The world is a cruel place. I have a friend whose citizenship I just discovered last night.Well, not citizenship so much as lack of one. He’s what we call an a-pat. Ex-pats are those of us who are expatriated from our countries – by choice we live somewhere else. In-pats are those who choose to live within their own country but away from their homes. A-pats are those without a country. By sheer virtue of being born somewhere that the rest of the world doesn’t recognize they have no country of origin. They don’t have passports. They are offered little protection. If things got ugly the U.S. government might go to bat for me. If I go to jail sooner, or later, someone might show up to find out why. When push comes to shove they might even evacuate me. A-pats have nothing. Isn’t it strange that by simply being born on one side of a line you can have so much handed to you on a platter and if you’re born on the other you get nothing but a shrug, maybe an apology, but you aren’t going to be on the last helicopter out.
But sometimes citizenship doesn’t count for much either. Today they’re evacuating the south of the Darfur because of a major military offensive and the rumour is that thousands of IDPs are headed our way – not thousands, tens of thousands - and, as if being bombed and attacked weren’t enough they’re coming – on foot – with only what they can carry while being attacked and robbed on the way by bandits and Janjaweed. When they arrive here they’ll need food and protection and space in the camps because they’ll have nothing. Literally, nothing. I can’t even contemplate a trip without my coffee press, pillow, malaria meds, vitamins, books, clothes, ipod and friendly blue passport. Imagine possessing nothing.
Ok, so I’m a whiner. I’ll readily admit that. I like to be warm – but not too warm – and safe and dry and well-fed. I like my pillow and coffee press. But I think I spend far too much time forgetting that these things are gifts; that they are graces. I spend too much time thinking that I somehow deserve things like clean water and a bed and I’m being put upon when they’re not available to me. Well, I might not come right out and say I deserve them but I act like it. But, think how easily it could have all been different. How easily any of us could not have passports, or jobs, or countries or a language that other people strive to understand.