no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

Warsan Shire

There is something more lasting, more threatening, more monstrous than the figure of a fire-breathing enemy in the distance: and that is the abstracted notion of enmity itself. I am not speaking of enmity as a state of being at odds with another. I am speaking to the heart of the modern project and its account of selves as independent entities in constant, inescapable friction with ‘not-selves’. This colonial notion of enmity has its effects in failing to see the fault lines that pressure us into assuming that difference means separation, and intimacy, sameness. It is denying the significance of my entanglement with you, and participating in the modern obscenity of total independence.

You see, it’s not just that those we label ‘Muslims’, ‘refugees’, and ‘primitives’ are like us in stunning ways – it’s that they are the very condition that make ‘us’ possible. I cannot fully account for myself if my account leaves you out of its logic. As such, in a game of sides, the greatest thing suffered is the loss of the other side. As America enacts nationalistic walls and ‘America First’ borders to ‘save’ those within from the monsters without – the supposed enemies skirting the boundaries – and as people boldly take to the streets to protest and insist on the decency of being hospitable in a time of painful dispossessions and widespread homelessness, may our work be disciplined by the humility of recognizing that this is not an effort to redeem those lingering at the airports. This is not even about bringing more people in. There is much more at stake than a seasonal, charitable feeling of inclusiveness.

Borders are not merely lines that mark where things end and others begin, they are substantiating practices of identity-making and world-building. They are how things come to matter, and how others stop mattering. We are just as involved in this vast conspiracy about what home means, how power is distributed, how bodies are marked, and how stories become meaningful.

This whole saga is about reworking our practices of being at ‘home’. This is about meeting the hauntings that have been repressed by our modern claims to transcendence, and staying with their ghostly moanings and stirrings long enough to know we are just as undone. Those severely affected by Trump’s signature are heralds of the very conditions that we all now live in; they are critiques of our complacency and doctrines of arrival. We may not notice it but we are subjects of this modern eliding power, of shopping malls and their claims on what food means, of giant pharmaceutical interests and their investments in what health means or does not mean, and of regimes of discursive power that deify human interests over and above non-human becomings.

I suppose our work would take on more powerful tones when we see that this is not merely about letting people in; it is about meeting the estranged other in all her fascinating strangeness, in all her monstrosity, in all her wounded Samaritan-ness, and pausing long enough to be met, to be struck, to become a with-ness to the leaking truth: that we are all in this together.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.