I wanna do a little real talk about the GOVERNMENT.
“Jesus Christing Christ, Midge. I get enough of this shit on my goddamn Facebook newsfeed, and now you’re going to crap your stupid BLOG up too?!”
Sorry, homies. I got feelings.
My mom was born in North Korea back when it was just the north part of Korea, before the war. Her family was very wealthy, and when the shitshow regime took power, they took everything: land, businesses, personal property, the mountain where we buried our dead. They imprisoned my professor grandfather for being an intellectual and a Christian. After he escaped from prison, my grandmother sold the family jewelry and used the funds to escape south and find him. Shortly thereafter, my oldest uncle went as well, attempting to start the reunification process. This left my mom and youngest uncle with their grandmother, who was smart enough to see the writing on the wall, and put them on an evacuation freighter headed south as soon as she could.
The boat stopped at an island right smack in the middle of what became the Koreas we know and love/hate today. She lived there with her brother for two years, with no family on whom they could depend. Little Young-Suk cared for her brother by getting top grades, because the number one student in their class would be rewarded with a bag of rice; winning art contests for the prizes, which were pencils and paper they could use at school; and taking the high heeled shoes that were all the folks from the Salvation Army had to offer, breaking off the heels, and giving them to her brother so he wouldn’t lose his toes to frostbite. This was her life at ten years old.
Eventually, they made it south and were reunited with the rest of the family. But, she still remembers. When I grew up, the stories we got weren’t “up hill, both ways” – they were “I saw a dog carrying a human head through the street.” They were “A nice woman in the village was forced to bury her children alive.” They were “I never understood what it meant to be hungry, until I was picking grass and weeds and boiling them for soup.”
She also spoke of the kindness of the American soldiers, and how one in particular would bring her and her brother blankets when they were cold, or food when they were hungry. They didn’t have parents, but they had this kind man for a while, and that helped.
As much as these stories inform the way I see the world, there’s one in particular that taught me the lesson I really needed to learn:
My great-grandfather was imprisoned and eventually killed by the Japanese when Korea was fighting to regain their independence. Once the conflict was over, Japanese POWs were marched through the countryside on their way back home. My great-grandmother was a widow whose husband had been killed fighting the comrades of these men, and learned that they would be coming through her land. Her response was to have all of the sweet potatoes she’d stored for the winter collected and boiled, and placed into a sack that she carried over to the route through which the soldiers would be marching. She handed the warm sweet potatoes to the men as they walked by, because they might be the enemy, but they were people, and they were hungry.
So yeah. There’s a soft spot in my heart for refugees. And as much as I try to remember what it means to be a Christian (yep – despite all the cussin’, I love me some Jesus), there’s a really fucking HARD spot in my heart for people who claim to be compassionate, then spit in the faces of those who need it the most.
Look, you do you. If you want to be the kind of person who screams and kicks at the thought of sharing what they have, that’s totally between you, your conscience, and your god, if that’s your jam. But I’m taking a page from my great-grandmother’s playbook. I’m going to keep reaching out. I’m going to remember that a government is a bunch of rules and slogans and rich assholes dressed up all fancy, while the people who make up a nation are a lot more important and complicated than that. And I’m going to do my goddamn best to let people know that when they’re thinking “radical terrorists”, I’m thinking “people just trying to survive and find a place where they and their children can be safe.”
We’re a nation almost entirely made up of people who fled everything they knew to find a home. That means something.
I’m an American, I’m a Christian, and I will help.