A couple of years ago, I was involved with a lovely young woman from Ukraine, who was here pursuing her green card and ultimately US citizenship. We had a fantastic time together and we were on the same page about most things, despite our cultural differences. But when I would complain about life in the USA, she was quick to shush me and remind me how good we had it here.
She was born in the late 1980s, and was a child when Ukraine had its first open elections. I’m not exactly an expert on Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, but she sure was. By 33, she’d lived through revolutions, economic collapses, political corruption, social unrest, constant tension with Russia even before they seized Crimea, and periodic shortages of food and other necessities. Just six short years ago, NPR described the country as a “basket case”. She’d remind me how grateful I should be to live here—despite the poor quality of our food compared to Europe’s and the difficulty of finding good mineral water in Nashville (a complaint I shared).
To a good extent, she was right about our good fortune in to live in the US—but I’ve lived the life I’ve lived, and a good portion of that life has been on the margins. I’ve seen up close and personal how brittle and inadequate the social safety net is here in the United States. To be honest, if I wasn’t living with my dad right now, I’d be up лайна крик—I’m still waiting for my unemployment to get approved (it took three or four days and constant harassment on Twitter and Facebook to get any attention) and I simply don’t believe I’m going to see a dime of that skinflint $1,200 that Tiny Hands and his Scrooge Sycophants are doling out in go away money. But compared to some people I know, I’ve got it good.
You know how a line from a song or a tv show will suddenly call up an old memory? For me, this image of breadlines in Massachusetts made me suddenly think of that old gal of mine.
(AP Photo/Steven Senne, Hawaii Tribune)
I gotta wonder what she must be thinking right now, what ANY immigrant who came here in search of a better life must be thinking. The whole point of going through all the bullshit to become an US citizen or permanent resident was to get away from breadlines and pestilence and tin pot dictators and cults of personality. I find myself reworking an old joke my kid told me about living under Soviet communism for our present circumstances. Why do Americans like mashed potatoes? Because they are crushed, like our dreams.
I guess that’s what happens when the President and one house of Congress serve the Kremlin instead of the American people: the country turns into a rehashed Soviet Socialist Republic. USSA baby, all the way down.