On the subject of “Go Back to Where You Came From”

I have been unable to write a word as a playwright since November 8. I know that might seem like a short time, but for those who know me, it’s really not, but hey, the whole world as we know it changed in just a fraction of that time, so in a way, it’s totally understandable.

It seems that the brain space that used to house my creative thoughts has been completely hijacked. I’m certain that I’m not alone. It’s now consumed with these questions and thoughts (and more, and not necessarily in this order):

1. Why is a country that was literally built by immigrants turning its back on itself? It’s not even an opinion that the United States of America was largely built by people who immigrated here. This is actually a fact. (After most everything was taken away from the indigenous people who lived here first, that is.) Even people who look European descended from immigrants at some point in time. I’m seriously baffled by the exclusion of these facts from the general consciousness of people who enjoy telling others to leave. Do they run around telling citizens who are descendants of Europe and Canada “go back to where you came from”? I haven’t heard of this happening. I wonder what would happen if they did. I wonder what would happen if there was even one hour of time in which every person whose descendants immigrated from another country at some time in their family history stopped doing their job and stepped over to the side. I can’t imagine that the country would not literally come to a standstill. Can you?

2. What do I say if/when I am verbally or physically assaulted? Can I have the presence of mind to say “Could I maybe go ‘back’ to someplace like Italy, France, Spain or Ireland — or another country I’ve been to only once or twice and in which I also wasn’t born, paid taxes or voted?” Pretty much all of my Asian American friends and I are used to being complimented on how well we speak English and/or asked where are we “really from”. But back in the “good old days”, one could arguably say that those questions came from curiosity or just conversation-making. (I’ve heard this explanation from many well-meaning people, and I’d like to believe that this was sometimes true.) But that was before November 8. Now these comments are laced with profound vitriol and an even more pointed message that we don’t “belong” here, and even more than not being welcomed here, we are actually the object of deep hatred and resentment for even existing on the planet, no matter how many generations our families have actually been here (6, for me), or how much our nation has always been, at its very core, a “melting pot”, a country of immigrants. (See number 1.)

3. Why do they hate us so much? They haven’t even met us. This, I think, absorbs the majority of my creative brain space. I leave my house on the look out for red hats (in NEW YORK CITY, one of the most gorgeously diverse cities in the country), wondering who is going to say something or do something that will demonstrate their complete disdain for me, before I’ve even had a chance to do anything that could possibly offend them. Oh, except for the fact that I exist, and I probably should just realize that this is enough to make them hate me. Us. And I know, it really can’t be “personal” because, in fact, the scores of people I’ve been reading about assaulting other citizens across the country do not know me personally. But I’d venture to say that many of them do not personally know the people they are assaulting either. Except for the children who I’ve been reading about, who are bullying each other in new, tragically sad ways. I can’t even articulate how truly, truly disturbing those situations are to me.

4. How are we going to protect ourselves and each other? We must now have these very real conversations about how to defend ourselves, how much is permissible by law, what do we do if we are physically attacked, verbally attacked, see someone being verbally or physically attacked? How do we protect the memberships of unions and guilds that we serve? How do we protect our art from being censored? (The fear is real; how could this be?) How do we exercise what we thought were our Constitutional rights without getting bullied and threatened and publicly demoralized?

5. Why do they hate us so much?

6. Why do they hate us so much?

7. Why do they hate us so much?

8. How do we go on? I’m calling and writing my senators to make my voice heard, I’m reaching out to my communities and coalitions. I’m endeavoring to keep creating art that heals, illuminates and expresses what I am compelled to express. But I’m seriously at a loss. Inspiration is welcomed. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

9. Peace and love: I hope you can win the day. I heard someone use the phrase “radical hope” today. I think this is some of that.

10. Love and peace. I’m sending it out to all of you, humans of the United States. I think our creative and biological lives depend on it. Love and peace. Peace and love. (See number 9.)

Like what you read? Give ChristineToyJohnson a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.