My associations with home…Warmth. 400 thread count cotton sheets. My dog to lick my ear, nose, and mouth. Pie. Comfy couches. People. Water. Great bathrooms, with a shower and tub. My own room. A fridge with abundant and diverse food in it. Trinkets and photos that represent places I’ve been and people I’ve loved. My guitar. Easy access to transport. TV, movies, radio, music, internet. Easy and multiple means of communication. I’m very rarely left wanting for something, and that something is usually fairly easy to find. Yes, I’m thankful for my home, and I take it all too for granted.
There seem to be two types of suffering: one that is abusive, and one that is redeeming. My thoughts this week are entrenched in how my country is set on being complicit in assuring that the primer be the experience of Syrian refugees, whether that be it’s involvement in the Syrian civil war or examining it’s responses to ISIS in a holistic way. ISIS wields fear wherever it goes, feeding on terror and psychological violence. The reality that refugees are escaping right now is one that I can’t imagine if I tried, and I won’t be naïve enough to try to write about it.
What is the most bothersome part about this week and these reflections though, are that my government and compatriots are trying to deny a home, an attempt at comfort, stability, and safety to those who are living in hell right now. It seems that the USA, home of manifest destiny, the American dream, built on different waves of migrants and refugees, is abandoning its ethics to the fear that ISIS has bred.
It’s heartbreaking. And it’s not surprising. It’s a repeated tale of xenophobia, bias, prejudice, racism, violence of privilege, and fear winning once again. This week I’m tired, my heart aches, and I’m left with little hope.
I’m begging that some act prove me wrong. I’m desperate that my politicians show up for complex conversations. And yet, I’m positive that my frustration and pleas does not match the anguish and realties of refugees.
Here is a great poem I stumbled on that does a great job of doing something I cannot do…talking about home when there is no place to call home.
“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one’s skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child’s body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.
My prayer for citizens and politicians of the USA:
Let us be anchored in truth. Let us remember the comfort that the word home should elicit. Let us not walk this earth in a deep slumber that is ignorance and inhumanity. May we live valiantly without giving into fear. There are living, breathing examples that should appeal to our ethos and pathos. May our pride not be a bluff that prevents action, but may it be a motivating factor to delve into complex conversations and realities. When stomachs are bulging this week after gorging on a Thanksgiving meal, let us remember the popular origins of the holidays, when white Christians were religious refugees and needing a place to call home and food to fill their hungry bellies.