I cried hot and messy tears in 2011 when I read Jose Antonio Vargas’ amazing essay in the New York Times Magazine about his undocumented status, as well as being gay.
Vargas definitely found direct inspiration to come forward from the queer undocumented youth who’ve been powerfully and fearlessly organizing for many years.
Vargas launched the Define American Campaign in 2011. In the “about” section of the website, this is the opening:
Our request is simple: Let’s talk.
Our immigration system is broken — and fixing it requires a conversation that’s bigger and more effective than the one that we’ve become accustomed to.
While I have my own issues in general with the word “American” (as opposed to North American, for example,) I do feel that Vargas really wants to talk with people, and listen as well. He’s committed to not just preaching to the choir, but understanding what makes the people across the political aisle tick.
And what does Vargas respond with? He publicly invited Malkin over for a home-cooked adobo dinner and to talk about immigration. Adobo is a traditional Filipino dish, not to be confused with Mexican or Puerto Rican adobos.
Vargas was born in the Philippines. Malkin is a US-born child of immigrants from the Philippines.
I read his invitation via Twitter, and smiled. His refusal to hate, his refusal to ask his supporters to fill up Malkin’s Twitter feed with aggressive comments, I want you all to note that.
There’s a time and a place for anger, yes. You all saw some of that rage on my own blog just last week.
But the safe space for dialogue must be there as well. I actually had some excellent conversations with people last week as a result of of my angry posts.
Simply raging against the machine will not move the needle. Sometimes, inviting someone who looks at you with crossed arms to a home-cooked meal is the approach to take.
Vargas gets daily hate mail for his views from one end of the political spectrum, often posted right to his Facebook wall, or through Twitter. Yet, he also often gets dismissed just as publicly from people who are supposedly supportive of Vargas for, “wasting his time” reaching out to the haters.
I’m sure that the work that Vargas does is both exhilarating and exhausting, breath-taking and battering. The work he does matters deeply to me, and inspires me daily. I really do hope that he and Malkin do sit down to some Filipino adobo, and talk with open hearts about immigration.
I ask all of you today to think about who you can invite in your life to sit down to a home-cooked meal and dialogue past the dismissiveness and and divisiveness.