I originally thought of this as a quick post to social media, but then rethought that as it goes deeper than a post to Facebook and certainly much longer than Twitter can handle. This post concerns observations and thoughts that I had as I faced returning to the U.S. from having lived in Canada for almost 5 years.
We moved to a city in the Province of Ontario from Florida back in 2013 because of a job opportunity with the organization for whom my wife works. When we left, I was well aware of the racism and prejudices present in this country both from having children of a different race as well as having taught at the middle school and high school levels and having to attempt to teach students not only English, but also Holocaust/Tolerance education. I also saw it as the conservative media and politicians continued to attack President Obama’s every action. Yet, seeing it from the outside gave me a much darker look at what was going on in the U.S.
One way that I saw the dark clouds of paranoia and xenophobia was when I’d have to make trips back into this country for medical or other purposes. As the election of 2016 came closer, the officials at the U.S. border became increasingly more visibly armed and their questioning more increasingly and ominously paranoid. Whenever I would enter the U.S., the guard would ask questions that seemed odd. It started with asking me my license plate number (not something I’d memorized as I doubt many folks do). Then, it morphed into requests for me to remove my cap and glasses. Then, questions regarding my political views about the incoming administration and how I viewed living in Canada, if I liked it better than living in the States. I became thankful for my ability to hide my true feelings and even flat out lie after a few times of this. My tension would not cease until I returned to the safety of Canada and their border patrol’s benign questions concerning if I had any alcohol, tobacco, or firearms and where I lived in Canada and why which I deemed valid as it was their country and I was a guest in it.
The night of the election and for weeks afterward, I couldn’t sleep. I began to also overeat and simply not care about whatever happened to me because I knew that I’d be returning to a nation very much unlike the one I’d left. I cried a great deal. I tried to step up my efforts to find a way that we could remain in Canada. My wife tried to convince me that things would not be as bad as I thought they would be. But she didn’t watch the news nor pay attention to the rantings of the incoming administration. She felt that his party would hold him in check and that it would not be as bad as it appeared.
Once the current administration came into power, the guards at the border got worse, their open carrying of M-16s more apparent as did their now body armored uniforms. They became bolder in their questioning. Now, they would focus on my having a beard as they asked and re-asked the same questions to try to somehow catch me in a lie. At one border crossing, it became apparent that it was too isolated to be safe to cross back into the U.S. due to the behavior of the guards; so, I went out of my way to cross at a more populated one so there would be more witnesses to anything that could happen. Yes, I became fearful of returning to the country of my birth and citizenship, not because of doing anything wrong, but due to my fear of being seen as a threat because I did not agree with the policies of the new administration.
The news, as we watched both news from Canada and the U.S., seemed not to match. While we heard just the facts from the Canadian networks, the U.S. seemed more slanted. Some items occurring in the U.S. not mentioned in U.S. news broadcasts were mentioned in Canadian ones. Tougher border crossings for both U.S. citizens as well as Canadian citizens arose. It was like the U.S. intentionally did not want people coming in.
Once we moved back, it seemed like a cloud was descending over the States. More and more accounts of racism and prejudice. The rise of a more virulent and violent white supremacy. And the response from the current administration was everything from silence to stating there were “good people on both sides.” Under any other U.S. administration in my lifetime, Democrat or Republican, the actions of white supremacists would have been condemned. That was no longer the case. I’d lived in Florida when Trayvon Martin was murdered by a white man simply for walking down the street. Yet now, there were Black men and boys, such as Eric Gardner and Tamir Rice, being killed by police and getting away with it. There were people trying to escape violence and poverty now having their children placed in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border. There were people who were brought to this country by their parents years ago who were being threatened with deportation to countries they knew nothing about. The U.S. border officials started showing up at bus stations where I moved to try to deport people. Migrant farmers were being picked up and whisked away in an increasing manner. All of this and the administration not only condoning it, but ordering it and for no reason aside from prejudice and hate.
As I write this, a few days ago Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden named Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate in the upcoming election. Almost immediately, the supporters of the current administration began to attack her based on the color of her skin and gender. They are putting out a conspiracy theory that she is not a U.S. citizen simply because her parents were immigrants. She was born in Oakland, California, and is a U.S. citizen regardless of whether her parents were or not. (They were, by the way). It’s the same tactic they tried to do to President Obama because his father was Black and his name was not a Western one.
There is no cause for this aside from hate and prejudice. In the coming months as we head toward the election, I know it will only get worse. It is my hope that the country can ignore the hatred and prejudice and come together in supporting the positive change that exists in the Biden/Harris ticket as well as in all the progressives that are running for office in this country. They need to be, indeed must be, elected in order for this nation to make it through this darkness and survive.
As President Lincoln once stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This country is divided under this current administration. It will not stand if this continues. No, I am no naive enough to believe it will not take work to bring about change once the administration changes. Yet, I know that it is only with a massive change in the governing of this country that any movement forward can occur.