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Verk av Jonathan Blitzer

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Each morning I walk across train tracks to take my dog for a walk in the sand plains. Small trees, such as black locust, grow up between the creosote-treated crossties and gray gravel ballast. Each day as the train goes by, the tops of these trees get lopped off, maybe ten inches off the ground. Inevitably, they die due to the inhospitable conditions, after maybe a season or two.

I used to think, "oh how different it is for us, as animals, to be able to choose the place in which we make a home." These little tree seedlings grow where they grow, or die where they die, depending on how you look at it. They can't say, "oh, I wish I were ten feet that way, East of the tracks," and uproot and migrate of their own accord. Their lives, however fraught and truncated, are what they have been given.

After reading Jonathan Blitzer's new book on US immigration, focused primarily on the past fifty years of Central American civil war and displacement, I need to reconsider the stories I tell myself about the supposed differences between the lives of trees and the lives of us animals. I can't help but feel that, given US foreign and immigration policy, the lives of many Guatemalans, Salvadorians, and other asylum seekers, are like those black locusts on the train tracks; they can fantasize about life somewhere else, away from the machine-gun fire of death squads sent to exterminate them and their families, but it is only that—a fantasy. Their spirit-world journeys through Mexico and into the United States seem only a dream, inevitably ending with a flight back to their country of birth, loaded off the deportation plane, gunned down, and left to rot in the drainage ditches by the airport.

This book should come with a content warning; if you're not up for graphic and extensive depictions of torture, it isn't for you. If you can grit your teeth and get through the gruesome footage, you may come out the other side more viscerally connected to the suffering wrought by US policy.

If you've been following political discussion related to the 2024 Presidential Race in the US, you've likely been hearing about immigration, and the "crisis at the Mexican border." Before establishing an opinion on the matter, I strongly advise that you read this book. Hearing people discuss immigration is a bizarre experience, as it is clear that many voices in the discourse don't know the first thing about the issue.

One seemingly-obvious question would be: why are all of these refugees trying to come to the United States? They must know we're a cruel and heartless nation?

Well, yes, they know what terrible people we are. They're coming because it is their only chance at survival, however destitute. To stay in their communities means assurance of a premature and brutal death—whether from US-instigated civil wars, or US-caused climate change.

What is in a name? After all, aren't we the United States of America? These refugees from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras—they are all Americans as well. Don't we owe them some degree of solidarity? However much many of us might want to look the other way, our destinies are inextricably intertwined. After all, as the patron of our nation, the Statue of Liberty, boldly proclaims, aren't we a nation of immigrants here in the United States? And beyond national myth, even if you're just concerned with the pragmatic issue US competitiveness, immigration enhances the wealth and prosperity of our country; why not say yes to more citizens?

Blitzer's narrative takes the time to document the stories of those who had the humanity not to look away. Have you heard of the Sanctuary Movement? Did you know that it got its start in 1980, when hundreds of religious institutions across the US banded together to declare US immigration policy was at odds with domestic and international human rights law, and provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants? Blitzer also dispels the myth that brutality towards immigrants is a partisan issue: Democratic and Republican Presidents alike have enacted equally heartless policy, administration after administration.

In "Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here," Blitzer pulls off quite the narrative accomplishment: the book is both a cutting and meticulously-researched attestation of human-rights violations perpetrated by the United States, and a poignant, glowing portrait of the lives of protagonists through generations of conflict and the people and communities dedicated to showing up with selfless caring. The quality of the narrative arc of the story has the quality of fiction: unconstrained and breathless. And yet these are real stories in these pages. This kind of journalism takes countless hours, evidenced by the fact that this book is many years in the making.

As we come into a singularly hazardous election cycle, I couldn't recommend a better book in preparation to inspire grassroots activism and pressure for good policy. Blitzen would be the first to admit that this is a complex issue and their are no easy answers; at the same time, the situation as it currently stands is a true crisis, and there are countless pathways forwards that could improve this situation. We should take them.
… (mer)
 
Flaggad
willszal | May 20, 2024 |

Statistik

Verk
1
Medlemmar
69
Popularitet
#250,752
Betyg
4.0
Recensioner
1
ISBN
2

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