I am sitting here recovering from the worst flu I have ever had and I wonder if my immune system is as weak as I imagine the nation’s immune system is at this point in our history.
This is the most virulent flu doctors have seen in a long time, and it seems like our collective immune system may be weakened due to the daily barrage of negativity we have to deal with. I think mine is. Every day there is a racial slur, another environmental degradation, an assault on our fragile democracy, a new indignity. It leaves me breathless, nervous, anxious, shaking with rage.
I imagine I am not alone. How could it not affect our collective immune system? Those of us with consciences, with morals, with integrity must feel this daily and as much as we play at being strong— wearing our pink hats, making our phone calls—we cannot help but feel beaten down. I feel battle weary.
I just finished watching the video of Jorge Garcia’s deportation and I am filled with rage and heartbreak. Forced to “return” to a country he has never known, to leave his family and all he knows behind, I shed tears for this stranger who is not a stranger. I have worked with immigrants and refugees from all over the world since I was a teenager, first as a volunteer, then as a refugee resettlement counselor, and then an ESL teacher. Students and clients have become friends and loved ones.
Just over a year ago I started a new novel, a lighthearted, loving look at immigrants from the point of view of an adult ESL classroom and the nutty teacher presiding over class. It was going to be a realistic, yet warm portrayal of the goings-on in and outside the class. I got about 4 chapters in when the election happened and everything changed.
That positive trajectory I felt we were on changed direction and began to plummet. The lightheartedness has been replaced with sadness in my heart, as many of the people I know and love are under threat. I am in utter disbelief about how this could be happening in 2018, in the United States of America. I am terrified for this country, not just for immigrants, documented or no, but for all of us.
If we let the beasts that are in charge continue on this hate spree, I fear for us all.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So, we rest, and we hydrate and elevate and we watch lots of Netflix and we get our strength back. And we write, and we march, and put on our pink hats and raise money for people in Puerto Rico. We do what we can and we never stop. We do not become silent.
I am proud to be an editor of a magazine that encourages writers to get passionate, get their feelings out, get fired up. The pen is mightier than the sword, so take heart and take up your pens!
And who knows, I might still write that lighthearted immigrant novel one day, because…
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
JANA LAIZ is the author of the triple award-winning novel, Weeping Under This Same Moon; Moonbeam Silver Medal Winner The Twelfth Stone; Elephants of the Tsunami; the co-author of “A Free Woman On God’s Earth, The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom,” soon to be a feature film; Thomas & Autumn; Simon Says ~ Tails Told By The Red Lion Inn Ambassador; and Billy Budd in the Breadbox, The Story of Herman Melville & Eleanor. A former refugee resettlement counselor and ESL teacher, Jana believes that honoring diversity can change the world. She is passionate about our beautiful planet and endeavors to make a difference in the world through her writing. She is the very first Writer-In-Residence at Herman Melville’s beloved Arrowhead. Her new book Blanket of Stars will be out soon. She lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.