Have you ever had days when you just wanted to close the door, turn off your phone, hang your 'do not disturb' sign, pop open a glass of wine and just walk away from everything outside? Today, I wish I could have done that. I'm a social worker in a high school. Drama, chaos, sadness and angst defines my population every day. Most days I'm fine. I can hear their sadness and feelings of loneliness and offer support, a shoulder, suggestions, advise, or just a kleenex.
But then there are other days, like today, when all of it is just too much to hear. I think that's when I know I haven't been taking good care of myself. When I've been worrying about everyone else before worrying about myself. I wish I had a button to just turn off my mind from all this worry. I take after my mother, for sure. She thinks and over-thinks situations that have not happened yet, nor would they ever happen. For me, I'm constantly wondering "what can I do? how can I help? why is this happening?"
Just an example of my day: still trying to get a US citizen student a passport to visit her family in Mexico where her mother died last week while her father is in detention...a 14 year old on her own to figure this out! Or, a young girl who's trying to understand why her alcoholic father yells and screams at her every morning while she's done nothing wrong, and she can't talk to her mother because she killed herself when she was a baby. Or a beautiful, intelligent boy who's lonely because noone will talk to him so he sits by himself at lunch or goes to sit with other kids who "look alone"and just wants a friend.
I'm afraid there are lots of women (and men) like me...caretakers, parents, worrywarts, and solvers-of-the-worlds-problems. If you'd like to get together sometime and chat over a glass of red wine, my door is always open.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
This week Arizona passed the worst anti-immigrant law in the US. I can probably go on for quite a while about how awful this is for our community and our country.
As we sat, waiting for the verdict, thoughts flew through my mind of what would become of this state if this bill became law? How many would suffer by its racist origins? Having to show proof that you were born here, being stopped by police if there is "reasonable suspicion" that you are undocumented, making it illegal to solicit work in public (day laborers), and so on, and so on, and so on. It was no surprise that this passed in the House, they're a bunch of idiots; but I was surprised to know that it also passed in the Senate, with no thanks to many Democratic leaders who failed to fight hard enough to oppose it. The Hispanic Caucus is a joke...too worried about what their white neighbor might think of them. So, in this scenario of inaction and selfishness, it passes and ends up at the Governor's desk to be signed.
And we wait. The whole state, nation, waits as she makes up her mind on what to do. I have to say that the wait was the most difficult part of this process. Each day, rumors flew that she would sign now, no now, no on Saturday. And each day, people rushed to the Capitol to hear nothing.
Finally, on Friday, with a stroke of her pen, she puts into law the harshest law against immigrants in Arizona and US history.
For me, as an Italian-American I am safe. I may be stopped because my skin is olive enough to be confused as "illegal." I can run home and pull out my birth certificate to prove to the police that I am worthy of being here legally by privilege of my birthplace. That should save me a trip to the jail and a $500 fine. Of course, if you know me, I will resist. I'll kindly tell Mr. or Ms. Officer that I refuse to divulge my country of birth, refuse to abide by the unjust and racist law created and passed by a racist and fascist government. But I'm safe and I can do that.
My Italian born parents, however, are not. They are now required to carry their Citizenship papers with them at all times, just in case they're stopped by the police. My grandmother, aunts and uncles better remember to pack their documents when they fly to visit us from Chicago. It is now legal to profile my family because of the color of their skin, because of their beautiful accent.
And, of course, my friends and students who are undocumented will bear the worst of this new law. They cannot show that they are legally here - although they contribute to this society more than most of us; they work, shop, pay taxes, breathe the same air, walk the same streets, and live the same lives as the rest of us. My undocumented students study side-by-side their "documented" peers but are not afforded the same privileges.
So, when I get back to work on Monday I'll sit my kids down and tell them to watch out. I have to tell them that jaywalking will get them stopped and questioned. I have to tell them to keep their eyes low, avoid the glance by the police, stay out of any trouble, or appearance of trouble. How can I tell my kids to learn to live in the shadows of the city they grew up in? The only city most of them know?