Friday, July 3, 2015

Every now and then, my whole shrinks...

This is a water meter, one of two at our place. This one registers the consumption of water for outdoor use, an amount that regularly gets subtracted from the main register on a monthly basis. Imagine all this happening here on the coast in Oregon, where it rains 70-80 inches a year and ducks and beavers are our sports mascots.  Even in Oregon, we parse water consumption. Our vegetable gardening and all our pots are on drip irrigation. Our tiny lawn  goes dormant in the summer, most summers. We live on a lake; but the lake water cannot be used for irrigation because fish and other aquatic lives need a certain level of purity and a certain level of flow for their well being.

What if our well being was metered? What if we carried a device that told us exactly how well we felt all the time? What if human lives at all levels, regardless of position or function or wealth, what if each human was guaranteed a basic level of sustenance and protection from harm, from injury, both physical and emotional?

The last few weeks have brought me face to face with a strange feeling I get every now and then. The feeling that I don't belong to this land the way the natives do. As an immigrant, my sense of belonging is right under the surface, exposed now and then whenever the politics of the day question my status, my origin, my accent-tinged way of speaking.

Perhaps too many of us have skated around this problem, this sense of not quite deserving to be in this land, this sense of unease with all the rhetoric bantered about, and never quite finding the words to address the problem. I can only imagine how big the uneasiness for those Americans who were born here, and for no other reason than their color, their economic status, their ethnicity or their religion, their sexual orientation have been relegated to a life of less importance, a life that needs constant adaptation and metering, adding this or that to belong to the bigger society.

I can vouch in a tiny way for what it feels like to have that second meter with you all the time. It tells you, that no matter how much you succeed, how important you may feel certain days, you better remember that you are being monitored for your worthiness, watched for any careless display of your "otherness" among the bigger society. You are, after all, not the real thing.