From The Asian Reporter, V30, #08 (July 6, 2020), page 7.
Love letter to young Anglo America
I walked away from my job at Portland’s City Hall, after 10 years of trying
and trying my very best there. I was mad. I was sad. And no, I’m not ramping you
into an ambitious story that ended badly. Tentu tidak. Not at all. I’m
talking about a love affair I’m still totally into. And always will be.
It’s that dreamy immigrant-thing. The one about American aspirations so much
above and beyond even our most sincere city policy leader’s shortcomings.
The thing is: Every ridiculously optimistic immigrant, exactly like every
intoxicated lover, cannot hear "no." Not from anyone. Deaf as driftwood, our
grumpy grandpas say back home, about sojourners and about smitten boys like me.
Dumb as a brick, we say here. Red brick, like Pioneer Courthouse Square’s
"I don’t love you" does not discourage stubborn believers. It never has. Not
in all of American history. No matter whether we’re ethnically cleansed children
of this grand continent, or cruelly segregated children of Mother Africa. No
matter whether we shipped here because of bad bugs blighting Ireland, or because
of bad leaders warring over the loamy lands nurtured by Maekong. Mother
We’re not deterred no matter how many times we walk and walk blinding
deserts. No matter how much border cops despise Mother Mexico’s lover boys.
Tentu tidak. Of course not. A moment, some decades, several centuries of
emasculation means nothing. Nothing compared to this love right now swelling my
heart — my raging love for our abuelas, for our mom, for my wife and
those pretty babies of her precious body. It’s nothing compared to how proud my
American trying and trying makes each of them. Surely you know this.
Pero maybe you don’t know that — our love affair with your America.
"Aduh’illaah, joh" (OMG, boy!) was all our Elder Auntie Kris said,
over 40 years ago when she found out that my loving an American girl was why I
was leaving her Indo household. "Love is like that," she whispered at her cool
clay tile floor. "Jah tentu." Sure it is.
And after that love story ended bad and I returned sad, Auntie Kris’ trembly
hands gestured come rest your head here, boy. In her lap. Sure she did, and I
did too. "Hati hati, joh." Be careful, boy — she said, tenderly raking
her nails through my hair, like our elder aunties do.
"Always-always we love ideas, joh. Pero you know, ideas don’t
love us back." For love you come here, her warm hands said.
Forty years later I take my slim place behind a Pioneer Square pillar shadow.
It’s late now, but mayor Wheeler lifted government’s dark curfew.
Night after night, Anglo America’s daughters and sons are here, demonstrating
their anger. Betrayed they are, these young dreamers.
And beautiful they are, for this grief. For grieving with dear Mr. Floyd’s
And so brave our young American lovers are here. Daring all these mad and
sad, all our bad and our good cops, to do what law and order enforcers have been
armed to do since settlers cleared native families from here; since emancipated
families dreamily migrated here. Our angry kids are taking beatings designed for
browns and blacks and blues like me, ducking behind pillars like mine. On
Pioneer Square’s red brick.
Alhamdu’lillaah, thank God for how bad America’s young hearts hurt. For
how much love their parents and their leaders promised, but have not delivered.
For true love not actually lived.
Terima kasih banjak (I offer you, our love) anak-anak manis kami
(children dear of us).
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