Traffic slows. What’s this? Armed guards? Weird. I watch as the cars in front of me slow down and then are waved through. I feel nervous. Should I be? I pull up to the man in the uniform with the gun. Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, Yugoslavia. 1985.
He doesn’t wave me through. He signals to roll down my window. My anxiety moves up through my legs, into my stomach. What is this?
I roll down my window. He looks at me for several seconds. I wait. My mind races. Then he speaks.
“State your citizenship,” he says.
State my citizenship? In the middle of Vermont? Seriously, what? I try not to laugh. I think of a joke. “Wow. I heard you folks in Vermont are tough. I’m so sorry, I am a citizen of Massachusetts, but my son is attending UVM in the fall. That’s him sleeping over there. We’re almost Vermonters!” Instead I look at him, my eyebrows go up, I try not to smirk, and I say, “So you mean as in U-ni-ted Ssss-TATES?” He tells me to pull over. Uh oh.
My son awakens and asks me what is going on. I tell him I don’t know. Other vehicles are waved on to freedom.
More men in uniform arrive with flashlights and proceed to search the mommy van. My son looks at me as if to say, “Mom, what did you do?”.
Flashback. Communist Yugoslavia. 1985. I am pregnant with my son. I am sitting in a police station, wondering if he will be born behind bars. I have to pee. I try not to vomit. He kicks me hard, as if to say, “Mom, what have you done?”.
Fear changes us. The proof is here in the middle of Vermont. I always felt so lucky to be an American citizen; lucky, unafraid and humbled. Then, 911, etc. We are changed.
Vermont. The men find nothing. We leave with a funny story. Communist Yugoslavia. We leave knowing that we are lucky Americans and we get to leave.
Flash forward. June 2018. This Vermont story no longer seems funny. My son, in response to his post-911 America, is serving in the Air Force. The fear in our nation has flourished. The border patrol is commonplace, we are building walls, we imprison or send away “others” and we rip children from parents’ arms. We are lost.
FLOTUS says she really doesn’t care.
I do. Yes, I do, in answer to her question.
And I believe that with deep love, faith, compassion, awareness and right action, we will find our way back home.