This week I went to the first play I’ve been to in a few weeks, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. It was an intimate venue at American Players Theatre’s indoor stage, the Touchstone. The reason for having this production in 2017 only became more evident as it went on.
It is a play about immigrants who come to America illegally in the 1950s from Italy. If you know Miller’s play style, his most famous work being Death of a Salesman, then you need to know that this is a Greek Tragedy set in in 1950s Brooklyn.
In Eddie and Beatrice’s hardworking Brooklyn neighborhood, family ties are a fierce point of pride. Case in point, Bea’s orphaned niece, Catherine has lived with them since she was a child and is now ready to make her way in the world, though Eddie seems reluctant to let her grow up. When the couple agrees to take in two of Bea’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, who have traveled from Italy to find work illegally, Catherine and Rodolpho start spending more time together. Eddie, who has an unhealthy attachment to his niece, believes it is because he wants his papers, and says just as much. fanning Eddie’s hot temper and driving the family to an emotional boiling point.
Immigration has come back around to the forefront of our stories, because apparently the thing that has been happening since America was stolen from Native Americans, is now a problem. I’m talking about Trump working to deport people who have lived here their entire lives, destroying DACA, which helped young immigrants without papers to go to school and college and live their lives protected from deportation. What is it about people who want to have a better life that immediately translates to terrible, evil, work-stealing, aliens? Without immigration and America’s opportunities, I wouldn’t exist, my friends wouldn’t exist or have homes.
Honestly, this play hit way too close to home. If you didn’t know, my mom is American and my dad is Pakistani. My dad immigrated to this country when he was only 18 to go to college. Now stop for a moment and think what you were doing at 18. Were you picking up your life, belongings, and traveling across the world alone to go to school in a place that in no way, shape, or form reminds you of home? Probably not.
He didn’t have an easy time, especially when they decided to get married. My grandparents spoke words straight from A View from the Bridge. My grandpa was afraid she would have a difficult life and have to work very hard, and was very opposed to their union.
It was rough on both of them. Having a mixed ethnicity relationship resulted in persecution and judgement, and was far from easy. When it came time to decide whether my dad would return to Pakistan or stay in American they got married, while my mom was about to turn 22. They were in love, and he needed a green card. So what did she do? Cleared the date of her birthday weekend with her parents beforehand.
My mom wrote her parents a letter telling them about the wedding. Mom explained:
I told them I loved dad and we were getting married to keep dad in the country. I told them I was not pregnant. I sent the letter. On the following Sunday [grandpa] called to say they would be there for the wedding. He said my mom had been crying all week about this. He said the stress of this was killing mom. Then had had the balls to say I love you and he hung up. I cried.
So if you were ever wondering why my moms birthday is March 8th, and my parents anniversary is March 9th, there’s a damn good reason.
They were her parents and she loved and respected them and wanted them to be there. It’s depressing to think that the set of grandparents that were alive, were the worst to my dad, and my uncles aren’t free from blame either. They made racist jokes by calling him Ishmael, and my grandma even went as far as to cook a meal with pork, and only tell him after he’d finished eating. “Oh, I forgot you didn’t eat pork.”
My mother is the most tolerant and forgiving person I’ve ever met. If my family, the people who raised me and were supposed to love and respect me, pulled any of that shit, I’d be done. They’d be cut out of my life and I’d move on.
In opposition my Aunt Joni, who is my mom’s best friend from college, also married an immigrant. My Uncle Lutfi though, is 10 years older, had been divorced, and had a young child while they were dating. Both my Aunt Joni’s parents and my mom’s parents are Roman Catholic, and from the Green Bay area, but her parents were totally fine with the whole situation. No name calling, no secret pork in the meals, nothing, nada.
I’m so thankful that my mom was able to find a lifelong friend in my Aunt Joni. She was in a similar situation and they’ve been friends since their twenties. I don’t know how my mom would have gotten through all the nonsense without her. My mom at one point even advised another mixed couple to not get married. She was white and he was Middle Eastern, and she explained that the amount of shit they’d have to wade through to be accepted would be too much.
Couples weren’t getting married, even though they loved each other, because society ruined it for them. I want to really analyze this. Racism towards immigrants isn’t inherent, it’s taught. Having a tolerant and loving family was just luck of the draw back in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a time of free love and all that jazz, but some people were just set in their ways. The same can be said today, because racism was never gone, the language was just less popular, until Trump gave it a platform. So all those “hidden” racists were never hidden, they just didn’t feel save having their bigoted remarks come back to get them.
I’m just fucking pissed off. Trump has reduced us back to a time where racism was just shrugged off, and immigrants fear whether they’ll be deported at the drop of a hat. Did you know that my older brother is living his life almost identically to how my parents did? His girlfriend is Chinese and living here on a student visa, and as soon as Trump was elected, they feared she would be deported. So they got engaged, and will eventually get married so she is able to obtain and green card before her student visa expires. Because this is not our America anymore.
I’m not saying getting married for a green card is ideal, but it’s necessary. My best friend has a cousin who has been living with her partner for 10 or 11 years, they have kids together too. They finally got married not because they wanted to, but because they had to. We live in a world now where if you love someone who is only here on a student visa, not a citizen, or illegal in any way, getting married is the only solution to able to keep them around in Trump’s America. Who knows if he’ll roll out some garbage policy that doesn’t allow foreign students at all.
There is tons of bullshit that keep oozing out of the heap of news, like repealing the Affordable Care Act, deleting Marriage Equality, eliminating DACA, and generally starting World War 3. But we are stronger, we’re better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Get involved in politics. Don’t let your dislike for politics make you sit around and do nothing. This effects you, this effects your family, this effects your friends.
I know I will stand up and fight for immigrants. This isn’t just my family, but my friends and their parents, and children. I know I’ll help to make us a place where my brother can live with his fiancé without fear she’ll be deported. Or where my Pakistani family members won’t be scared to visit. My parents already went through this shit so we could exist, and we’re sure as hell not going to go through it again.