Friday, August 29, 2003

Leaving on a Jet Plane


I'm reclining on the plane as I write this, Japan's coastline a long time lost from sight. I am still warm from the glow of approval, form the heady wine that is one small dream come true. I've flown off my native islands and I'm seeing my cousins. Yes. In Minnesota. I am still reeling from the shock.

Never mind that I had to be frisked by burly (and maybe sexually starved) guards, had to remove my shoes, had to suffer little indignities I won't bother to mention, before boarding the plane. Never mind that the Arabs kept leering at me, that the Japanese and the Indians kept trying to make conversations I could not continue. I was halfway there already. I had one more hurdle to pass... customs...



I'm sh!tting you. I'm still here.

Bull Cookies

Add this to your store of experience, Dex.

The visa issuing officer was going to give it to me. I could feel it. Then she asked one question and I wound up being honest. That led to another question and I could suddenly feel the fop sweat forming on my brow: I was losing her. I realize now that one can't really depend on scripts that begin with, "She's gonna ask you this, you have to answer that, and back it up with the other," when confronted with these people. If you know your worth, you have to defend it --politely-- tooth and nail, using terms that make sense to these people.

That's the part that always galls. Before a consular officer, you are not a person; just a potential social and economic burden. I should be used to this by now: whether one can admit it to himself, one almost always treats people as objects, rates them according to their usefulness or harmfulness to the self.

One must always be both useful and harmful to everyone else. Useful, to be liked (Oh, he's such a dependable friend!); harmful, (But don't you dare abuse him!) to be feared.

Seeing the Sights

When I was part of the moderately long and sweltering visa application lines, I saw sights that historical revisionism should have wiped off the face of the Filipino psyche.

Here was an old woman who wished to visit her sister (who lived in America and therefore, had "made good"). The visa guy had asked her politely why she was to visit the 'States. She had launched into a plaintive spiel, half-bowing(!), hands almost raised in supplication, declaiming(!) begging, with an intonation, rhythm and accent that made me wince.

"...Before I leave this EARTH/
I want to SEE/
the LAND of paraDISE/..."

As she left with shoulders bowed, I had the impression that her application was also denied.

Dear Lady, I wanted to tell her, America had already made us their first exercise in the practice of empire-building sometime before World War I. They saved us from the Japs and we should be grateful. But we can't be THAT grateful. The America you knew in World War II is not the same America you're facing now. Riddled with its own internal problems, it's a giant thrashing about in a storm-tossed sea that is partly of its own making. I am afraid for the world of the waves it makes. It's still a great country, but so is yours. Be proud of who you are and where you come from.

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