Racists at the Breakfast Table

My husband and I had breakfast with another couple on Saturday morning. I have long loved and respected these people—we worked together years ago—and they’d never met my husband, so I was delighted to show him off. On the way to the restaurant, though, I reminded Gerry: “No politics, honey. We just can’t talk politics.”

You see, my old friends are (let’s be frank, shall we?) crazed Trump supporters. I’d always known they were conservative (and I am not); I’d put up with my friends saying, in a mock shocked tone of voice, “You mean you want to pay more taxes?” for years.

But recently (in the last three or so years), they’d become one of that group of evangelical Christians who staunchly—no matter how awful the tweet—support and defend Trump. They’d become shrill. They’d become, even, nasty and mean in their defense of him.

I’d thought we could have breakfast and have a laugh. Yet within fifteen minutes, one of them was asking Gerry what he thought of Brexit. Harmless enough, you’d think. But Gerry’s Irish, Brexit will affect Ireland dramatically, and Gerry has followed Brexit news closely. My friend interrupted. “England is being swamped by people who have no respect for its ancient culture,” he said. Gerry snorted: “England had no respect for Irish culture for eight hundred years! And let me remind you,” he said, “England had such a labor shortage in the 1950s after the war that they encouraged emigration from elsewhere in the commonwealth, such as Jamaica.”

My friend was surprised—history isn’t his strong suit, apparently—but undaunted. He widened his cultural reflections to include Europe, which has, he said, accepted all those immigrants who “want to establish Sharia law”—yes, he actually said that—when in fact, these immigrants are often fleeing from Sharia laws. This went on and on. It covered every hot-button Trump-zealot issue you can imagine—and perhaps some you can’t. My friends were also incensed that Sikhs—if they should pass the notoriously grueling RCMP entrance process—can wear wear turbans as a Mountie.

Finally, my husband told them that they were advocating racial cleansing, and that this sounded racist to us. He kicked me under the table, we ended our meal, and left—a little shaken and relieved to be gone. We’re too old to put up with such ugliness.

Second-Class Something

In preparation for some dental work, my husband needed some prescriptions, including one for pain. The latter triggered a request from the pharmacy for ID. He doesn’t walk around with his passport and doesn’t have a driver’s license, so he whipped out his Temporary Permanent Residency card. But … “It’s expired.”

Oh. yeah. We’re in process.

We started it last July. We have an Official Letter From the Powers That Be that says, essentially, Oh, yeah, this guy, he’s still legal, but we’re awfully busy right now rounding up Dreamers and other immigrants to rip out of the arms of their legal loved ones, busy hunting down the semi-legal immigrants who are still trying to stay alive in the ICE Hunger Games Sweepstakes, so this guy has to wait some more. No, we can’t give you an estimated time of arrival. Shut up.

When we first learned that he’d be walking around with an expired green card for a year, we giggled. Wow, that’s really classy and professional. But yeah, see, we’ve got this letter …

So we went home, retrieved the needed paperwork, went back. Fuming.

In between the house and the pharmacy, Gerry decided to just show his passport—which is not expired (and is pretty stinkin’ impressive, actually, with it’s fancy-schmancy visa inside)—and get the pills and get out of there. He just didn’t feel like the hassle of having to call the store manager to look at and read this letter while he stood by, hat in hand. Gerry has spent a lot of his money in this community—on a house, on remodeling, on a car, on furniture, and always, always from local vendors—and yet this whole exercise made him feel not-good-enough.

I support him in the decision but I would have loved to march in there with him with his expired green card and his not-expired letter and say, See? See? I think it would have been a good education for the staff. It’s why I talk/write about this over and over. Because there are a lot of people who live their whole lives and never meet an immigrant. Or don’t realize they have.

At the end of the day, this story works out for us (that is, we can afford to hire an immigration attorney, and we have the time to wait and wait and wait, and we are white and move through society unnoticed, except when we need a drug on the restricted list). But what if my husband had brown skin? Or a funny name? Or a noticeable accent? (Oh, wait …) What if someone just felt like making trouble and called ICE on suspicion of an expired visa?

We don’t blame the good folks at Kroger who were just doing their jobs. The point here is immigrants—people who are neither here nor there—run into a dozen little roadblocks* like this every day. This experience made Gerry feel “less than.” It made him feel second-class. It made him feel as if he’d just been subjected to extreme vetting at the Kroger Pharmacy counter.

This coming October Gerry will have been resident here for three years, and technically we could start citizenship proceedings. Of course, it’s unlikely he will have his permanent green card by then, so we’ll have to complete that process first (so as to remain “legal”), then start on citizenship. Me, I look forward to another progressive voter in the house, working for change in this bloody state.

In the meantime, if anyone says the words extreme vetting in our hearing, he or she is likely to get punched. You’ve been warned.

* Remind me to tell you about how hard it was for Gerry, a decade ago, to open a checking account in this town (because he didn’t have a Social Security number) before we figured out how to game that system. Remind me to tell you how hard it was for him to get a simple credit card here. Remind me to tell you why it was easier for him to pay cash for his first house purchased in the US than to get a mortgage.

I Have Had Enough of Winter …

From the kitchen window.

It’s 34° outside at 1pm, 39° when we left the house for the farmers market at 7:30 this morning. On our way home from the market we saw a homeless man, staggering down the Church Street overpass in the wind. In shirtsleeves.

While we had a late breakfast, this little squirrel sat outside near the fountain and feeding table with its front paws folded up close to its chest, no doubt wondering what had happened to spring and did we skip summer, for Pete’s sake?

Now Gerry’s outside covering up the rose bushes, and I’ve dragged the potted herbs up into a little nook by the back door. It may be April seventh where you are, the joke goes, but here it’s January ninety-seventh. Brrr.

We’re warm inside, but this will be a long night for many of God’s creatures. #enough #grateful