WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Immigrant Eyes

On a rare tear of efficiency, I wrote several blogs at the beginning of the month.  There was no rhyme or reason in how I scheduled posting them; this one just happened to be up for today.  Now the message is as ironic as it is wistful.  I was thinking of eyes seeing the new and possible, not ones seeing separation and hate.  We have got to do better.  C’est vrai.

With caveats, I want to be an immigrant in my own land.  First, I don’t want to be an immigrant who faces detainment, deportation or discrimination.  Nor do I want to be an immigrant limited by economics or status or others’ meanness.  Maybe it is more accurate to say I want to see my world with well-fed, well-loved immigrant eyes. 

I’m hopeful these eyes could see and have faith in the greatest opportunities for you and me.  Economic, academic, and other status-related ones, but also the countless, creative others offering paths toward our best selves.

I’m thinking these eyes might recognize culture’s role in constructing meaning.  Then I would be cautious in making judgments and resistant to trusting the ones I do make.  I’m hopeful my immigrant eyes would dampen my assumptions so I could understand others on their own terms instead of mine. 

I believe these eyes might better see hope in the new and value in the old versus skipping over what could be and resting on or criticizing what is.  I’m wondering if these eyes could see a place capable of righting itself and being just fine despite leaders who don’t seem just fine at all. 

My ears could get in on the game, too.  With my immigrant ears busy negotiating the challenges of a second language, I might focus on literal messages versus excavating for subtext.

The irony, of course, is I get to see and hear all of this with my well-fed, well-treated native eyes and ears.  For that matter, I get to do so surrounded by family and friends, driving familiar traffic patterns, and without worrying whether my documentation will hold up under scrutiny.   I just have to work harder than I might with well-fed, well-treated, make-believe immigrant eyes and ears.  C’est vrai.

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p.s.  The idea of seeing with immigrant eyes didn’t come to me all on my own.  I send many thanks and much appreciation to the muse who reminded me of the gifts of seeing in a new place.

Whitney Cain