In Pashmina, Chanani fictionalized her own experience growing up in America with freshness, humor, and intensity. Her Nib reflection on life, language, and identity choices will feel familiar to many who are trying to raise children in an inclusive society.
Is that a vain hope? Because I think America was learning to be an inclusive society once, not so long ago, in an eight-year era that some apparently saw as less “hopey changey” than might be imagined. Maybe that whole hope change thing was delusional. Or maybe it’s just that democracy can be rigged and hijacked as much as any other system can and we’re watching a crook-in-chief do just that.
Still, I was moved by this New Yorker article by Dave Egger about a church in Connecticut that has decided to open its doors to immigrants seeking sanctuary. Moved for so many reasons. Here were fellow South Asians from Pakistan, whose troubles had all started with caste barriers in their homeland. Caste, I should add, is the identifier that makes me weep for my own people. Its horrific taboos have migrated from their source traditions into converts’ communities in South Asia, even when their adopted religions are supposed to abhor such differences. Moved as well because in the land where I arrived in 1979, immigrants were seen as welcome additions to society, not infestations to be removed.
The article quotes the Bible:
Here’s how Americans can do the right thing: first, more churches that, like the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, want to embody the words in the Bible—“Welcome any alien into your land, for you were once an alien in the land of Egypt”—can consider their roles in protecting families who have committed no crime other than wanting a safe place to live.
But the churches can’t fix the rigged and broken system. Voting might help but only if enough people with intelligence and honesty run for office, and tell me where the incentive is for that?
Finally where, I wonder, does all this leave the child in the church who just wants to play and go to school and be a child? Or Nidhi Chanani’s daughter, whose parents are trying to expand her linguistic world in the passionate belief that this will help her make sense of the real one? What about the loosening of regulations that will put children’s health at risk? And how come a public shrugging of the shoulders has become the last word on those other children separated so recently from their parents at the border?
How many more ways will America fail children before something shifts?