Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Bona Fide Boat Person

In the dead of a Spring night, 1981, I left the country at 3 months old. My mother nearly killed me and the rest of our party. In the dark, while boarding the tiny boat, she slipped and smashed my head against the rim. My face was bright blue before an infantile shriek could awaken the jungle, and it's jingoistic patrollers. Mother's hand clamped my face shut. Drawing attention to ourselves would provoke consequences severe beyond a child suffocating. Fleeing the country is treasonous. The penalty for that would be at least imprisonment and torture. At worst and most likely, it would also mean death.

It's easy to forget that this road to Hell had been paved with good intentions. Revolutions so often merely hand injustice and power from one group to another.

My grandfather was in jail for 5 years after refusing to succumb to the whims of the new administration. After his release, prison guards who recognized him as a former detainee frequented his home, harassing him and his wife and raiding their pantry for food and liquor. Often he was expected to provide them with dinner, entertainment, and a place to crash. This was the corruption of the new administration.

The night of the rendezvous, these guards showed up at Grandfather's door. If they weren't gone by the time we were to leave, he'd have to kill them.

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