This is What I Came Here For? by Sergey Grankin
This is what I came here for? Facebook reactions. Cheers simultaneously drowned by disavowing boos. Yelling over each other. Emails. Sex scandals. I came here to hear about grabbing a woman’s genitals because you’re a star? It’s a mess. All of it. Last nights debate showcased two grown ups fighting like children over topics pertaining little to the security and freedom of our nation. And yet all of this is somehow relevant to our political reality. So I ask again, is this what I came here for?
To backtrack, let me explain why I came here. My family lived in a country surrounded by oppression, a country that for decades knew little in the ways of freedom. Long before I was around my parents and grandparents before them played by the rules set up in the Soviet Union. That’s the land that promised equality, common welfare, a labour and civilian focused government but in reality robbed their people of much of that. Sure, in retelling the stories my parents address the positives of life back in the motherland, but when that’s the life you know, it’s the life you learn to love. Now the USSR was far from an ideal place to live – genocide, totalitarianist rule, poor standard of living, the list can keep going, but my parents didn’t move because of that.
1991, the year it all went to hell. The Soviet Union fell apart. Conditions being less than ideal before the fall now turned into third world in many places. Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the Union, now left to fend for itself as an independent nation. With much of the leadership appointed through Moscow in the past now gone, it was a mess to establish any sense of control or structure, so Kyrgyzstan suffered. My family suffered with it. Weeks with no power or water. Unstable currency making grocery shopping nearly impossible. A nationwide shortage on many essential food items. That’s just the basics too. So we got out.
I’ll spare you the details of the gruesome process and trip to get over to the United States, but it was rough. Hard legal process, even harder journey. My parents gave everything to move here, start a new life and ultimately see that their children have a better future than they would have otherwise. This is the same story that resonates with millions of immigrants across this country. This is the backbone of the United States. At one point or another, everyone immigrated across the atlantic to call the land of the free their home, save for the native americans of course. This is the land of the free after all, the home of the brave. It’s the land of opportunity, and in so many ways it has been, the dream of many an immigrant. Now end flashback and jump back to the painful reality. The land of opportunity is now a circus.
I’m not here assigning blame. I’m not even going to go in depth about why or how we’re failing our citizens as a country right now, but the general consensus is that we’ve been robbed. Sure, there is an ultimate lesser of the two evils (I’m with her), but both parties have been robbed of better political candidates. The rigged system continues to undermine our voice everyday in ways we don’t realize. From the DNC controversy to lopsided media coverage, we have every reason to be mad at the ugly. Go and scream! Do it. Yell at the TV until you’re red in the face. I don’t blame you at all. See I’m mad too because this isn’t what I came here for.
I came here to see equality – races, genders, sexualities, religions, occupations, all walking down the street with respect for one another. I came here for safety – not worrying that a visit to the mall might be my defining moment in this life. I came here for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – marrying who I love with no shame, stigma or agenda to take that away from me. I came here for freedom and liberty and happiness. I came here for JFK’s “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind”; for FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; for MLK’s “I have a dream”. Yet it seems that I am not free from the shackles of warfare, nor do I have liberty from fear. If these are the cornerstone principles to democracy, America, then pray tell where are they?
Immigrants across the nation still expect all those things. Once upon a time, even just a year ago, those dreams still seemed real. Those expectations were manageable, tangible. Tonight, however, with the development of one of the worst debates in history, I’m disappointed. Sadness overcomes me when I dare think that human beings gave up their way of life, lost their home, spent their entire life’s savings to move to a land so their children can have a better life and now we’re stuck with 90 minutes on “grab her pussy” and emails. People gave their lives for this. Wars were fought to protect our right to vote and we’re dealing with tweets, facebook reactions and snapchat filters.
As an immigrant to this nation, I have to ask this once more – is this what I came here for? I don’t know if I can say that enough. This cannot be how we move forward. Are we not better than this? I’m mind boggled by the sheer enormity of this conundrum. Something has to be done.
My first instinct – run to Canada. I love the land, the quality of living is high and they’re a lot more progressive up there. Perfect! I’ll just say goodbye to my friends and family, start anew and be an immigrant once more! Except that’s not perfect. I’d be running from a place that needs a loud progressive voice now more than ever. I’d be disregarding every principle I believe in. I’d be throwing out the window the entire plot to my family’s immigration story. No, that won’t be my legacy.
I’m stuck in thought. Mile a minute – my mind is racing with thoughts uncomprehensively quick. I look to the past for hope. What if George Washington ran? The times were much more difficult with more at stake. What if Abraham Lincoln didn’t want to see the ugly reality of the country? He had more than just emails and scandals to deal with. Had FDR not faced adversity head on, who knows how our country would have recovered from the great depression. These were the very men who spend their lives in service to the greater good. Yes, I too, like the great men of this nation before me shall face resistance with resilience, meet tribulation with temperament and follow reproach with dignity.
The truth is we’ve been here before and we’ve seen much worse. We’ve seen worse tragedies, worse sorrows. We’ve all been through more pain, this isn’t anything new. We’ve always overcome. Today we too shall overcome. In this madness of an election we will find hope and courage regardless of the outcome, because that is what America is all about. Overcoming our fears, defeating all obstacles and picking ourselves up off the ground when we fall. Today I choose not to be complacent or run. I choose not to stand idly by and complain, but to raise my voice, be active, vote, engage in all debate and discussion because people died for my right to do that. Because great men and women served and fought for that opportunity. Because THAT is what I came here for.