Sunday, May 28, 2006

Immigrants, Tourists, Expatriates

- A Central American woman takes stock of her savings, perhaps a bank statement or more likely a wad of bills painstakingly obtained. She eyes her hometown knowing she’s going to leave and not knowing when she might return. Her vision of the future is one informed by television, by tourists she’s met or only glimpsed, by the letters of friends and family who’ve already made the journey across the border to a better life in the United States. Her plans might involve long lines at the government administration offices, with waits extending into months or years. They might involve a man – “I can learn to love him.” Or maybe not. Her plans might involve a perilous journey – by bus, plane, foot or any combination of the three.

Concurrently, an African man similarly might be taking stock of his situation. He examines a map. At some point, he inventoried his surroundings and realized he must leave. He’s college-educated, but jobs are few, and the one he works has made him the de facto ATM and go-to man for dozens of relatives and friends. He’s seen the movies, heard the stories, too. Maybe he dreams of London, maybe Paris or New York.

At the very same moment, a young American sits in front of a computer screen. Puritanical, imperialistic, materialistic - he’s disgusted with his country. This could be triggered by yet another event on the news or by an existentially revelatory trip to the mall. He finds himself bored, unfulfilled. Perhaps he downloads an application for the Peace Corps. Or maybe he wheedles spending money from his parents for a summer in Europe. They think he’ll study languages and art. He knows he’ll be smoking pot in Amsterdam.

Across the world, a common theme emerges: somewhere, some other place is better than here.


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