While many nations may slip away from liberal democracy, for greater control, power, wealth, or whatever the case, freedom has its own constraints as well, to keep us safe, or maintain our equality, and there at any time may be those that wish to find somewhere even better to live their lives, away from totalitarian authoritarian dictatorships, or away from a security state that lost us in its sense of equality. Whichever the case, the ones that run away, may be just as important, if not more so, than those that stay, for democracy’s sake, or for their own.
I was once a runaway. Several times in fact. Actually, if you asked me today, I would probably answer honestly: I am still a runaway. I’ve always fled from pain, war, suffering, and my own unequal treatment. I ran away from home as a kid, used college as another form of escape, and left the burned bridges of many relationships in my wake, to find myself crying myself to sleep in a friend’s house, because I knew that my time to run away again was coming soon and that there was nowhere I could truly call home anymore.
Not many people share my experience, but that isn’t to say that I’m not in good company now that the world is experiencing a refugee crisis with the highest levels of displacement on record with an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world having been forced from their homes, hometowns, and homelands. With 25.4 million of those being refugees specifically, over half of them are my age and younger.
I’m not alone, but it feels like it. I’m sure even now as thousands of people are moving up Central America to the United States, some of them, some people about my age, feel alone, are scared, and are nervous that they still won’t have a place to call home when they get here, if they aren’t turned away by military border enforcement. There’s probably a small number of them that are more like me than I could imagine, suffering similarly inside, and tormented by the fact that they might not ever feel at home, even if they’re surrounded by friends and family.
Us runaways have one sure thing in common: we’re guarded. We’ve been hurt. We’ve been lied to. We’ve been betrayed. Because of this, we have our walls up, higher than Trump could have built them, and as things seem to take a darker turn, it’s not clear when those walls can have a door installed. We’re even more isolated now, because we can’t even see over the wall, and if we do, it;s a horrible news story on Twitter, a celebration of someone else and their friendships on Facebook, or a selfie on Instagram that just won’t look as good from the hole in the wall or tent on the road, where you’re staying these days. Certainly, no one is liking, loving, or commenting on this lack of content in your life online, the wall is up, and we feel even lonelier.
Isolation only looks good when China did it. As an individual, it becomes an unhealthy habit, a coping mechanism that does more harm than good. It’s a trick: “out of sight out of mind.” That works both ways though. For the thing you’re running away from and the people that you’re running away from, or towards. No one can see us behind our walls. Even if we’re with someone, even if we have a kid together, even if the Subaru is outside with the uHaul and we’re ready to move our dog kennel to Montana, there’s no way we can let them get close. Maybe I speak for myself here too much, but I know that I hyperventilate, metaphorically, about my flaws, my failures, and my seemingly bottomless cup of mistakes.
How many of these people are suffering from depression because while they walk thousands of miles, there may still be no further hope for them beyond Mexico? That’s at least the idea they get from the Capitol. We’re not wanted. We may as well turn back and be turned into the meat-grinder that is the decline in world politics today.
Racism, nationalism, xenophobia, jingoism even to a neo-Nazi tune. It’s terrifying, to someone that only wants to see the best in the world. And to most, it’s more than enough reason to isolate and keep the gates of hell at bay.
What does it do though? What’s the use in being alone? I would like to know more about the people that are runaways like me. Know more about what they hope to find, how they can be received, and how many of them deal with the same issues that I do? They are people, and they have seen life crushed beneath a boot somewhere. What is that boot? What policies brought them to this point and what can we learn? Is there any hope for making the world a place that we don’t want to run away from, or is that just another path of freedom that needs to be paved into a road, or a street, that all us runaways can live on?
Where do they want to live?
Where do they want to work?
Who do they love? Are they LGBT?
How would they like their healthcare?
Should they be expected to own a vehicle?
Ask these, of yourself. I know I do, often, and it hasn’t helped me, but maybe you’ll be more fortunate.