Not that kind of immigrant

“Oh, but you’re not that kind of immigrant.”

Someone said that to me once, years ago. They were going on, complaining, immigrants ruin everything and take government handouts and don’t try to get jobs and don’t try to learn the language and don’t care about integrating, and yeah, ruin everything! And so on. I listened a while, in disgust mostly, but not really shock, I mean, it’s a pretty typical line we’ve all heard before. But then I just couldn’t listen anymore.

“Um, hey, hi, you know I’m an immigrant, right?”

“Oh, yeah, haha, but you’re not THAT kind of immigrant.”

Hee hee, haha, wink wink.

I’m not? What kind of immigrant am I then?

Well, the clearest answer is that I’m white. And when you understand white privilege, you see that right away it won’t be assumed I’m THAT kind of immigrant.

I’m of Italian descent on my mom’s side, so I have a Mediterranean look to me. Mostly that falls into the white category. Although I’ve realized over the years, according to the subconscious (and sometimes conscious) attitudes of many Norwegians, Southern Europeans are not actually really completely white. I mean they live along the Mediterranean, and right across that water is Africa, you know? and they’re so loud and angry-sounding when they talk, and there is a lot of crime down there, I mean, the mafia!… Yeah, you can sense a definite element of otherhood about those people “down there” from the Norwegian standpoint at times.

But sensing a prejudice now and then is not the same as feeling the effects of actual racism. I understand that.

So yeah, it’s true, I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who is told to go back where they came from day in and day out.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant whose job applications are thrown away without a second glance just because of their African or Asian name or picture.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who has to live with negative assumptions and judgments and discrimination based on their religion and culture on a daily basis.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who takes government handouts, doesn’t work outside the home, makes slow progress learning the language, associates to a large degree with other immigrants, and raises kids who know two cultures so they might one day end up challenging and changing Norwegian traditions and norms. Oh wait, yes, I am. THAT is in fact the kind of immigrant I am.

Every family in Norway gets basic welfare payments based on how many children they have. In addition, there’s state-sponsored daycare here (starting after the one year of state-sponsored maternity leave) and those who choose not to use it for whatever reason get extra child welfare payments (called kontantstøtte) until the child is two. This kontantstøtte is controversial, and widely criticized as “keeping immigrant women home” and ruining their integration because they choose to stay home instead of getting jobs and contributing to society. This argument doesn’t take into account the fact that 1. it’s not always automatic and easy to get a job in the first place, exactly when you want it and need it. Believe me, I’ve tried, and if it’s hard for me as a mostly-privileged mostly-white, university-educated woman, I know it must be exceedingly difficult for those with less privilege. 2. If all these immigrant women did get jobs as soon as their babies turned one, what kind of jobs is it likely they’ll get? Stocking grocery store shelves and washing bathrooms, that’s what. Great conversation opportunities there! Everyone knows real integration starts with getting to know a country’s canned food and toilet bowls. Right? and 3. there are cultural and social reasons that cause some mothers to choose to stay home with their children during the first formative years. Even though the mainstream of Norwegian society seems to have completely accepted the idea that daycare from one year is a super thing (and I’m not denying many have positive experiences with it, that’s great), there’s a blindness to seeing that it’s not the best solution for all families. I personally have this wacky idea that I want to be home with my children *at least* until they’re fully verbal and can communicate with me clearly about how they’re experiencing their time away from me. I’m on my 5th kid now, it works for me.

So end result, I am that kind of immigrant, staying home with my children, receiving extra child welfare payments, and integrating just a bit more slowly into the mainstream Norwegian culture. Hey, maybe even causing a slight ripple of change in it now and then too. And hey, maybe if the reaction when I do it, with my well-reasoned-out, university-degree-writing-style justification, is that, well, yeah, it’s ok, you’re not THAT kind of immigrant anyway, well then maybe it’s ok for others with less privileged backgrounds to be this kind of immigrant too. Maybe, just maybe, they have good, well thought out, important reasons for being the kind of immigrant that they are. Whaddayathink?

But again, even though I can relate to many immigrant issues, there are differences.

I am NOT that kind of immigrant who is terrified to hear the decision about their application for residency status, because a rejected residency application is not just an inconvenience, but a death sentence.

I am NOT that kind of immigrant who lives with constant dread knowing they could be sent back to a country where they will be imprisoned or killed because they took the chance and left.

I am not that kind of immigrant who *must* use every ounce of strength they have to work on integrating into this often cold and uncaring culture, because the alternative, going back to their country of origin, is unthinkable. And I’m not that kind of immigrant who works so hard at integrating every day, no matter how slow or fast anyone thinks it goes, even while living with the constant uncertainty that a sudden policy change in the government can mean getting sent out of the country without warning and without any recourse to come back again.

So, I do know. I know I’m not that kind of immigrant. And it breaks my heart that anyone on this planet has to be that kind of immigrant at all. The kind who gets the blame for “ruining society” while they practically kill themselves trying to learn and adapt and understand their new society so they can give their family a better life. So their kids will maybe sort of kind of actually fit in and one day walk a slightly easier road than they themselves had to. But my broken heart and understanding doesn’t change it, the immigrants still get the blame. Here in Norway, over there in the US, and just about everywhere else on the planet as well.

Why is it so impossible to see that nationality means nothing, deep down? That some of us get plopped down in one place at birth and stay there all our lives while others’ stories take them on crisscross trajectories over oceans and borders, to a life where they’re suddenly to blame. Where they’re suddenly illegal. Unwanted. Unnecessary. Unhuman.

Somewhere in our background we’re all immigrants. Somewhere in our background none of these borders existed. While I won’t presume to represent groups I’m not part of, if forced I will choose their side. I’ll be THAT kind of immigrant. The kind who has the heart to see people before nationalities and the courage to hear stories before stereotypes.

 

 

Stay Awake

Stay Awake

What a week, huh? My head hurts, my heart is heavy. I want to write about something else than Trump, but it’s all I can think about when I sit down to type. The election is already being analyzed up and down, back and forth, and it wasn’t my intention to make this a political blog. But I didn’t know Trump would be elected either. And the personal is political. Sometimes you just have to change gears for a while.

People say that many who voted for Trump were just feeling angry and rebellious and wanted to get rid of the establishment, but that doesn’t negate the fact that all the racist, misogynistic rhetoric was there, loud and clear. They may not have voted for it, but they voted alongside it, they thought it was ok as background noise. That’s systemic racism for you, right there.

And people say there was low voter turnout so it’s actually only a small percentage of Americans who really support his ideas. Only 25%, or 18%, or some low percent, of the US population actually voted for Trump. That’s supposed to make us feel better since it means a huge majority didn’t. We have to work on all the reasons why voter turnout was low, getting more people to vote would be a good thing. But no matter how many, or how few, voted, now we have Trump as President, and that’s what we have to deal with first.

People say the Democrats should have gone with Bernie Sanders. The Republicans threw up a change candidate, the Democrats should have done the same. Then we’d be heading for some dynamically positive paradigm shifts. I believe that myself. But now, I don’t know what kind of change we’re heading for. It sends chills down my spine when I let myself imagine where this could be going.

I hear folks on all different sides saying let’s just wait and see, let’s see what actually happens. He might not do any of the things he said. He’ll be held in check by the real politicians around him. He might be impeached. And hey he’ll shake things up and when it all falls back into place who knows, thing might be even better.

Over here in Norway I hear that last one a lot. People have a different perspective, watching from the outside in. The US possibly retreating from its role as World Police is seen as a positive thing. Many people are critical of NATO and NAFTA and TPP and other global things with acronyms, and people think it will be “interesting” to see where the world goes from here. Many are saying the geopolitical shifts could have positive outcomes for various countries around the world.

But no, I’m not there yet. I can’t distance myself from this enough to see it from an academic intellectual standpoint. There are too many people on the ground who will suffer directly from the policies and decisions made by this administration. There are already people suffering every single day from the increase in racist, xenophobic, and homophobic attitudes and attacks.

And let’s talk about the buzzword of the day, anti-establishment. “Trump’s victory is a slap in the face to the establishment.” The working class felt ignored and forgotten and they’ve been suffering, so his promises to bring change spoke to them. It seems like, in their eyes, his slap in the face went to an establishment defined as “those who were currently in power”. I can understand that. Clinton was too much of a continuation of Obama’s presidency for them, and due to that strong desire for change, any change, we got Trump.

But as I watch what’s going on and read the facts and opinions being put out by both sides, I’m hearing something else. I’m hearing that, to him and his gang, “the establishment” means something quite different. Yeah sure he wanted the current adminstration (those currently in power) out, because he wanted to win the election. But his slap in the face isn’t going directly to the Democrats and “the swamp” in Washington. It’s going to women’s rights, racial equity, gay rights, the right to gather and protest, freedom of the press, and environmental protections, to name a few. Funny thing is, those are rights and protections we just spent decades, no, centuries, fighting for. A few years ago (or a few weeks ago) you might have said that a person who passionately advocated for those things was being, oh I don’t know, anti-establishment. Yet now a candidate won on an anti-establishment platform which is redefining The Establishment to mean people who want those rights and protections. And then slapping THAT “establishment” in the face.

Doublespeak is being used to erode and dismantle our rights and protections.

We have to stay awake and aware. We have to hear what’s actually being said and not be lulled into complacency by rationalizing it into what we wish to hear. I’ve learned more than ever that every voice counts. Even if we think it’s been said before, that others might be saying it better than us, we have to say it anyway. We have to stand up for the injustices around us, even, or maybe especially if, they don’t affect us directly.  We have to be allies. It can’t be said too many times. We have to stay awake.

 

 

 

Now

Now we grieve. We mourn the fact that almost half of America thinks racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are ok. That reactionism won this election, and that we underestimated the amount of anger and fear in our midst.

Now we hold our children close. We raise them gently. We give them all the love and security we can at home, so they’ll be whole enough to offer love and security to the world around them as they grow. We help hold and protect those around us too. We extend our compassion outside our own walls and find ways to lift up and support those who are struggling.

We raise our children to see injustice. We raise them to see color and recognize the challenges and oppression minorities face every day. We raise them to see privilege and recognize its role in our society. We acknowledge it and take to heart the truth that if we aren’t part of the solution we’re part of the problem. We teach them to stand up against injustice, every single time it happens, Every Single Time.

Now we move forward. We work with this situation and keep the country going for the next 4 years. We hope that these checks and balances we keep hearing about actually check and balance things somewhat. We do what we can to mitigate the negative effects for those less privileged than us. But we don’t show understanding and acceptance for this ideology. We don’t become complacent, this is more than just a “different point of view”. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are wrong, and their effects harm all of us, whether we realize it or not.

We let our children hear that we’re angry and scared. We let them know we deeply disagree with the man who has become President. If we don’t we’re condoning and accepting the values he’s promoted. I won’t do this, his voice is not mine.

People wanted change. This is the wrong change. This is a volatile selfish man in charge of the largest military complex in the world. This is a sexist bigot who’s bragged about committing sexual assault put into position as leader of a country. This is a real estate mogul thrown into complex diplomacy and foreign policy situations about which he’s hopelessly ignorant. This is frightening.

Now we hold out our hands and our hearts to all the people who are scared. We defend anyone who is put down or threatened because of the color of their skin, their disability, or their gender, and we show the world that This is not our voice. 

And then we hug our kids again. You can never do that too many times.

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The sunrise, the hope, this mourning

 

 

 

 

Election Eve 2016

I voted. By mail, a few weeks ago.

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And tomorrow the rest of the country votes. I, like many others out there, will be so happy when this election cycle is over and we can stop hearing and seeing Trump all over the news day in and day out. Because he’ll go away now, right? He won’t win, right? It’s terrifying. The opinion polls that show him neck and neck with Clinton. What? I knew there was a lot of asshattery in the US, but this much? This loud? This widespread? This unabashed? It’s disheartening. No, it’s more than that. It’s… I can’t think of any word that’s not an understatement.

So I’m predicting that Hillary Clinton will win. Because I can’t stand the thought of the other front-runner winning. (He’s a front-runner? What? Bizarro World.) I’m plugging my ears and yelling lalalalala and deciding that she’ll win.

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No matter how much I’ve heard about it in the media, seeing this list of names on the actual ballot is still Surreal. But there ARE three women running for President, see that, THREE!

I don’t like Clinton as a candidate. Not because she’s a woman and I’m playing to the sexist propaganda against her. No, because of her foreign policy and corporate backers. Supposedly Bernie Sanders’ campaign was going to pull her towards a more progressive platform, but I can’t see that effect in the things she says. She is business as usual, part of the same old gang we’ve always had in charge, and her warhawk stance on foreign policy scares me.

I mean, I know it’s a big deal that we’re getting our first female US President. I remember the way people said “Maybe one day a WOMAN will be President!” back when I was a kid. Sort of the way they said “Maybe one day we’ll have flying cars!”, like they didn’t actually believe it would happen in our lifetime and weren’t really sure it’d be a good idea if it did happen. Like how would that actually work? Levitating street signs? Flying cars zipping this way and that, willy nilly? It’d be chaos! Flying cars, a female President? Chaos and calamity!

So it’s cool, we’re getting our first female President (Because we are. Come on, please?). But did it have to be like this?

Against Trump? What kind of a triumph is that.
No matter what, if you like Hillary Clinton or not, the fact that she was elected with Trump as her opponent  takes the triumph down a notch.
When she’s praised we’ll hear, “Yeah of course she won. Trump was the other choice.”
And when she’s criticized it’ll be, “Yeah, but would you rather have Trump as President?” He’ll still be there, shadowing her throughout this Presidency and giving people the chance to always ask, “Would she have won against a normal candidate?”.

And isn’t it “funny” that when the US is finally getting a female president (Because we are. Please Bizarro People, Please), her opponent is the embodiment of male chauvinistic schoolyard bully fratboy rape culture behavior? They’re like perfect archetypes for these duelling paradigms in American culture. Almost like you couldn’t have set it up better if it were all scripted and staged. Huh. But I’m afraid it’s not. I’m afraid all the hate and anger that’s been unleashed during this election cycle is all too real.

Personally I’d love to see a third party get 5% this time and therefore be eligible for public funding in the next election cycle. To break the country out of the Democrat-Republican rut would be awesome. But first I want to see Trump not become President.

The ironic thing, for me personally, is that if I voted based on the main issue that impacts me directly* I’d vote for Trump. (*well, other than war. War impacts all of us on the planet, obviously) Not many people are aware of this, or even really care much when made aware of it, but the US is one of the only countries in the world with Citizenship Based Taxation. The other country that has it is Eritrea. And maybe North Korea according to some sources. All other countries in the world have Residence Based Taxation. This is a huge hassle to people living outside the US and has become even more horrendous due to the new reporting requirements called FBAR and FATCA. See, I can just feel people’s eyes glazing over and wandering around the screen as I type this. It’s boring stuff to read about, and even more boring to have to do it. Yet there are ridiculous fines threatened (10,000 US dollars per account reported incorrectly, ridiculous things like that!) and it’s an awful onus to live under. People (Americans living in certain countries like Germany and France) are getting kicked out of their banks, getting their mortgages cancelled, their retirement plans cancelled or taxed away to nothing. These reporting requirements were supposedly set up to catch tax evaders hiding money offshore but the result is that it’s making life miserable for a bunch of little fish like me living their lawful normal lives offshore. Uh, I mean, abroad. Oh wait, it’s the same thing. This has nothing to do with tax evasion, and everything to do with not wanting to live under threat of draconian fines and punishments because of an ever-increasingly complex tax system. So even if this isn’t a hot button issue it’s a big deal to those of us who live abroad, and Trump (or at least the Republican platform) is the only one who’s saying he’d make changes to these things.

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(Pic source: spv.no) The offshore bank where I hide all my money. Or, put another way, the local bank where I put my money so my family can use it. FATCA go away.

But that’s not happening. Voting for Trump I mean. Not for one iota of a second would I consider it seriously. Even if one thing he says makes sense, the rest makes none. Or some of it makes an awful kind of sense. A racist, misogynistic, xenophobic kind of sense. Which is not something one just ignores as background noise. No, one hears it and starts to MAKE some noise. Bring it, we’re not letting this become our voice. He is not our voice, America. Right? Come on!

So now we all hunker down and wait through tomorrow. And then hunker down and wait through whatever comes after that. I’ll be here, fingers crossed, rocking in the corner, humming a quiet hippy hymn under my breath. Peace, love, and light. Good luck America. Good luck World.

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Pic source: Brutally Honest Voting Stickers