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Talkin’ American Refugee Blues

Is this what it felt like to live through the dying days of Germany’s Weimar Republic, as the Nazis were coming to power? Most of the time, dear reader, I am isolated in my family home, a participant in the domestic drama, told incessantly by those I love that I need to stop being so “negative” about what’s happening to this country, because it’s affecting their mental health. The implication, from other friends and family too, is that I’m a Chicken Little, forever screaming that the sky is falling. Sure, things are bad right now, but Trump was forced to yield power, so things can’t be as bad as you keep claiming. I wonder, over and over, whether my mindset is off. Trapped inside the nightmares ricocheting around the inside of my skull, with nothing but my computer keyboard for an outlet and nobody standing behind me but my shadow on the floor, to quote Kris Kristofferson, how can I possibly know if I haven’t been caught up in the madness of the times and lost all perspective?

Yesterday was a bracing corrective. I met with an old friend whose son came out when he was in elementary school, and who has just endured a year of in-person and online harassment from an evangelical Christian classmate and his parents. The school administration, in an ultra-liberal county in one of the “bluest” states in the country, took until spring to ask the harassers to cut it out. I also met with four newer friends, two same-sex couples with adopted children. In the two separate gatherings, the central topic was emigration to escape an America that is no longer safe for us and our children.

Of course, we’ve all just had it beaten into our heads yet again that nobody’s children are safe anywhere in today’s America. The so-called motives of the individual “mass shooters” are irrelevant in the aggregate; at a national level, the point is we are all subjected to terrorism we are told we can do nothing to stop. In this light, the MAGA-fied GOP’s blockade of any gun regulation in favor of “thoughts and prayers” takes on an even more sinister aspect: By repeatedly ramming home to the American people how helpless they are to defend themselves, they are priming us to turn to a strongman as our only hope of survival.

But for sexual, racial, and religious minorities, there is an extra layer of terror. The strongman to come, whether Trump, DeSantis or someone else, will be coming for us and our children as scapegoats for the smoldering hate and violence they are pouring accelerant all over. My woman friend and her preteen gay son belong to a minority religion. My same-sex couple friends will immediately become targets, too, as the all-Republican federal government in 2025 ignores inflation, the Ukraine war and every other real problem in favor of whooping through laws to legally kidnap my gay friends’ children on the grounds that they are “protecting” them from their “groomer, pedophile” parents. Every federal elected official from the president on down will rail against “the Great Replacement,” pausing only to offer their thoughts and prayers at the increasing tempo of automatic-weapons massacres of Jews, African Americans, and Latinos that their own rhetoric is encouraging.

You can urge us not to abandon our country, to stay and fight. Me and my friends are discussing our emigration options. Can we get citizenship in an EU country? What about Canada? No, say I, it’s not safe there: remember Anne Frank’s family, who fled Germany when the Nazis came to power for the safety of the neighboring Netherlands. Haven’t we already witnessed a MAGA incursion into Canada, with the so-called trucker protests? So, how about New Zealand? There they want skilled immigrants, but not if you’re 55 or older. I’m Jewish, perhaps I should flee for the dubious safety of Israel, which Iran, Iraq, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, and the Democratic Socialists of America are threatening to wipe out 365 days a year.

So then, is this actually what it felt like to live through the dying days of Germany’s Weimar Republic? Not exactly, because now we know how that very story played out. You want my advice? Dear reader, keep your friends and loved ones close, and your passport up to date.

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