I haven’t posted anything since the election, largely because I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. Today is the day after Inauguration Day, and almost everyone I know (women, men, and whole families) are marching somewhere, somehow today.
The overwhelming emotion is grit.
Growing up, I never felt a unifying feeling of solidarity with the USA. As an immigrant born in Russia, I lived a dual identity- a refuge from a culture that didn’t exist anymore, as waves of change swept through the place my family came from and made it unrecognizable. And so it was- I was in limbo. My outward apathy towards nationalism and anything USA- related certainly mirrored the rhetoric I heard at home, and this continued longer than I feel comfortable admitting.
When I became a citizen when I was 16, I almost didn’t take the oath. When I asked my mom later how she could stand up and swear to defend a country I didn’t think she loved, she responded simply, “the people I love are here. Therefore, I will defend it”. That was the first time it had occurred to me to think like that.
My mom has never been a vocal activist. She doesn’t regularly make phone calls, attend rallies, or send letters. So when she texted me today to say that she had gone to our local protest march for women, alone, I was floored.
“It’s my country now, there is nowhere safe to run and hide anymore like I did when you were little. Now I stand my ground and fight.”
Let that sink in. We ran and hid in America when our own country didn’t want us. Now, there is nowhere left to run and hide.
I became a citizen 8 years ago, and my mother only 2 years before that. I’m 24 now. I don’t remember life in another country. But my mother does. She was 24 when I was born, 25 when she moved her entire life, with an infant in tow, alone, to a country she didn’t know or care to know. But today, my mother marched for a country she has learned to love, for a country that has given her children innumerable opportunities, that has sheltered her whole family and given us space to roam. I don’t take this for granted anymore.
When she texted me that she had marched, I started crying. Today, my mother taught me that the most patriotic person I know is an immigrant.