Going Home, walking between borders and Living in the House of Trump

It is obvious that Trump and his followers doesn’t think we belong here.

Who do I mean by “we”? Brown skinned immigrants. His wives are immigrants, but he never talks about dirty Russians or suspicious Eastern Europeans. Black Americans, people who disagree with his politics – obviously also other.

My kids always use “American” as short hand for white American. I ask, do you mean “white American?” or “Black American?” or “Asian American?” Clearly, they perceive our otherness, in this culture and in the House of Trump. “American” defaults to Whiteness.

A Trump supporter yells, go back to Africa, go back to Mexico, tells all “Muslims” to go back to Islam(!??!). The US Supreme Court allows for the forcible internment, imprisonment of all people of Japanese descent, their US citizenship not protecting them. I learned about this as a child and realized that this belief – the belief that we are not really American, even if born here, this applies to me. This place has always been the House of Trump.

My mom always calls the Philippines “back home.” A US citizen for decades but the Philippines is always back home. A reader of my blog (thanks for reading!) asked me whether the Philippines is home. And I have been thinking a lot about it.

I was born in the US and grew up only understanding every nook and cranny of American racism, white supremacy, hatred of women. The Philippines is respite for me, where my small Asian body feels more at home and not alien, but the culture, the politics, the colonialism and its impacts are mysteries I experience only at Skype’s length of through Facebook posts. But the US can never totally be home because it includes the House of Trump and its inhabitants feel like they could kick us out at any moment, no matter citizenship.

I remember vividly the joy of returning back to the Philippines for the first time. I was astounded that my family could greet me with open arms, that the country recognized me as a returning fellow countryperson, a member of the diaspora, even though it was my first actual physical step in the Philippines. I was relating this to my friend, a Black-American and he said he wished he had that. The brutality of American-slavery was the destruction of that return home. Where would he go? To the place of his enslavement? But the US is his because his ancestors built it – it became a world superpower because of 400 years of slavery meant an accumulation of wealth at the hands of the ruling elite that no one could match.

The US is mine, because I was born here but I will always be a stranger too. The Philippines is home because my heart was born there, but I will always also be a stranger. Children of immigrants, we walk borderlands, we follow whispers, we dive into deep caves. And let’s not kid ourselves, the House of Trump has always been here. This country was built on equal parts genocide, slavery, war, imperialism, AND hope, revolution, protest, and resistance. As always, the question is Which Side are You On?


Thoughts on Getting Lost and Marauding Relatives

I have been reading Rebecca Solnit’s novel, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. A quote from her: “The mind too can be imagined as a landscape, but only the minds of sages might resemble tImagehe short-grass prairie…The rest of us have caverns, glaciers, torrential rivers, heavy fogs, chasms that open up underfoot, even marauding wildlife bearing family names.”

I guffawed at the last part, marauding wildlife/family trampling through the landscapes of our minds. As a Filipino family, we have a herds of water buffalo relatives that like to charge through our lives and loves. Like many immigrants, we have intercontinental family dramas. Arguments over cows, rice, and water buffalo cross space and time to come to roost here in hipster Williamsburg. The 20 year-old butchers over at Marlow and Daughters THINK they know all about meat – talk to my relatives, who can butcher, barbeque a pig AND climb a coconut tree and cut down some fresh coconuts with their bolo AND drink a case of San Miguel within 24 hour period. We also have the fastest intercontinental gossip (chismis) line, where gossip can somehow instantly get to the Philippines, and to several US states within 5 minutes or less.

No, but back to the book – on getting lost. I am there – hanging out in a place of no directions. Meditating on that. Getting. Lost. I am not the type of person to allow myself to “get lost.”  I knew I want to organize people for systemic change and collective action since I was 18. A therapist called me “actualized” at the age of 24. I went on a union organizing campaign at 28 and fell in love again. All of which means I have been “with it” for a long time or at least pretending I knew the way. Now that I am 40, I am much more likely to let you know I don’t know what the hell I am doing. So I mean that kind of lost – allowing myself to not know the way for a bit. This year promises big changes again, and my tendency is to plan, research, and make declarations. I am trying hard to avoid that and to let myself visit the caverns and the glaciers of my mind, to allow marauding worries plow through and then see the dust settle, to visit the scary corners and turn the lights off in the bright, shiny pretty scenes I have built for the visiting public. More later on getting lost…. For now, I will return to watching the snow.