To the editor:
Recently, after President Trump announced his travel ban, my family and I went to a local musical event where the emcee announced, satirically, "Only American songs today, folks." I appreciated his efforts to remind us all that we are free to sing what we like in the US of A. But as the afternoon progressed and the joke continued, "Are you an American?" the emcee asked each performer. "Are your papers in order?" The North Country (white) audience laughed, and I smiled along, and there came a moment when my son was suddenly at my side. My son is on his way into deep teenage territory so being at his mother's side isn't where he mostly likes to hang.
"What's up?" I asked, playing the casual mom card.
He grabbed my hand and squeezed, "He's joking, right mom? He's joking?"
My son is adopted from a foreign country.
I thought: what if, someday, this isn't a joke. And then I realized it already isn't a joke. Here in northern New York state, most of my neighbors voted for President Trump. They believed he would make their lot better and they may or may not have realized he meant to do it the way he has begun - by making other peoples' lots worse.
My son has spent most of his childhood here in our valley and in this venue where he is known and appreciated. When he came home eight years ago, we filed many papers and paid fees and he has an American passport and an American birth certificate with mine and his adopted father's name's on it. He should be OK. But in fact, he already isn't. His sense of safety in this small lovely town is already undermined.
(And maybe some of my neighbors have always disapproved of him being here among us, but they never said so? Now that they feel free to let me know their opinion, will they? Will they let him know, out the side of their mouths, when I am not paying attention, and shake his foundation even further?)
Let's say we could get rid of all the foreign born brown people just in case they are taking up someone else's space. And let's say we erect the walls to keep them out. Black or white, our side will look just as gray as theirs. It won't look like the walls of Trump Tower even though, like the elites since the end of the Civil War, Donald J. Trump has succeeded in making my neighbors believe they are more like him than they are like my son. In fact, I bet not one of my neighbors would paint their walls gold even if they had the metal to do it.
Recently, a friend and more diligent parent of adopted kids found that there is, in fact, another piece of paper we maybe should have. It's a certificate of citizenship. I don't have one. Most Americans don't. I am pretty sure none of my neighbors do either, but for some reason they aren't worried about not having it and I am.
So, once we have shut our borders and kicked "them" all out, all the people who don't belong, papers or no papers, what then? We will build the walls and then what will we do? What will our prison be like once we keep everyone out and still can't paint the walls gold?