Tag Archives: immigrants

The Teeming Hordes

They come…the teeming hordes. Four thousand in one day and so many more to follow. Still, the debates go on, politicians spout their rhetoric, systems overflow. The answers? There are many and so few at once.

They are people,the same as you and me. Caught in a world they didn’t create. Chasing dreams or fleeing misery. Trapped at an imaginary line…thou shalt not cross.

In my twenties in New Jersey, I saw one person follow another on he long road to California. They had to go to the Promised Land. Six months later they’d come crawling back home, defeated. They were migrants of a kind.

Now, because of that imaginary line and another language, they are held to a different standard. The World is a much different place than in my twenties. Its gotten larger and smaller in one fell swoop. As we face global crisis’ of prejudice, violence, dominance, and misaligned monies, we are at once all peoples and none of the above.

Our politicians don’t want to let more people in, particularly those who come with hands extended in mute appeal. There are many with fear in their anger, wanting to separate, to hold onto what they have, always grasping for more. Many more who wave the flag with the colors of egoism and dominance – who fear that letting others in will leave them with less, even as we have low unemployment rates.

Our nation once held so much promise. In a land of immigrants, we have become exclusionary. We have so much to give. Yes, there are those who want, who go hungry or lack shelter but these are systemic woes that are to be addressed in every society.

What we are facing is a shift in cultural diversity…a sea change. Another language is more and more dominant. In our diversity, we are more insecure.

But this is a country founded on immigrants.. It is ironic, therefore, that we are such Separatists. We are undergoing a crisis of expectations over what our country is and who is in it. But everywhere in the world, this shift is happening.

Wherever there is wealth in comparison to other countries, immigrants are seeking new homes. Wherever people don’t have a voice, or money, or security, there will be conflict. In our country, those immigrants have reasons just as just as immigrants have always had. In fact, in many cases, they are even more just.

We have to learn to move over a bit…to welcome others in. At the same time we need to assist the countries they are leaving and make them more habitable. It is not a wall that we need but acceptance and political action.

We need to stop looking at this country as a static place. We have entered more fluid times. Unless we address the systemic problems of our southern neighbors, we will continue to face this influx of illegal aliens (a phrase full of exclusions in itself). The world is smaller, we need to look at ours as one continent as well as separate countries.

Until such time, we can be assured of facing more of the problems we are facing now. We have entered a new world order. It is time we stepped up to rationally address it with kindness and consideration.

The In-Law Wars

“There is a cancer in you I need to cut out,” my Mother-In-Law, Gette, said to me after a particularly brutal day.  As always, she moved her pursed lips back and forth, like she was sucking a bottle. Kneeling beside her lounge chair, knees bruised from the pebbled cement below, I bit down my words, a supplicant wanting to supplicate.  I could only think that if I could placate her enough, swallow myself down deep within me, become a shell without substance, perhaps she would stop this current reign of terror.

Knowing what to do or say was tormenting me.  I didn’t want to have this woman in my home much less subjugate myself to her will. I had the spirit of independence within me. But with each pass of the Seasons, Gette and her husband, Dragos, would arrive in a whirlwind of condescension and fury.  They would stay for 3-6 weeks at a time.  For weeks before they came, I would panic.  When I finally tried to forbid the planned trip, my husband, Alex, replied, “You can leave if you don’t want to be near them.”

Gette would march in the front door, head directly to the kitchen, and start rearranging it to her liking.  She would send Dragos to the market for those items she felt were necessary.  From that moment on, I was forbidden in my own kitchen.

My spirited, wonderful children suddenly fell under the auspices of the Grandparents’ methods of parenting.  This was the supposed Romanian way of doing things.  All my disciplining was strictly monitored; should I do anything not to Gette’s liking, I was subject to discipline myself.  My husband not only abetted it, he did the same, way too many times.  It might be appropriate if I was in any way abusive, but I was not.  What I was, was anxious, frustrated, angry, desperate, unsupported and alone.

The house would revert to Romanian as the language of choice spoken by all adults except me.  The kids didn’t mind.  Their desires were met, their questions and comments answered.  But one time I asked a table of Romanians to please speak in English (when they all could) and my husband responded, “Shut Up!” in front of his extended family. My in-laws told me this was the language they were comfortable speaking although it had been 20 years since they defected, hey had held professional positions requiring English, and it was an English-speaking home.  When seated at the dinner table, I could sometimes understand they were talking about me to my husband in front of my face.

I was, and am, as American as you can be – blonde, blue eyed, previously divorced. . . in their mind lacking in character.  For many years I was a national management consultant, in Who’s Who in America for several years, and a published author, yet Dragos always told everyone I was a secretary.  Romanian women in their circle were doctors, lawyers or scientists.

There is so much talk about multi-generational and multi-lingual homes.  DACA is on everyone’s lips. Immigrants do have it hard.  Many times they come to the U.S. with little to no money, may have to go back to school to retake degreed professional exams for legitimacy in their careers, and may have to start with jobs well below their educational level.  They can be outcasts, will almost certainly face discrimination, and have to undergo huge cultural shifts that can seem to be never ending tsunami waves.

But what of the people who marry into these strong ethnic traditions?  I was terrorized by my in-laws and ex-husband.  Everything in my life was controlled.  Emotional, financial, familial and some physical abuse was rampant.  I loved my husband very much, but his mother had an untreated schizophrenic personality disorder and was given free reign to behave in whatever manner she chose.  She was a spoiled, at times vicious, callous woman in the manner she treated me.  And he followed in her footsteps, very much her favored and only child.

Yet she was a loving mother and grandmother, cloyingly, overwhelmingly so. The kids loved her even as they came to understand her disabilities. Dragos tried to placate me, saying she was a “Good Girl”, I should listen to her.  They only wanted what was best for me.  Other than pertinent information, Alex would refuse to talk to me during the time they were visiting and up to 2 months later.  And within weeks, it would be time for another visit.

One of those things to be changed was an attempt for me to eliminate contact with my family and friends, to which my Mother vehemently and frequently objected. There was a time I gave in and didn’t contact them for three months because my mother was violating boundaries calling Gette and Dragos and working to undermine our marriage from her end, just as strong minded and quite resentful of the situation.  Not a minute went by when I was not connected to them in my mind. My heartstrings were more deeply connected to them if I couldn’t speak with them. My mother even called their home to argue about these issues.  She would call me and berate Alex, sometimes with him standing right in front of me furiously telling me to hang up. Little wonder I was a nervous wreck.

None of the In-laws were behaving appropriately.  One of the main reasons I left the marriage was the knowledge one day I would be taking care of Gette in our home.  I knew her disease would worsen and as they didn’t believe in therapy or medications, there was no hope for the suppression of symptoms.  She would remain the arrogant, controlling woman she was then even as she talked to her spirits.

There were other factors which led to the demise of our marriage but the In-Law Wars were the primary issue.  Had we not been subjected to these pressures, we might still be together. Alex might be more temperate in his need to control me.  We might have enjoyed more limited visits.  But then the “might have been’s” are merely suppositions without merit or reality. Suffice to say I have permanent PTSD from those years which has manifested in restraints to enact on dating or relationships now. And I cherish my freedom.

Slave

A single word which evokes so many feelings, thoughts and actions – horror, despair, pain, dismay, “holier than thou”, profane.  On the flip side, being those who have or want or are crass and debased enough to have slaves – egoism, acceptance, deserving, powerful, rightness.  And those of the slaves themselves?: – fear, rage, manipulation for survival, complacent, worn out.

I think of the typical American viewpoint, there always seems to be a great deal of finger pointing rather than looking within themselves at hidden, locked tight feelings they may have themselves.  If they look within our national borders, they may think of criminals who bring sex slaves from other countries here for profit. Finger pointing. But there are others – wealthy people who “adopt” children only for us to find out, if we are lucky, those children are really slaves, sexual or as housekeepers. And there are men who use children for porn or sex – those children are slaves.  Even those who have no passport ot Visa laboring in sweat shops and fields for little pay, certainly not enough to sustain a productive, safe and healthy life.  And what about the millions of us who read or watch TV or go online to witness slavery in other countries, saying “what a shame.  Someone needs to stop that.”

Our souls can never be clean until every bit of slavery and genocide is iradicated within our borders and we are striving to make an active difference in those countries where slavery is a way of life.  Our God demands it and I have to believe the core of other religions demand it as well.