I just had a birthday. I’m now the oldest I’ve ever been, by far.
I’m so old my childhood memories are all in a dead language. I remember first grade entirely in black and white. For a long time I thought steampunk was a nostalgia trend. I’ve read books about the Middle Ages, to better understand the influences upon my youth. I liked Napoleon until he declared himself emperor.
In my day there was no Big Bang theory. We all just knew that time began the Wednesday before last, and nobody thought it was all that important. We just called it a bang. Nothing to get excited about.
For those who want to try this themselves, the trick is, don’t die. I know, it’s not P.C. to say it. It sounds like reverse-ageism. But it’s true. If you die you don’t get to be old. Sorry, all you dead people. No disrespect intended.
In addition to becoming super-old this week, my Washington state ID expired. So on my B-day I went to the local DMV office to get in line for my renewed ID, which I decided this time would finally be the bright pretty enhanced Sensenbrenner-ish REAL ID, because I happened to have the extra $24 to throw away. I imagined how cool it would be to smell a tarmac again, and fly in an airplane to Spokane and back, all in a day. I was stoked.
An hour and a half later, I got to the counter, where I was told the document I’d been using for the last half of my life to prove I’m a natural-born citizen of the U.S. of A., a certificate attesting to that fact issued by the state I was born in, is no longer accepted. Because, we have to be safe from terrorists. I might have been born in Baghdad.
So, at 70, I’m an undocumented citizen.
Just as I find out my new status, Trump announces ICE will begin to conduct mass raids looking for undocumented immigrants. “You’re all going to get it now.” “Take that, sanctuary cities.” And I’m wondering, what’s the difference to ICE between an undocumented citizen and an undocumented immigrant? Do they actually check whether the person without papers is really an immigrant, or is it all just about not having the papers?
The whole thing is getting a little too close to home. Literally. I live in the International District. Immigration and Customs used to have a prison here so they’d be close to the action. If they’re going to be knocking on doors in any neighborhood, this is that neighborhood. Something tells me they aren’t going to spend a lot of time demanding to see papers in Laurelhurst or Magnolia.
I keep thinking of my mother in this situation. My mother was born smack dab in the middle of southern South Dakota, one whole Dakota away from foreigners, in what’s now an I-90 exit where you can buy a postcard that shows you visited a ghost town. It has a picture of a quaint out-of-use grain silo on it.
Before it was a ghost town, my mother’s birthplace’s main claim to fame was it was the gateway to Murdo, S.D., which had a stoplight. Lacking any other government buildings, her town stored her original birth certificate in the town’s one-room schoolhouse, which later burned to the ground, probably during the Big Bang. So when my mother was in her 20s and wanted to get a job as a civil servant in Washington D.C., she was an undocumented citizen just like I am now.
For her, the solution was essentially based on trust. She got her parents to fill out a legal form testifying that she was indeed their kid and she was born in that town at that time in South Dakota, and she got her oldest surviving sister to sign that she was a witness to the birth, so there was no cheating. She wasn’t switched with another baby or anything like that. And the United States government believed it. It was notarized!
Just the word of her parents and one sister was good enough for the Feds to believe my mother was an American, back when we were at war with Germans. What if she’d really been born in Baden-Württemberg? What if all three of them were lying?
My mother lied all the time. It isn’t fair she got a pass like that, just because she grew up on a dinosaur ranch.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read the full July 17 - 23 issue.
© 2019 Real Change. All rights reserved.| Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.