Things I miss about 2015:
- Going days without knowing what the President of the United States was doing or saying.
- Long news cycles.
- The term ‘shithole’ not appearing in any reasonable news report.
2018 is proving to be a bumpy ride.
Things I miss about 2015:
2018 is proving to be a bumpy ride.
In an effort to follow Marjorie’s sage advice that everyone should know a little bit about many things, I’ve been expanding my horizons a little and today watched a short children’s film about Janet Collins, who, to my shame, I had never heard of before now. I adored ballet as a child and started lessons late – if you want to be a ballerina, that is – at 13 years of age. I wasn’t particularly good but I loved every minute of it and even now I try a few steps when the mood takes me.
I feel utterly humbled when I feel disgruntled about my working life when I read stories like her. I have face little real adversity and I have felt hard done by when I really shouldn’t have because my barriers to entry for every job I’ve held have been relatively low for me. I’ve never been asked to paint my face, nor have I faced systematic racial discrimination.
I’ve had a long week in work and I’m running off not a lot of sleep, but reading about inspiring people like her makes me give myself a stern talking to and get on in the world without complaining, but with an attitude that challenging the system is always a good thing.
I cringed upon seeing a tweet from a regular contributor to national newspapers referring to the problems for a country when ‘incomers’ bring up the birth rate.
I am married to an ‘incomer’ – but I suppose this isn’t a problem because he’s also technically ‘one of us’ due to a sheer accident of parentage.
I often feel I’m on the outside in Ireland when it comes to social issues. I have to explain why I won’t support religious charities and why, as a couple, we’ve made certain decisions.
I am an insider because I’ve been raised here by parents who were also raised here by parents who were raised here. Some of my ancestors must have been ‘incomers’ at some point, if the story told by the origins of various surnames scattered throughout my family history is true.
I feel like an outsider when I’m told in an authoritative tone that the contribution of ‘incomers’ to a birth rate means problems do arise.
At least we’re in enough that the whims of a capricious president doesn’t put our legal status in jeopardy. But we’re just out enough that it feels some people think we’re a problem because of the choices we’ve made.
The first time I went to New York was on a family trip when I was 21 years old and the city was still digging through the remains of the World Trade Center. On a sunny, freezing cold day we got a ferry to Ellis Island and did a tour. The five of us had a chance to crowd around a computer and search the database. Both my parents knew many young people from their respective home towns had likely passed through immigration in the building we sat in, and sure enough just searching through lists using a couple of search terms threw up familiar names, sometimes a little misspelled (probably due to accents and things getting lost in translation during what must have been a fairly noisy, busy process), and always young. They were 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, setting off I suppose with dreams and hopes of their own. They can’t have been that different to my and my siblings who were of similar ages and had and still have dreams of our own.
In 2011, we went to America on honeymoon and spent the last few days in New York. I felt a real urge to visit Ellis Island again so on a sunny, warm day we got a ferry there and did another tour. This time, it was me and my brand new husband sharing a computer and we did similar searches and once again I was wondering why I was so moved by simple lists of names, ages and places of birth and why I would feel a connection to those people and hoped life had turned out ok for them.
My husband is an immigrant. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but he grew up here. Thanks to a strange twist of fate his parents came back here and so he has dual citizenship and, thanks to various legal immigration and citizenship arrangements so do I. We’re white, we’ve both got transferrable skills and we’d both qualify under the proposed new immigration rating system to go back to New York once more and work there. We’re not really dreaming about that right now, for many reasons. Your dreams change over time – be they the dreams of a 17 year old boy still queasy from weeks spent on a rocky ship seeing a city for the first time or a couple who aren’t worried about impressing immigration officials standing in a huge hall.
I don’t know how my husband or I would cope if he was sent ‘back’ to his country of birth. His parents did everything above board, but that’s just the luck of the draw. They had dreams when they left to make a life somewhere else and have children and work and build something new. My husband shouldn’t have to live with an immigration based sword of Damocles hanging over him and, thankfully, he doesn’t and nor do I. But when I organised our files yesterday and sorted through paperwork from different countries letting us know who we are and what we can do and, in essence, what a country thinks of us, I began to think about the Dreamers in New York, and everywhere else in America.
I think about them, and the lists of those young people we saw on a computer screen in Ellis Island, and the hopes and dreams they have and had. And I think of the poem every Irish school kid has to analyse for exams rendering it devoid of meaning until you can read it for its own sake, WB Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven. And I hope that those in the US who can do something about the Dreamers remember to tread softly, because they are treading on people’s dreams.
Thankfully, unlike Offred I haven’t been let go from my job, even though that used to be something that really happened to women like me when they got married. I do, however, have more time in the evenings thanks to a nice summer schedule.
I’m not living under the same level of oppression and control as Offred, but I am living under the mild to moderate to severe level of terror I’ve felt since last November which must feel a little similar, maybe? I’m not a state asset for breeding (well, the eighth amendment can make you wonder a bit) nor I am separated from my husband and forced into sex with a stranger.
But I have started doing more housework, more baking. I’ve retreated home more and I think I’m trying to shield myself from the world more because it is very difficult to escape from the 24 hour news cycle I seem to have become enveloped by for over a year now.
I really hope this is all I have in common with Offred. I can live with more housework and baking, and the hope that some people will finally do the right thing.
I was going to write a happy positive post about how great my weekend was. And then yesterday changed all that. I grew up with terrorism, I grew up knowing vaguely that a number of groups of people living on the same island as me were happy to kill people to achieve their aims.
I think this sums up a lot of what I’m feeling today, this line in particular:
We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.
This week, I’ve been thinking about Threads a lot. It’s a film that I watched on YouTube, having seen some clips of it on a BBC documentary. I’m pretty easily scared, and this is the scariest film I’ve ever seen. It shows you, in slow and excruciating detail, just how scary real life can and will get in the aftermath of a thermonuclear conflict. There will be no rescuers saving the day. There will be no winner. There will be no afterwards.
I have no idea if the story about Ronald Reagan is true, namely that having seen Threads he reassessed nuclear policy. What’s really scary right now is knowing that the current president probably wouldn’t be swayed at all by watching it. We know he’s incurious and has shown no greater inclination towards curiosity, so I’m probably correct in my thinking that watching Threads won’t counteract his fire and fury approach to nuclear policy.
Threads is scary because it presents nuclear war as people will experience it. There is nothing scarier than knowing what you’re watching could be real. The people who suffer in Threads are mothers, fathers, children, delivery people, civil servants – all ‘normal’ people, doing ‘normal’ things. They are us. They are the North Koreans.