Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Day After...

Having to Answer to America's "Unwanted"

pic from
November 9, 2016

I am a civil servant.  My work as a Family Engagement coordinator at a small refugee center with a mission directed at educating and integrating refugees into the US school system is both personally and altruistically rewarding.  I had a meeting to enroll a Syrian family into an inner city school this morning, and the routine gathering and discussion became a battle between cultures, full of mistrust and anxiety. 

“Do you work for Trump?  Is that why you are trying to make this enrollment so confusing? I hope we get kicked out of this country so we can go back to Jordan!”

A question I had to answer, a question to answer while feeling so much deceit and spite for my own country, for their neighbor who we would meet in the next hour flying his American flag, ripping down Marlboros and eyeing us down, for the student at school who said, “Go Trump”, or the Chevy truck flying his Trump colors we would pass on the way home.  It was a discussion I was prepared to have on this morning, a question I was dreading.  I never planned that their distrust and anger would be directed at someone who was there on this bright and sunny morning to talk about the importance of following the school system correctly, to provide a school tour for the family, and my favorite…the importance of retaining native language and culture, really making sure we discussed the difference between assimilation and integration.  I was there to provide guidance and support for a daunting transition into an unknown world.

I answered through my first day on the job, volunteer translator, “no, I do not work for Trump.  As you clearly know what I am doing is frowned upon by our new president and the majority of this country.  Normally I would talk to you about the opportunity for your children’s success and a chance for them to pay homage to the sacrifices your family has made to get to this point, to where you are now.  How today is the first step for your children to become anything they dreamed of, and how though difficult, everything is going to be fine.  But, let me be honest, I don’t know what tomorrow, or a month away will bring.  All I know is that I am here today, here to help you enroll your children, help you to chase your American dream.  So, let’s focus on today.        
Through the hardship we completed the enrollments, three students in all.  I’ll be riding the city bus with the older students on Monday.  Those boys are so excited to start, mom and dad, after battling me all morning on every detail professed their gratitude and gave me their prayers.  I did not feel the normal high from assisting a family on my drive back into the office.  I thought to myself, if I were that family, I would not be sending my kids to school this week, I would be afraid of this new and unwelcoming environment.  I would do anything to get the hell out of this mad house.  But, then again, they just completed that mission.  They escaped the stench of death and despair of no tomorrow.  The family is a grizzled veteran in regards to political upheaval.  I am the scared kid trying to hide from the world.

I am in awe of their strength, they are Syrian refugees, not the victims of the world, these families are the survivors. 


Erik Humes said...

Great piece and well written Nate. Keep up the great public service work.

Panharith said...

I hope they get kicked out of this country so they can go back to Jordan!”

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Just BD said...

I've heard about that. My friend said he had read something similar in trump news