Magically Real || Who Is “Us?”

BY STEPHANIE BARBÉ HAMMER
November 23, 2016

Friends—greetings from San Antonio. I am here at the society of biblical literature with my husband Larry, who writes about interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians.

Dialogue is good. On Whidbey we like to talk to our neighbors and our drinking buddies and pretty much anyone we happen to meet.

Or that’s how it was, anyway.

On our island, we like to think that we are removed from the greater problems of our country and our planet. But imagine this: right after the election, Larry and I were scared to go to our usual Thursday wine tasting event because we didn’t know what to say to our drinking friends who didn’t vote the way we did. We made ourselves go, but friends, I felt afraid. And while the conversation was pleasant, it was strained.

I still feel afraid.

Full disclosure: I am a Jew by choice and therefore am technically white. So, I’m not going to get deported. I’m not going to get rounded up. Likewise, I tell myself I don’t have anything to fear. And our neighbors are nice.

But what about the confederate flag I saw here on the island when I drove to the beach this summer? Where are those people and are there more?

What about my friend in Seattle who is trans? What about my Muslim friends at MAPS—the Muslim association of Puget Sound? What about my friends who are aren’t white? What about my husband, who looks very Jewish?

I confess to you that I feel different walking in downtown Coupeville now. I’m wondering—for the first time ever—who would claim me as a fellow citizen and who wouldn’t? It feels like an open question.

What do we stand for on Whidbey island? That’s my question to myself and to you.

I do not want to be a part of any society that registers Muslims and seeks to deport people who are here, trying to make it here. I am for same sex marriage too.

But I feel like I’m living in a different country now. One where I and my husband are no longer welcome.

I hope I’m wrong.

So I think about this in a city that belonged to Spain, and then to Mexico, and then to itself, and now to “us.” Who is “us”? Who should “us” be? I know the answer to the second question. It’s the first one that stumps me.

Stephanie Barbé Hammer is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. She is the author of a poetry chapbook “Sex with Buildings” (dancing girl press 2012), a full-length poetry collection “How Formal?” (Spout Hill Press, 2014), and a comic magical realist novel “The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior” (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2015). You can follow her on twitter (stephabulist) or read her blog “Magically Real” as she tries to read “100 Years of Solitude” in less than 100 years at http://www.stephaniebarbehammer.net.

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