Barn's burnt down
I can see the Moon.
~ Mizuta Masahide

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Requiem for an American Dream

When I started this blog, it was after accepting that my long and circuitous journey towards becoming an academic was derailed, and I needed to re-chart my course.

Last month, I began drafting a post the week after my birthday. I'd learned that a high school friend (the first boy I ever loved) had died tragically. And a few days later, a college friend died after a sudden, fierce and ultimately futile battle with cancer. Questions of mortality and purpose intermingled with grief for two of the kindest and most decent people I've known. And I was plunged deep into introspection.

In the days that I have been drafting this - tapping a few letters, sometimes words, deleting, and gradually needing fewer pauses to remind my lungs to function - I have reconciled with the demise of my delusions about the state of the country of my birth.

My American Dream has long been to finally settle on some land in a rural spot within a half day's drive of an international airport. My mind's shameless cosmopolitanism would finally reconcile with my agrarian progressive heart and I would establish our family's farmstead bed and breakfast some place in rural America that would welcome our presence, and respect this dream.

But in light of last week, my encounter with Trumpence, and the litany of indignities and threats piling on to my black, brown, Muslim, Jewish, Asian, Latinx, and queer friends and acquaintances, I've decided to rechristen my American Dream as my North American Dream.

I've decided to resume the journey of emigrating to Canada, something I've explored off and on for over a decade. And for that, I've been accused of being histrionic. Of being a quitter. Of never really being an American anyway. Of being naive. Of simply not doing enough.

I've been told that now is not the time to walk (or sprint) away. It's the time to grieve through volunteering, strategic donation, and consistent self-care. It's the time to stockpile Plan B and lean in, just a little bit more. It's the time to celebrate the glimmers of hope that also manifested on Tuesday (see 1, and 2). Now is the time to lead and testify and build bridges to those who want me and mine gone my neighbors and listen with an empathy they clearly lack for Others. It's the time to give hate a chance.

But here's the thing: at best, all those exhortations sound like Hamilton's Aaron Burr chatting revolutionary strategy with General Washington, and at worse, they are the knight reassuring the pawn.

I will continue to lean in to support the development of communities that support businesses that implement more positively impactful practices (an aspect of my current work that I deeply enjoy) and I will lean in to advocate for more equitable distribution of economic opportunity to regions beyond the coasts and large cities. But I will not lean in to place my head in the guillotine and become a martyr. And Hell will host the Winter Olympics before I knowingly gamble with my daughter's safety and options. Staying put feels - and with each passing day, looks - like a risky gamble.

Before Tuesday's results and the racist encounter I experienced on Thursday, if I unexpectedly encountered a person as I rounded a corner, I would respond with a chuckle and a greeting, my default reaction for ALL people. Now I go through my day with a heightened vigilance, uncertain whether I am truly, fundamentally safe. My trepidation isn't reverse racism, it's the law of averages. More than 53 million overwhelmingly white Americans voted FOR a candidate who promoted white supremacist views and violence against his detractors. They voted for a man who would rather me and mine weren't here, in the land of our birth, investment and homes. And many millions more didn't bother to vote to keep him and the hate he enthusiastically celebrates at bay.

I'm not the fighter I used to be. For my daughter and for my aging heart, I seek Safe Harbor in a sanctuary where I can mourn, heal, regroup and thrive.

But I also want to understand: 

How have Canadians made diversity and immigration "work," especially in rural and exurban communities?

Sure, I could just stalk the British Columbia OARH online, and dive deeper into reading about Canadian history to glean what I can learn. But, as a former study abroad alumna and a card-carrying cosmopolitan geek, I prefer immersion. In the US we like to talk a good game about how we are the exemplars for the world but on this point, we are a cautionary tale and clearly have a lot to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment