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Letters to “America”

The days fly by, and, looking back, they start to flow in to each other, as one long day that started when we landed in Goz Beida and will end in two more days. Refugees have been seeking us out, arriving one by one and often quietly waiting until they catch our eye to pull us to the side.

“I have a letter I’d like you to take with you.” They are letters to friends they do not know in “America.” I put quotations around America because the America they are sending their letters to is not just the physical place we will be going back to in a few days. The “America” in the minds of the refugees, I believe, is more of a concept, an idea. “America” is friendship without having met, and it is standing on the side of those that are seeking peace and justice, for no other reason than, it is the right thing to do. As the days flow by on this trip, I often feel conflicted about the expectations refugees have for “America.” America, the real one (or the many real ones) is friendship and solidarity, but it is also impatient and with a short attention span. It is the student movement going all out in advocacy for Darfur, but it is also the government, at times bumbling its way through diplomacy and at other times focusing on other priorities, where there are higher American interests. As the days flow by, I have to stop myself and get in the moment. I can usually do this by taking a minute to look at one individual face and one set of eyes of one child, out of the thousands we see during the day.



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