Undercover Immigrant (An Introduction)
When I arrived in the United States ten years ago, the idea of not having a voice as a green card holder would have been laughable. The United States was and still is, after all, the Land of the Free though it may not have felt as much as of late. My family lived in California briefly when I was a child - my step-father on loan from the European Government - and the favourable mark of the Wild West and her people was so indelibly pressed upon my young memory that much of my later youth was spent dreaming of how I might return. It was with pure delight when in 2006 I received the first temporary visa that would lead to my permanent residency and the rights bestowed along with it.
At eighteen years old I had no real concept of the politics of identity, race and immigration in the U.S. Having attended government schools in Europe I was perhaps more politically-minded that an average teenager, however my cultural understanding of the melting pot was media-infused and nebulous; the phrases ‘job stealers’ and ‘illegals’ were far from mind as I was fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival at Chicago O’Hare.
My British accent notwithstanding, I never shied from sharing my status as an immigrant initially. I had landed in a conservative but welcoming community, one in which I was able to safely assimilate into American society. Soon calling the place ‘home’, I had very little reason to ever fear voicing my opinion. Throughout my residency, however, there has existed a personal dichotomy of identity; on the one hand as anyone who knows me can attest, both in culture and in experience I remain distinctly European. On the other, after absorbing a somewhat neutral American twang during my years here, unless I inform someone that I’m on a green card they automatically assume that I am a natural-born citizen and treat me as such. I am for all intents and purposes an ‘undercover immigrant’, an outsider accepted unquestioningly into the fold.
A parallel dichotomy of identity exists, but one vastly greater than my own and one that has weighed more heavily on my mind since the new Administration took office over a year ago. During my ten years in this country - six of them here in Cleveland - I have been welcomed as a friend and even been made to feel like family. I have met some of the kindest and most loving people, people whose warmth of character remind me of why I dreamed of living in America all those years ago.
Equally, however, I have been nonplussed by the undercurrent of nonchalant racism and xenophobia infused into conversations held in my presence, conversations that have in recent years subtly shifted away from illegal immigration towards a more generalised distrust of ‘foreigners’. Sometimes when the topic was more generalised, I spoke up - eager to help correct skewed preconceptions and mindsets. On the few rare occasions in which the animosity was directed towards me however, I was too embarrassed and admittedly too afraid to voice much of a defence. History has shown fear to be the extinguisher of voices, and It is under the blackness of fear that injustice and bigotry prosper.
There is a growing consensus amongst intellectuals and political analysts that this country is at a crucial turning point and I do not stand alone in being increasingly sure that time is of the essence. As the socio-political thermostat continues to rise, America must decide what sort of country it wants to be before the inevitable paradigm shift that is sure to follow. In this era of ostentatious double-speak and venomous fake news, voices of truth and reason are of paramount importance. I told myself that I would return home if Donald Trump became president, but in recent months I have learned that it is during the times in which the right to a voice is the most threatened that it is perhaps most needed.
European expat, author & poet
In an age of global discord and argumentative clashing, D. C. Cavalleri hopes that his multicultural story and philosophically-accessible writings might help bridge the cultural divide that has become so pervasively entrenched. It is his greatest dream that, by slamming ink to paper, he might inspire young and old to realise that even though we may speak in different tongues and bow to different gods, we do so as one, unified under the homogeneously human experience of simply being.