Working at the DHS.

Uff.  I’m not sure I’m cut out for this place.  I’m at the County Human Services.  I volunteer for 4 hours a week to interpret for people who are applying for emergency assistance, food stamps, WIC, health insurance for their kids, that kind of stuff. The clients are poor and usually they’re somewhat traumatized by an injury, a job loss, a divorce.  I help translate the forms, and in theory, I will eventually interpret between them and their social workers at the DHS.

So far the most frustrating this about being there are the employees.  I work (or volunteer) alongside two people, Luis and Alexis.  Luis is in his 20s, he’s Mexican, but Americanized.  Educated here in the US, he has long hair and wears jeans.  Alexis is older than me, maybe 55 years old.  She’s American born and bred, but spent a year in Columbia.

We keep getting into conversations where she complains about the United States and how corrupt and wicked it is. She argued as how in this country we have no right to speak freely without risking life and limb.  ‘Just look what they did to Paul Wellstone’.  This put me right up a tree because Paul is totally mine and people shouldn’t be able to just drop his name like that. My faith in the press has me convinced that he wasn’t assassinated as unsettling as that is.

She talked about how ours is the most violent country on earth, and that she felt safer on the streets of Bogota than in Minneapolis.  When my jaw dropped and the Mexican co-worker furrowed his brow, she said all the bad stuff we hear about the Americas is just government propaganda, I had to go take a breath.

Being as how she and I spend our hours together assisting immigrants who are asking for help from the government, my mind had a hard time computing what she was saying.  I got flustered and less than eloquent.

I came back with two questions: If Bogota was such a wonderful place, why on earth didn’t you stay there? (answer:  I don’t know, I thought I could do more good from the States) Why is it that people from Mexico and parts south of there are filling up our lobby here in Minnesota if life there is so great? (answer: TV makes them think they’ll be happier here)

The first wave who came across the border could have been brainwashed by TV.  But how stupid does she think the follow-on throngs are?

Luis put her in her place a little, although the slam of the doors in her mind was deafening.  He reminded her that people come here because they don’t have to pay the police, because the drug dealers aren’t more powerful than the police and the army combined, because if their children are hungry or sick there are services for them, schools for them and because if  (at least for the blue collar class) they work hard, they really can have a better life than they would at home.

Now, I just finished a week I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like years.  On Tuesday the 20th of January 2009 Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of my country.  Barack Hussein Obama, no less.  Hearing him say his name in the oath gave me chills.  It isn’t going to make everything happen the way I want it to, but it makes me much more willing to speak up on behalf of liberals who Love this country.


3 thoughts on “Working at the DHS.

  1. Jason says:

    There’s a book called “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” which helped me understand how certain countries have viewed the US for the last 50 years. Unfortunately the perception of the US has been tarnished for quite some time. I think those of us who have lived only within our borders have been blinded by our government and corporations’ actions.

  2. Interesting, but this still doesn’t explain why people keep flooding into our country. I understand the US and corporations have really done a number on our reputation. I’m not blinded, I’m just dubious about the veracity of the claims that the US is such a horrible place to be. I see no evidence for that.
    Yes, there are problems, yes, there is corruption, but it’s one of the finest countries on the planet. Why are we so often encouraged to hate ourselves and our culture in order to be a true liberal?

  3. Ron Salzberger says:

    I can’t resist. Part of what gets the US a bad rep is the distance between its promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Disappointment is produced by the disparity between expectations and reality, and the expectations here are often grand.

    On the other hand, we need to learn to separate, “I love my country because it’s mine” from “I love my country because it’s best.” People are inclined to move from “mine” to “best” without noticing – or being able to justify – the transition. But it’s quite enough to love it because it’s yours.

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