That was the response from someone after I excitedly spoke about immigrant mining towns in Montana. It had been the second time I spoke positively about immigrants, that evening.
I was recalling something I had seen on Vice/youtube/whatever. It was about the history of the communities of Eastern European immigrants who worked in the mines of Montana. The community formed a strong Union. I got the sense that the Union mentality was ‘one for all, all for one’. The pride in the community was strong. Celebrating their roots was still strong. It was impressive and humbling to see old traditions combined with American patriotism. It reminded me of my family’s story:
Leaving poverty and violence. Leaving everything they knew for the unknown, for an opportunity. Arriving with nothing. Nothing but the pursuit of happiness.
We are fully Guatemalan and we hold great pride in being citizens of the United States.
I was speaking with a friend who was moving back to Montana. The other fella took my excitement as hatred. In the moment, I smiled. I touched the back of his neck gently. I felt pity. And I saw fear in the form of feeling threatened. Pro-immigration doesn’t not mean hatred for white people. I know that. But I’m sure he does.
I see immigration as leaving behind destruction and death. I see immigration as a second chance in life. I see hard work and sacrifices for the family unit. I see discrimination for people that are different/other. I see hypocrisy: a country founded on religious freedom that turns around to deny religious freedoms.
Threat of his existence. Threat of himself. His family? My excitement was threatening to him. Masculinity so fragile? No. Those who were never oppressed, are the quickest to scream when they feel threatened. His words cut. What a clear accusation. What a privilege.
In that moment, I wasn’t able to articulate anything more than kindness and pity. And now, I’m still processing my response. Did I take it too easy on him? My younger/immature self would have raged and cussed in both languages I’m able to curse in. Was I mature for showing kindness? Was my response too empathetic? Was I tolerant? Should I ever regret kindness?
We are irrational when we are insecure. We strive for understanding. We strive to be understood.
I think I understand that moment now. I hope I’ll be ready for the next. And yes, I hope there is a next time.