So, I have a cousin in Canada living there on a visitor's permit. She's met a guy online. They've fallen in love. He lives in Tennessee. He says he's Catholic. He owns his own lawn mowing service. He only has a high school degree. He's divorced and has two kids. He's bought her a ring. She says she's in love. He says he doesn't care that she has a college degree. He says the women in Tennessee don't work. She says he can't make her his slave. He agrees. He seems nice on the phone. He's willing to be a practicing Catholic again. He says he loves her. He called my parents Ma'am and Sir.
And my mind is just /screaming/ in panic. My cousin wants to be a Benedictine nun. My cousin wants to teach. My cousin has dreams that could not be fulfilled in the 41 years she's lived in the Philippines and Dubai combined.
But no woman should ever have to trade one set of dreams for another set. No woman should have to compromise herself, her culture, her language, in order to settle for what has been drilled into her heart as 'culturally acceptable.' No woman should have to expose herself to a loveless marriage, abandonment, rape, torture, and death in order to make do, to send money back home, make it big overseas, or any of the other incredibly violent narratives we have created in the name of capitalism, progress, and social advancement.
I wrote this poem years ago and now I stand, hands empty, heart blazing, mind reeling. I don't know how to help her. I don't know how to prevent the prophecy at my fingertips.
When you come to meet my family in the barrio, you
already have the envelopes and papers in your pocket.
You let us sit you at the head of the table beneath
the wood carving of the Last Supper and serve you an
evening meal. We listen to you marvel at the taste of
spicy chicken soup laced with tamarind. We do not tell
you that the chicken is our last meat, that the
portion you take is more than enough to feed my three
youngest sisters. Instead, we wait for you to agree;
then we will know the family will eat chicken or maybe
even pork for many months to come.
I do not eat that night while I sit next to you. I
spoon my soup onto my little brother’s plate, a last
farewell to our only boy. I hope you will let me send
money to him once we have left. For school, I will
tell you, my smile as soft as morning mist, perhaps a
little for new clothes. I try not to wonder how often
I will have to beg this way.
You sit on the porch late into the night, sipping
Black Label and sharing cigarettes with my father. My
mother sits in the kitchen trying not to listen to you
struggle through our language. My father is patient
and he speaks your language slowly, deliberately,
haltingly, so you will never suspect he knows more
than you thought he should.
I lay safe within folds of mosquito netting when you
give my father the papers and a thin envelope. He does
not keep the papers, instead glances at them to be
sure they look in order. The envelope looks so tiny in
his hand and he is unsure, uncertain that this is the
right thing to do. He looks into your hazy blue eyes
and rubs a hand through his thin, grey hair. Then he
folds the envelope in half and slips it into his back
pocket. There is not much more I can do for my family.
I am too small, too smart, too old for these barrio
boys. We both know it is better to find a life
In the morning we walk to the church together and I
hold your dry white hand as we say our vows. You press
cool, rough lips to mine and it is done. There is no
question what you want from me, yet you will have to
wait until you take me to your country. There is only
time to kiss my mother and squeeze my father’s hand
before we must leave to board our plane. We sisters
try not to cry and my mother begs us to stay, but it
is just for show. There is nothing for you here except
banana plantations and open pit mines.
I take one last look at the white washed church then
begin to fold myself up. My knees to my mouth, my
polio back turned sideways, my too large eyes wrapped
in swaths of my black hair. You fold my crooked arms
haphazardly to fit into a small envelope you have
brought, then slip me into your jacket next to you
passport and wallet. With a satisfied smile, you pat
your pocket, your newest acquisition safe against your
So, until a few days ago, I didn't know the US has an embargo on technical information exportation to certain countries. After all, we seem pretty loose with our cultural exportation and appropriation. There's a list out there, several hundred PDF pages long, of specific people we cannot share scientific discoveries with, cannot promote the peaceful exchange of ideas with, can't collaborate on creating methods to perhaps eliminate hunger and disease within our lifetime. These folks are primarily citizens of Sudan, Iran, Libya, and Cuba. Iraq used to be on the countries list, but recent...events have apparently opened that country.
There are, of course, folk associated with the NPA and other south Philippines resistance groups listed, and yes, I admit to checking for my family names on the list.
Today I had to write a scientist in Iran that no, we can't send a sample of our scientific journal to him, not even the link to our online library. Oddly, the man could become a member of our association, attend out meetings, publish in our journals, but he can't hold whatever we publish in his own hands.
I guess I'm supposed to feel glad I live in a free country and all, but I just don't. I just feel really sad that the US has these kinds of relationships with other countries, relationships that stunt our mutual growth and benefit.
Here's a link with more info on it. I find it interesting that this situation comes under the balliwick of the Treasury Department.