For days now, my news feed (all my news feeds, really) have been cluttered with various stories, reports, petitions, and opinions on the US and its sad state of affairs. Apparently, we are now in the business of kidnapping children, which is ludicrous.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a friend I had some 30 years ago. My world was very small until I was five years old and met a girl from the other side of it. Zoe’s family came from England, a place I envisioned as a far-off kingdom with a storybook feel, my only impression of Europe being that which Disney fed me. We became fast friends, and I learned about another culture for the first time, through her eyes. An example: I once went to dinner at her house, and her mom said she was serving custard. Me, with my American sensibilities, could literally not believe the woman was giving us ice cream for dinner. I was of course correct, as I was served a warm pudding that looked like vanilla but certainly was NOT.
Zoe and her family moved back to England after Kindergarten. As I got older, I wondered how many times she had felt something akin to my custard incident. She must’ve felt it all the time, being in a country that was different from the one she’d known previously. Knowing Zoe, even for such a short time, taught me about global citizenship. We had so much in common, though we came from different places.
As we got older we drifted apart. I think that if email and social media were a thing back then it would have been easier to stay friends, but it was the early 90s so all we had to work with were letters that took a week to arrive and our inability to write well at the age of six. Interestingly, we grew up to work in similar fields, as she is a designer for a theater company she co-runs. This does not surprise me, as many of our afternoons together were spent playing make-believe and imagining we were Wendy and Peter Pan.
Sometime in my 20s (not a good time in my life, so I can’t be sure when,) her sister came to visit us. Rochanne had been a baby when her family was in the States, but she was doing a year abroad with a friend and needed a place to stay before going to Canada. Of course, she did not remember us at all, which was probably very awkward for her. I do remember one moment though, when we were sitting at a local restaurant and her friend asked if I supported President Bush. I very quickly assured them that no, no, a thousand times no, he was not indicative of my America. I could feel a sort of tension evaporate, and began to worry that the global outlook of America was skewed.
Now here we are, with the devil in the White House, separating families. Then signing orders to stop separating families. Creating problems so he can solve them and look like a hero to his people, and yes, he does have people. I am not one of them, but they are out there. The pro-lifers who were silent when they put children in cages. The talking heads who tried to redefine the word “cage.” The “All Lives Matter” folks who were no where to be found these past few weeks, because “All” does not include “brown” to them.
I wonder what our friends across the pond think of this. I’m sure they know we aren’t all barbarians like the country’s leader, who was thrust upon us in the most unfortunate of circumstances. But that’s us, that’s my family, not America. America is getting scary, especially if you’re not of European descent. I worry about Sahar living in a red state every damn day. Would Zoe’s family recognize the States today? Would they even want to come here?
I really feel blessed to have met Zoe when I was young. Learning about another culture (even one that by our standards is similar to our own) was a formative experience for me. It gave me an idea of the world that I hadn’t had before, and I never remember a time where I felt better or different from someone based on their heritage. When I would meet someone from a different culture, I was always open and interested. Even when it came to race, I was colorblind. (Though I will admit I was insanely jealous of black girl’s hair-I wanted those beads and braids bad, man.) I spent my childhood knowing that there was life outside my community, and it has made all the difference for my soul.
It is my hope that our country unites in compassion, and I feel like most of us did over this horrible policy. It’s the silver lining in in a pretty shitty cloud, but I’ll take it. Maybe someday we will all be able to look back on this time in our history as a time of growth and progress, a time when the people came together and said “NO” to hate.
A girl can dream.
Me and Zoe, 1989