Apathy is a privilege.
I have always endeavored on this blog to be about love. And for me, this election was never about politics. It was about love and the people I love and care deeply about.
On the day of the election, I read over and over again that everyone should calm down because no matter who became president, life would go on and the world wouldn't fall apart. I am sure this is true for many people in this country.
But apathy is a privilege.
I invited my nephew over to watch the election results with me. He stayed for a few hours and then had to go home to get to bed. It was a school night after all. On the way home, in the way of an 11-year-old on the brink of becoming his own person, he asked me, "Tia (Aunt), why do we care so much about this election?" And I told him we care because it greatly effects people we care about. People we pass on the street every day. People in our schools and our churches. People who are neighbors, but in the old "Can I borrow a cup of sugar?" sort of way. People who are dear friends. We care because we know how life would change for them and, in turn, would change for us.
As you all know, immigration reform is an issue that is very near and dear to me. Romney's policies, in my very humble opinion, encapsulated a way of thinking that I believe is harmful both to us as American citizens as well as to the undocumented. His policies perpetuate this notion of "every man is an island." The old "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps" and "No one ever helped me". In fact, no man is an island. Each is a product of a parent who read to him at night. A community that offered safety. A school that provided inspiration and opportunity. A last name that ensured legacy. There are so many factors that contribute to the success of any one person and to say that any one of us became successful on our own is, in the strong majority of cases, absolutely ridiculous. In each of our histories, is some person, some circumstance, some something that shaped us into the people we are. Romney's policies failed to recognize this interdependence which is truly at the heart of the immigration issue. If all undocumented immigrants were to self-deport today, this nation would collapse because we depend on their taxes (which they do pay with a tax id number provided by the IRS), we depend on their cheap labor, we depend on the money they spend and we depend on them doing the kinds of jobs we would never do.
Truth be told, Obama's policies aren't much better. He has deported more undocumented immigrants in the last four years than any other administration. While the claim is that the majority are criminals, the statistics reveal something very different. That said, he has made small changes that, while certainly not permanent solutions, have offered a bit of relief to people in my community.
He approved a change in process in which undocumented immigrants eligible for residency because of marriage (this is not amnesty. They were already eligible.) no longer have to leave the country to process their visa until their waiver is approved. The waiver waives the ten year ban they triggered upon exiting the US. They exited the country to apply for the waiver. See the catch-22 there? In the past, waiver processing times have varied from country to country, but often took years. This left mixed-status (one parent is a US citizen while the other is undocumented) families broken and separated between countries for years at a time. For a family eligible for this new change in process, this election meant staying together as the change, though approved, has yet to be implemented. While it is a far cry from comprehensive immigration reform, for the small group of families this does effect, it is a sigh of relief.
I think that bears repeating. This election means two people who love each other, regardless of status, would be permitted to live in the same country during the visa process.
In my home state of Maine, voters came out and voted in favor of same-sex marriage. And I couldn't be more proud of my home state. In our not so distant American past, interracial couples like Adrian and I wouldn't have been allowed to marry. When I think about the idea that in the past, others would have been voting on my marriage, I am overwhelmed with love, sympathy and support for couples who find themselves in a similar position today.
So, for anyone who has had to wait for voting results to find out whether or not they could marry the one they truly loved and whether or not that marriage would be recognized, congratulations. I think we are on the road to equality and acceptance.
For anyone who has stayed awake late into the night in a bed far too big for one person, wondering when their husband or wife would be permitted to return to this country, congratulations. I think we are on the road to family reunification.
For anyone who has left this country to be with the one they loved because a vote or a law or a change in process didn't pass, I hope we will see the day when you're welcomed back with open arms.
And for all who voted regardless of who you voted for, thank you. For your time. Your research. Your passion. Your voice. And your dedication.
In the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of individuals.