It’s no coincidence that “freelancer” and “freeloader” share the same root word. If we freelance journalists, novelists, artists, accountants, et al were to unionize, our union hall would be a coffeeshop with free refills, Google WiFi, and plenty of outlets.
That said, I hold up my end of the social contract. Wherever I go, my work sessions begins with a trip to the counter and the purchase of a Parking Pass. Even at Starbucks, which sells nothing I want to consume (though I’ll happily throw a caramel hot chocolate down my throat during the deep choke of winter). A deal is a deal, so I’ll buy a $2 bottle of water.
It’s much easier here at Dunkin Donuts. A 20 ounce bottle of soda and, if I’m hungry, a donut.
As usual, I took a photo of it and posted it to Twitter under the hashtag “#LibertyDonut” even before I unpacked my iPad.
A random idea starts as something kind of funny, then becomes a habit, and then, rarely, you attach a kind of Importance to some of these things. Such is the tale of the #LiberyDonut hashtag.
It started out a while ago, when a friend of mine (the wonderful writer G. Willow Wilson) spoke of a tradition in her house. Her husband is an immigration attorney. Whenever he wins a particularly tough or grueling case, he comes home with a box of donuts.
I joked back that they were Liberty Donuts: carb-packed monuments to the greatness of America. During a year in which ignorant, ego-driven boobs are spreading lies and fears about immigrants and inspiring hate and violence in exchange for cheers and votes from a handful of idiots, this pleased me. It made me proud, genuinely, of being an American.
How much do you love this country?
Do you love it so much that you’d go through the whole immigration process for the right to stay here as long as you like?
Would you subject yourself to years of uncertainty? To a bureaucratic process that — without a trace of malice — forces you to jump through hoops that keep moving, and possibly perform these tricks all over again because papers got misfiled, or because they were seen by the wrong person on the wrong day? Would you have the courage to have your whole life and the lives of everyone you’re related to and have ever known scrutinized? Would you spend tens of thousands of dollars, knowing that the drug conviction of a cousin you haven’t seen for twenty years could kill your chances or, at best, delay the process even further?
All the while, building a life for yourself and your children, without any assurance that you could keep anything you’ve built here?
It’s a sobering question. How tough are you?
Many immigrants have unusually powerful motivation, of course: their lives in their countries of birth were horrible. Or were about to become horrible. And here we can define “horrible” across a broad spectrum that reasonably includes “I was supposed to be killed with the rest of my family but I was spending the night at a friend’s house.”
They’ve come to America by choice, and through great struggle. This isn’t a dalliance. They’ve decided that of all of the countries in the world, the best possible future — not for themselves, but for their children — lies in the United States.
They believe in this place. I, as a citizen, have never been moved by the sight of an enormous American flag being pulled across an end zone or an infield during the minutes before a sporting event. The tiny, cheap plastic flag in the hand of a beaming, newly-sworn American citizen leaves me muttering things about dust mites and pollen.
I think about my immigrant grandparents. One set had left behind a scene that was so powerfully terrible that (according to my Dad) they never wanted to discuss it, and had left Dad with zero desire to learn anything about the Homeland. Not even when I was flying to Europe on business, and floated the idea of adding in a detour to look around the old place and maybe even spend a day searching local records.
I am so proud of every immigrant. I am so grateful to my grandparents for creating this life for me.
And so, when I enjoy a donut, I think about immigrants, the contributions they make to the American soul, the amount of important crap the government must make them go through before they can become citizens, and I think about the amount of irrational, ignorant, despicable, and entirely uncalled-for crap that some of us heap upon them.
The people who attack immigrants (and not always just with rhetoric, remember) are “big flag” Americans. To them, “America” is a tool of aggression to wield against people deemed “less American” than they. America should be a celebration of the fine eternal principles upon which our country was formed. We’re a nation of mutts, here to receive the full dignities and opportunities that were denied to us by others.
I have eaten the #LibertyDonut that I set down next to the keyboard a little while ago.
I don’t usually spend thirty minutes examining my feelings about patriotism and immigration. But thanks to Willow and Her husband the immigration attorney, donuts come with a new kind of pleasure (that I won’t need to burn off with another half hour on the bike).
Each time I set a donut down on the table, I meditate on this subject. Even if only for a moment. And it makes me a happier, prouder, and better American.
Also a fatter one.
So, yes, even more American than I was before.