My grandmother's hands are a thing of beauty. They are knotted and disfigured from years of cleaning the homes of wealthier Americans. They are crippled by arthritis. They cause her pain, but she doesn't stop using them. She and my grandfather continue to work well into their 70s, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. It is the reason I can appreciate the efforts of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, on a superficial level, for his work in trying to strike a bipartisan immigration deal that the White House will approve, allowing the government to avoid another shutdown.
I was actually relieved when I heard that the government was going to shut down. It sounded a lot like a vacation from the chaos of Trump-merica where the president's Twitter account would be suspended and we could all pretend that life was back to normal; a place where nuclear war wasn't a pissing contest on full, social media display between two of the most "stable geniuses" in the world.
When you boil everything down, the shutdown hinged on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the 700,000 people whose future hangs in the balance. This should, rightfully, strike a humanitarian chord and set the stage for a story of salvation and compassion in which Republicans and Democrats could join hands and display a temporary humanitarian face. Instead, the lives of these people are being used as a bargaining chip where the grand reward is that our inept government leaders can keep playing politics on the clock. It is a hostage negotiation where Republican leaders will keep these 700,000 people safe if Democrats will meet their demands. Trump's demands have included tens of billions for a border wall, tighter immigration rules, and swift deportations as well as an adjustment in the diversity Visa program which was the cause of his infamous "sh*thole countries" comment.
We are now past the first government shutdown and although Graham's initial efforts were unsuccessful, he continues to be a driving force for compromise between both parties on the immigration front. I wish him the best. Compromise is the great tenet for government work. However, there are arenas where compromise should not be an option. One of those is the supremacy of happy hour tacos at Voodoo. The other is the value of human life.
I am disgusted watching our leaders trivialize the value of brown-skinned people as a bargaining chip.
I imagine Trump, Graham, Mitch McConnell, and all the other players running their agendas when my grandparents first immigrated. I can see DACA legislation on Trump's desk and to him, my grandmother is just the help. She is someone to be called on during the tourist season to clean rooms at Mar-a-Lago; someone to scrub Trump's gold-plated toilet. They stand around in a circle for a photo-op and hold her hostage, to get what they want.
They don't see the woman who came from Costa Rica and raised four children in America. They don't see her son who spent his entire career serving in the military, something Trump refused to ever do. They don't see her eldest daughter doing mission work around the globe. They don't see her two other daughters, one guiding today's youth as a teacher and the other serving a state representative. If they don't see them, they certainly don't see her grandchildren; a doctor, a veterinarian, a photographer, a police officer, and the rest who are still working on their future. They certainly don't see her great-grandchildren, the oldest of whom wants to be a dancer on Monday and a doctor on Tuesday. Only God knows what she will become.
While they present a compromise on human lives as a victory where the government can keep operating, they don't see the many members of the congregation of the Iglesia Bautista Hispana who wonder if they will be arrested and deported if they go to work.
In the present time, I see the devilish grins of our leaders whose hostage negotiations may result in a $30 billion border wall and stricter immigration rules that encourage Norwegian immigration while shutting the door on sh*tholes. There is no humble nature in them. There is no respect for our Mexican neighbors, the "bad hombres" who suffered under America's insatiable lust for power during westward expansion. They sit smugly with no recollection of the shameful American conquest that murdered and displaced Native Americans (including Mexicans), enslaved Africans, and deviously worked themselves through history so that they can now sit behind a desk and proudly claim that 700,000 people should give them thanks for a stay of deportation.
It is easy for me to get angry and exhausted. Then I see my grandmother's beautiful, gnarled hands. I know they are clasped in prayer everyday for me. I'm reminded that there is a power greater than hate, fear, and selfishness. I know the divine and eternal epitome of love. As I take shelter in those arms, wrapped in peace, I can plead that if our leaders cannot see my grandmother or the rest of her lineage through human eyes, that they see me now; a struggling writer humbly crying out for compassion, humility, and sacrifice. Despite the numerous atrocities of American history, these are the virtues that have driven our greatest moments.
Ali was born in Greenville, SC but grew up in High Point, NC where he studied English/Writing at High Point University. He has called Charleston home since 2006 and wants to believe Bigfoot is real.