Friday, May 2, 2014

"the refugee child learns quickly that there's no returning"

#MTBoS30 5/30

This piece, "Give Me the Gun" by Andrew Lam, has been haunting me for about a week now. It's ostensibly about the Tsarnaev brothers, but also about the American dream and about being a refugee-- which, and I confess I sometimes forget this until such a piece calls me to the carpet, is not the same as being an immigrant.
"Here is what I know: it is inevitable that children born into war inherit trauma, even if they didn’t experience that war first hand. The inheritance is deep rooted, and it seeps in below the surface: the way the adults talk of the past, the way fragments of their history replay on TV, the way sadness hangs in the refugee home like heavy air, like smoke; a lost home, a shattered people, the humiliation, the overwhelming nostalgia; it seeps into dreams. And when they are vulnerable, when their lives in America unravel and their access to America’s grandeur is blocked and denied, the old memories and unshaped desires have a way of reaching out to take hold...
Often, the successful border crosser will find ways to articulate and redefine himself; his revenge over his wretched past is his successful transition in America, his newfound status—a boxer, a scholarship boy. But when access to America’s grandeur is blocked or denied, especially for children from war-torn lands, old memories have a way of resurfacing, of reaching out. Inherited trauma, ever-present in refugee homes, becomes seductive, something on which to latch one’s identity. In fantasy, in search for a new myth, some even fantasize themselves fighting their father’s lost war or defending a land long lost. Old loyalty demands an old-world, strict ethos: blood debt must be paid by blood."
I could quote just about the entire piece. It is powerful, and I urge you to read it. Especially if you are an educator in a place with ethnic enclaves and/or resettled communities (is this a respectful term? I don't konw and if you do, please correct me) which, because of the ways in which the US government resettles refugees, are often not where you'd expect (hello, upper Midwest).

1 comment:

  1. This makes me think of the student I taught who had immigrated from Mexico. The fear that traveled from their homes to my classroom that I look back on now but never acknowledged then.

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