Silueta Bilingual Magazine


Silueta Bilingual Magazine

Global Diaspora
Who Are The Immigrants?


By Joe Drake West

There is a story about Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet and mystic who wrote "The Prophet." He had a very close and deep friendship with his secretary, Barbara Young. To symbolize their friendship, Gibran would, from time to time, suggest that the two of them eat their soup from the same bowl. Barbara later wrote about their friendship ritual;

We would arrange the small table with one large bowl of soup. There were always croutons, many croutons, and the soup was thick, a puree. We would be seated with ceremony. Then, taking the soup spoon, Gibran would draw an imaginary line through the middle of the soup, saying with the greatest gravity. "This is your half of the soup, and your half of the croutons, and this other is my half. See to it that neither one trespass upon the soup and the croutons of the other!" Later they would laugh, because the y knew it was as impossible to separate our lives as it is to draw a line through a bowl of soup.

I read this thinking how much our life here together in America seems like a bowl of soup; personal identities, cultural traditions, blending together in order that we may coexist. But out of fear, we keep trying to draw the line in the bowl, certain t hat only then can our own vision have any clarity, if we can once and for all, separate the "us" from the "them," then we can forge ahead with the good life, meaning our vision of what the good life should be like. But, the problem is, the soup we are mak ing here in America boils too hot, it diffuses all lines, the barriers we try and erect to keep each other out, begin to dissolve the moment after we erect them.

The labels we affix to one another, become more meaningless all the time; Republican/Democrat, Left/Right, white/of color, man/woman, indigenous/immigrant. I hate labels. They are used as barriers. Every one of the barriers I listed seeks to make me a "them," to lock me out of some place I might need to be. I would be labeled then; a white, Euro-American woman with moderate political beliefs. Why is it that the label says nothing about who I really am? Therefore, if I try to label you, it would be just as meaningless. It feels dangerous to renounce the labels. The line in the soup tries to draw itself again. I, the one who writes here, wants to affix herself some place in space and time, then I will be safe from the "other." But, every time I think I k now who the other is, it turns and its something else.

When I say I am a moderate, I mean that life seems much too complicated to align myself with any political party. Each issue, each situation, even each war, calls for close examination. I try to form my own opinions, even when they at times alienate me from people I am close to. There are many things about which I have no opinion, because I do not have enough information. For a long time I thought that anyone on the "far left" was beyond reproach. But, more and more, too many people on the Left say thi ngs that make me think, "How did they come up with that conclusion?" And why do I keep feeling like they want to make even me a "them" because I am not in total agreement with everything they say. Left Wing rhetoric is as meaningless as Right Wing rhetori c. It all comes from the same place; ego. Ego is very full of itself, basks in the limelight, needs to always be right. Ego has no right or left, it is always dead center.

And if I am not indigenous, that makes me an immigrant, but I am not that either. This is the only land I have ever known, the only land I have ever walked on or watered with my tears. I believe that we are all indigenous, and we are all immigrants. We are indigenous to the same earth. We are immigrants from lives that we thought were worse than this one. Exiled people need to take care of one another. We are in a global Diaspora.


Jo Drake West has lived in Sonoma County for ten years, when she is not living in Kentucky. She has written a novel entitled, "The Pond," and is currently writing a book about abandonment trauma in infancy, entitled "A Child Forsaken."

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