The next morning after speaking with Tiffany, I met Jodie at a café. I was still in listening mode. I was two giant ears sipping a cappuccino.

Jodie recently moved to this part of the country to live closer to her sister. She rents a small cabin with basic furnishings. Born in 1961, she considers herself a member of the working poor. She is a pharmacy technician. She is legally married, though her husband is a fugitive in his home country of Mexico.

Growing up in the Midwest, Jodie’s mother was active in politics, volunteering for Democratic nominees in local and regional campaigns. Jodie left home considering herself a Democrat and, in many ways, this fit her liberal views on most issues. She voted for Obama the first time and for the Green Party candidate after that.

But in this election, she voted for Trump—a decision primarily based on what she believes will be his tough stance on immigration, particularly as it pertains to our southern border. Her interest in this issue has everything to do with her experiences over the last decade or so.

Most of her adult life Jodie lived in a Chicago-area neighborhood chock full of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Her future husband was among them and when they met and fell in love she became privy to the subculture to which he belonged.

The pattern was for young men to travel north, work 5 or 6 years, and then go home. Most had no intention of becoming citizens, though her husband was different. There might as well have been an underground tunnel connecting Chicago to the interior of Mexico with how consistently the men showed up.

A fairly sophisticated network helped newcomers get established. Available identities were garnered by monitoring the obituaries. State-issued identification was then obtained using the recently-deceased’s name, the immigrant’s photo, and a fake address. Now the new person could use the dead person’s social security number to obtain a job.

Jodie shopped garage sales to find furniture for the group apartments new immigrants set up. She visited the village where her husband came from and saw the conditions in which he grew up—11 siblings sleeping on a dirt floor. She felt overwhelming compassion, she understood their motivation.

However, her place of employment was located in inner-city of Chicago. She saw people with real social security numbers who didn’t work, subsisting on government assistance. Many of the illegal immigrants had decent-paying jobs. Her husband, for example, earned $30 an hour fabricating bronze sculptures. She knew something was wrong with this picture, but it took years—and a horrifying falling out with her husband in which he beat and left her in the Mexican countryside—to get honest about it.

She does not take her change of heart lightly. How could she? Tears well in her eyes as she tells me the story. I feel close to tears myself. I’m hurting for the image I have of her, bloodied and crawling from the woods to a road, for the police car that just happened to pass, for her many injuries, both physical and emotional; for all she has gone through—and she does not strike me as an easy victim but, rather, as street smart and tough; for the unlikely chance that the one illegal immigrant with whom she fell in love could be so cruel.

But I have pain to spare for all the immigrants and would-be immigrants. They have the same desire we all have to survive and improve their lives. Only they’re in such dire circumstances that they must risk their lives first. The vast majority are responding to socio-economic forces the likes of which most in this country are fortunate enough not to experience first-hand. In economic terms, they are answering to a free market. They are answering to the demand. Constructing a physical barrier does not address the root of the problem; it’s a Band-Aid on a broken arm. In the history of civilization, walls are symbols that never fail to become obsolete.

For her part, Jodie doesn’t necessarily think a real wall needs to be built. She’s more interested in policy adjustments like fixing information systems whose gaps allow for social security numbers to be misused or a tightening of the rules around state-issued identification cards.

“But what about desperately poor people in Mexico?” I ask, a bit frantically. “What becomes of them? Do you feel bad about that?”

Jodie had thought this through. “No,” she replied, firm but weary. “They are highly capable. A better solution will take its place, something healthier for them and for us.”

What right did I have to pass judgement on Jodie’s hard-earned opinion, one that had come by way of difficult first-hand experience?

If this were love, hers has been battered by the trials of real life. Mine has hardly been kissed.

10 thoughts on “Jodie

  1. So let me get this straight. She was the unfortunate victim of an unscrupulous man who has no respect for women. And she feels that voting for an unscrupulous man who has no respect for women will keep her from getting hurt again.

    Shaking my head. . .

    • Hi both C(s),

      That’s a point that often gets missed (whether intentionally or not) by Trumpians: it’s not that those who didn’t vote for him disagree with his GOALS, it’s just we have absolutely no confidence in a proven con-man AND his ‘pie in the sky’ costly plans that are guaranteed to fail (eg I have yet to get a coherent answer for what Extreme Vetting™ will entail: it sounds like it’ll be applicants asked to write a 500-word essay on their values).

      Sadly, it seems few Americans have dealt with an abusive sociopath; worse, they HAVE (like Jodie), yet keep falling for the same abusive jerks, over and over…

  2. Corinna, Please capitalize “Democrat” when you refer to the Democratic Party or its adherents. Some of us are democrats, but not Democrats. David

    On Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 10:45 AM, One None Gets Some wrote:

    > Corinna Nicolaou posted: “The next morning after speaking with Tiffany, I > met Jodie at a café. I was still in listening mode. I was two giant ears > sipping a cappuccino. Jodie recently moved to this part of the country to > live closer to her sister. She rents a small cabin with bas” >

  3. A little different story: I have been observing a friend of mine who decided to make himself available to a homeless street person he identified as a “urban camper”. My friend believed that he could offer assistance and provide a role model for this gentleman to find work and establish a more stable home life. We talked about the situation often and I learned a lot about several things that may simply be a matter of my opinion but I’ll share them anyway. I believe that the “urban camper” crowd is a culture unto itself. Trying to uproot a person from that culture is not easy. They are accustomed to sleeping anywhere in any climate outside. They rummage through trash and find things to fix up and sell to have a few bucks to eat. They accept help given but have no deep desire to change the “freedom” they have to get stuck somewhere in a room or apartment where upkeep and paying a fixed amount of rent monthly applies. In any given community they all know one another and help each other out. Often they have nicknames for each other and keep tabs on their whereabouts. They look for places or people who can give them a place to store their stuff. They don’t want to live with anyone unless they have the freedom to come and go as they please at any time night or day and to spend days away without contact. They have little or no sense of the routines for daily living that non-urban campers have in their lives. It has taught me to realize that most if not all of these folks are comfortable living at the level one of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs; food and shelter. They’re not looking for a permanent job but prefer odd jobs that allow them the freedom to leave when they’re ready. To attempt to take them up the level is not easily done. I’m sharing this with no sense of judgment. It’s a life they have become comfortable with in a culture most of us know nothing about. My friend has been working with this urban camper for over a year now and has learned important lessons about the homeless that he has shared with me. Prior to this experience we both had stereotypical ideas of how to help based on our upbringing, compassion and culture. We were wrong. We have learned to simply be a place for support when the need arose; an Emergency Room run or a ride to a Social Service office. Sometimes a place for a shower or a sandwich. It’s like going to another country and becoming knowledgeable of the culture. As with Jodie they may look unhappy but if you look a little deeper they are comfortable and accept their surroundings.

  4. Brilliant conclusion to maybe the best recount yet. Thank you, Corinna, for sharing your discoveries with us.

    Sent from my iPhone


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