Writing the Wrong
The following is a continuation of a nightmare that can happen.
“We are at war. This is a very special time,” the woman said to me.
Special, like birthdays, or the Olympics. No it isn't! I wanted to scream. It's war. Instead I said, “I understand. Can I see my son?”
“Soon,” she said. “You will have to stay here overnight until we know which facility you will be sent to.”
“I am being interned because I wrote a short story where I mentioned Halliburton?” I said. “I just need to be clear because my lawyer Ben Steinberg will ask me as soon as he gets here.” There was still defiance in me. I could not control it. It was impossible to control. Also, this was not Cambodia and this pencil pushing, civil servant was not the Khmer Rouge. This was upstate New York, 2008. We were in close proximity to Yoga studios and vegan restaurants. Surely, that meant the world was still sane and that I could still be defiant without the fear of retribution.
The civil servant was genuinely amused. “You don't need a lawyer,” she said. “You are not being charged with a crime.”
I had forgotten: the words Habeas Corpus had also lost their meaning but I didn't say this to her.
“So I am free to take my son and leave?” I said.
“Not at this time. But you are not a prisoner.”
It was like all the confusing rhetoric, half truths, and convolutions that had been ticking across the airwaves since 2000. It made no sense to me because I had yet to master the lexicon of American patriotism. Scouring the Bible didn't help because it stated that the peacemakers were the blessed ones. But it all made perfect sense to this woman and agent Miller and her partner. I knew then that when I had written those stories I had not been thinking about what they meant. I had done it out of defiance and frustration. I wanted to spit in someone's eye. Now, I was willing to take it all back. Claim that Halliburton was the Boy Scouts of America, just as long as I could hold my son again.
“But I could be sent across the country, to Texas even at any moment?” I said.
“I cannot say,” she replied. “Would you like to see your son now?”
I nodded. I was not sure if she was threatening me.
“Will we be staying here?” I pressed her even though I knew it could be dangerous. It was really nervous chatter. She smiled at me tolerantly and I was taken aback at the violence that rose up in me then. I wanted to pummel that smile right off her mouth. I controlled myself with effort.
She led me silently into an elevator and down a maze of corridors. On one of the dorm room doors someone had stuck a bumper sticker. It read: If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. Someone had tried to remove it so the bottom was scraped off.
My heart quickened with every step. I was not sure they had not killed him and what I would be seeing was a small broken body on a slab in a makeshift morgue. We stopped in front of a door. The woman knocked. The door opened. The room was full of kids running around, watching TV, being children. One small girl was standing alone in the middle of the room, crying. Her diaper sagged underneath her. I could not find Alexander at first but then I heard a squeaky voice yell, mommy!
He jumped into my arms and pressed his soft baby cheek into mine, asking where I had been and why did it take me so long to find him. He took my face in his small handshis fingers smelled of chocolateand looked into my eyes. “Mommy? Did you bring my Nintendo DS?”
I felt his arms and lifted his shirt to check for bruises. There were none. Alexander watched me curiously and smiled. I held him close. Suddenly I was more frightened than ever.
A Real Possibility
On February 19, 1942, soon after the beginning of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The evacuation order commenced the round-up of 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage to one of 10 internment campsofficially called "relocation centers"in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. (source Ricco Villanueva Siasoco and Shmuel Ross, Fact Monster.com).
The internment of Japanese-Americans happened within my parent's lifetime. Everyday, Americans of Arab or Muslim heritage are being "disappeared" and held without charge or legal representation. Everyday, an American citizen's civil rights are violated, either by illegal wiretapping, or having their mail rifled through or any numerous activities falling under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security. In many instances, property is seized and resources are confiscated, again without explanation. It is true, then, what they say, history teaches us nothing.