends and someone whose sense on what is TOO inappropriate versus just inappropriate is impeccable.

He’s a smart, hard working, happily married stand up guy who I would trust with anything. But you can get in his head on the court if you talk some trash. Just sayin’.

This is the 2nd post I’ve sent over to him for a preview inspection. I asked him if I was sounding like TOO much of an asshole the first time. He read it and said no. For this diatribe I asked him the same asshole question and also if the writing and flow made any damn sense.

He responded quickly and thoroughly as is his wont. He said I seemed very detached while telling this story. He liked it better when I was really deeply in it like the piece I wrote about the homeless man. He was right. I am definitely detached about this story. But the thing is, that’s how it’s got to be. If I wanna be honest, that is.

See I was born in a foreign land and my family immigrated to the USA when I was only 4 years old. I don’t remember a single thing about my birth place. My first memory came in the backyard of a preschool in northern Virginia. I just remember holding a caterpillar. But I can’t remember if I was scared or fascinated or both.

Anyway. Even though I’m technically an immigrant I’m in spirit really a first generation archetype because I was raised in the states and have no memory of my earliest years in Nicaragua.

I have a feeling that a lot of first generation kids whose families fled conflict zones have the following experience (not based on any facts or evidence – just my own bullshit theory): Mom and Dad suffered an incredible psychological and often physical traumatic life changing event that they will never forget and that probably pops into their heads more than they would like. They probably loved their homelands and they wanted their kids to love it, too.

My parents worked hard at spinning the narrative that consisted of the following:

1. Nicaragua was an awesome place where unicorns likely existed and everyone was happy and full and never was heard a discouraging word.

2. Evil external forces empowered a small minority of communists guerillas and the USA actively prevented the fair and noble Nicaraguan DICTATORSHIP from defeating the rebels.

3. Most of the real Nicaraguan people didn’t want the revolution.

Because Republicans are the more virulently anti-communist group and because my parents came from a very privileged background and because they were practicing Catholics (like every other latin person on earth since the beginning of time), my parents drilled the fear of Democrats and agnosticism and public education and urban centers.

They sent my sister and me to Catholic school despite living in one of the 3 wealthiest counties in the USA where the public schools were as good if not better than the private schools.

By the time I got to college, I firmly believed Bill Clinton was the anti-Christ and I was a true believer on pretty much EVERY point on the GOP platform. My parents’ plan had worked!

But the part that never worked was instilling an awe in for my birthplace. When they told stories about Nicaragua and my grandfather and all that stuff they might as well been talking about Marvin the Martian and Mars. Except I probably had more interaction with Marvin. I didn’t have any memory of the place so it never really even existed in my mind. Sure there were photos but I am 43 so we didn’t have videos readily available and even if we did I’m not sure that would have done much anyway. So the story or position I’m about to tell is going to sound detached because I’m frankly quite detached from it.

I do appreciate the world’s biggest Blue Devils fan taking out the time to check my ramblings AND inspire me to add some much needed context to this screed.

So make sure you are cozy and get ready to go on a decidedly non-magical and not very mysterious tour.

If you’re my friend, and I think a few of you reading this (hell, who am I kidding? The only people reading my ranting lately have got to be my friends or some select relatives) for that bill then you should know that the debate on this administration’s policy towards refugees DOES hit close to home TO YOU.

Some of you probably already know what I’m gonna say and the rest of you probably can easily see where I’m going with this. I’ll try to make the foregone conclusion as entertaining as possible.

In 1978, when I was 4 and my sister was 11 months old and my parents were 33 and 28 years old respectively, we fled Nicaragua, the only home my parents had known, because there was a revolution underway and my family was, for better or worse, on the wrong side of that slice of history.

I’m not interested in discussing the Sandinista revolution and whether it was warranted and whether or not members of my family committed acts that left them in the crosshairs of angry revolutionaries. I haven’t read enough about it to speak with any semblance of intelligence on those topics. And getting an unbiased account from my family is, despite their protestations, impossible.

That’s not the point. The point is that soon after my family fled to the States, my mother’s father, who had made the poor choice to remain in Nicaragua even though everyone in his family begged him to leave, was killed. Depending on who you talk to, it’s not really clear to me who killed him. I’ve heard Sandinistas killed him. I’ve heard angry villagers killed him after they believed the government, of which he was a VERY prominent member until only a short time before his murder, bombed their town as some sort of cause and effect madness you see in every armed conflict and the townspeople blamed my grandfather. Both don’t seem right to me completely. Maybe it’s not even either of those two things. I’ve never really looked into it and, again, I don’t really believe my parents can speak objectively about it.

As a bleeding heart liberal, I don’t believe in the death penalty (particularly not the institutionally and overtly racist implementation of it in the United States). Do I wish death on people on a daily basis? Sure. But only when I’m commuting to and from work.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that my grandfather did some horrible shit. I really don’t believe ANY politician who makes it to a national level of power has clean hands. Obama gave the green light to many drone strikes and I know that you know that innocent people were killed as a result of some of those strikes.

But even the Nazi’s had trials before they were sentenced. Sorry. I’m losing my thin thread here. I guess I’m trying to say that since I’m a ‘soft on crime’ libtard, I think what happened to my grandfather, no matter what kind of dirty shit he might have pulled, was at least a little unfair.

He didn’t want to admit the threat was real even though all of his children and all of their children believed it and fled. The killing wasn’t exactly a complete surprise considering the context.

It was a revolution. They are usually violent. And if you are in a prominent political family on the wrong side of a revolution, things can get particularly violent for you and yours. So I guess my parents and most of their kin didn’t think much good would happen if they stayed. And when my grandfather was killed shortly after he decided to stay, their worst fears proven pretty emphatically.

Unlike most refugees suffering under this administration’s transparent racist immigration goals, my family had some money. We were by no means rich. After fleeing to the States we grew up safely middle class. If you ask my sister and me I don’t think either of us would describe our upbringing as difficult (at least not economically).

Our lot was NOTHING compared to the undocumented people who risk life and limb to get to the USA to escape horrible conditions in their homelands.

If my family was not granted political asylum by the United States, I think we probably would have gotten into some other country. Maybe I’m being naive. I really don’t know.

But if we had been denied, all you lovely people who are crazy enough to count me as a friend would have never got to enjoy the pleasure of my company! Don’t you see how lucky you are? I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I grew up in the States. I do know for sure that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to find quality people here who have been good enough to hang out with me. More than anything, I’m grateful for that boon.

So think about all those fun times we’ve had that would have never been! Try to forget all the times I pissed you off. Please.

Don’t delve deep into reality and ponder the basic human dignity that ANY wealthy nation, let alone the world’s WEALTHIEST one, should feel towards the millions of innocent refugees who are literally running for their lives.

Just know that you DO know a refugee. Sure my story is pretty tame compared to a Syrian running from Assad’s butchers but still, it’s something , right?

I love you guys. If a bougie fuck like me got a chance to be a giant underachieving fatso in the richest country in the world, shouldn’t FAR more worthy people get the same chance?

3 thoughts on “You’ve Got a (refugee) Friend in Me

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