Most people born into generations of US passports, most people who are white and comfortably middle class, most people who practice one of the religions not normally casually equated with terrorism, most people do not know what it is like to spend your entire life being the object of someone else’s story, the villain in a narrative written without your knowing and certainly without your consent.
They do not know, and will probably never find out, what it is like for someone to whom you are nothing more than a name or a number in a file to make decisions that will affect or indeed determine the trajectory of your life and your death.
Most people will never know, and will have no reason to experience, what it feels like to have no control whatsoever over fundamental conditions of your existence and survival.
You get to be a whole person. You get to have a complicated story. You are granted the grace of a redemption arc. You are not merely the inevitable casualty of political decisions made before you were born.
The embassy does not shut its gates and lock its doors while you scream and cry and plead for help, the kind of help you once and repeatedly rendered to the inhabitants within. The last plane to safety does not leave without you.
One of the reasons climate change is existentially unsettling is because its effects upend the status quo, at least for a while. A wildfire turns your town into ash. A hurricane destroys your neighbourhood. You go weeks without electricity even though you’re in the “good part of town”. You realize that you can’t even brush your teeth without worrying about your health because there’s a boil-water advisory.
Your inconvenience will be temporary because your votes count and the people who decide what stories get told live in the same town as you. Your access to institutional political power and to the capital to rebuild remains unfettered. This is a setback; it is not the end. Not yet.
The pandemic has hardened borders and the rhetoric about borders, because we like to believe (even if we will not admit) that the people within are better, cleaner, worthier than the people without.
The people without harbour disease and bring with them violence and destruction. The people within earned their safety, paid for their comforts, and above all deserve to be greeted with open arms and a strong cocktail when they cross other people’s borders because that vacation at the all-inclusive resort in the tropics isn’t going to take itself.
i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.
how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
how we all should follow suit.
try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”
because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise
—from quaking conversation by Lenelle Moïse