A recent less-than-pleasant discussion with an ICE agent began with him questioning me as to what my motivation was – why had I stuck with this for over two years – why was I working so hard on it? Was Audrius my lover? As soon as he said that last he’d lost me as that charge has come consistently from one person against any woman who has stepped up to help Audrius survive. From that point on that agent was suspect, but the question of motivation in general is actually one I hadn’t considered – and so that got me thinking – what does motivate me? Why on earth am I doing all this? I took a step back and looked and found three of my most major “buttons” had been pushed – actually smashed down hard – through Audrius’ plight and the immigration issue in general. Those are: race and class privilege, betrayal after trust, and bullies.
I was born and raised in a Boston blue blood family with the “wrong” last name due to my father’s father being Portuguese (Oh, the horror!). Every attempt was made to train the “heathen” out of me by my grandmother, Dr Margaret Matheson Poole, but it was hopeless – I respected the woman and the family – they have accomplished great things through the centuries in New England, but their insistence on the importance of “breeding” disgusted me. It is never wise to allow a member of any group you would oppress to know you closely. I grew up with these people. I know them far too well. I know them well enough to know how completely they lie when they encourage racial divisions between blue collar whites and ethnic groups. It is meant to distract, to keep the oppressed classes fighting amongst themselves while the privileged continue to look down on the whole lot. Many profess a most liberal and caring attitude toward those “less fortunate” than themselves, but trust me, they won’t let those same people marry into the family. So there is that.
Bullies, well . . . My mom was a brilliant woman, but a very unhappy one. She never could tell the difference between me and a punching bag, a fact that has resulted in two surgeries these last few years to repair damage to my eye from her fist when I was a teenager. The result has been that I learned not to fear pain – there’s not much anyone can do to me that my mom didn’t already do. No one’s killed me yet, that would be new, but then I wouldn’t exactly be suffering anymore, so that doesn’t hold a lot of fear for me either. When I run into a situation where people are getting run over by bullying thugs I tend to take it personally and step in – why should there be more people created who are like me, who have been hit so hard so many times, either mentally or physically, that they no longer fear pain? It’s a strong state of being, but it’s also a damaged one. I’ve been inclined to put myself between bullies, thugs and their targets since I was very young for that reason.
I’ve saved my biggest “button” for last: BETRAYAL AFTER TRUST. We’ve all seen a good person brought down by the one they trusted and it’s tragic in every case. Audrius is living that now, after all the years of war he’s being taken down not by a bullet, but by his heart, by his love and his trust. But Audrius is one person – and his story is a classic one. A far greater and more dangerous betrayal, to my mind, is when someone betrays the safety and security of our whole society. We elect politicians to represent us. When they then take that power that we gave them and use it to build even more power upon our broken trust they have betrayed us in the worst possible way. We give badges to law enforcement officials to protect us from those who would do us harm. When someone in law enforcement then abuses the power we gave him or her and instead of protecting us, attacks us and throws in with criminals, that is an inexcusable betrayal. That tears at the agreements that are vital to a society built on “liberty and justice for all;” the very foundation of what this country was built on - what we have all in the United States of America pledged allegiance to our whole lives.
I had a particularly ugly experience with this a few decades back when I lived near Los Angeles. A close friend had become addicted to a nasty drug. I knew nothing about addiction and so for a good long time I thought I could save this person through sheer force of will (couldn’t – doesn’t work). During that time I was yanking that friend out of drug houses, even went so far as to physically go after one drug dealer when he tried to intervene. While doing that I was managing to gather a lot of evidence as to who was doing what on that street. Another good friend, a cop, went with me a couple of times, just to try to protect me, but I stopped bringing him because I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me with him in the car – it’s like they could smell him and just knew he was a cop. I was a heavy-duty bodybuilder in those days and a number of local narcotics cops worked out alongside me at the gym I most often frequented. I kept after them to bust this one dealer that I really wanted to see taken down. Finally one day when I was getting extra insistent one of them said none of them wanted to bust the guy because they felt sorry for him; he used to be head of narcotics and had been caught stealing drugs from busts and selling them. I told that young officer that I didn’t see that as a reason to feel sorry for the man – he’d betrayed his position as well as them and all of us. Those guys didn’t see it, but they did manage to back me off by helping me out a little – they would pick up my friend whenever they caught him down around that area and deliver him to me, and so I made a very dishonorable devil’s bargain – I backed off of a very large problem that needed to be addressed as a “thank you” to those officers who were helping me at least save my friend.
My father died soon after that and I moved back to New Hampshire, to the family homestead. A few months later I got a call from one of my old neighbors wanting to know if I’d heard the news. I hadn’t so he told me there had been a huge bust – of officers from the narcotics division. Now you can probably guess who those officers were – yup, the guys who were helping me, the guys I’d been friendly with, the guys who got me to back off of that one drug dealer in exchange for their help on my personal problem.
There was no way to deny what that meant. I had betrayed my own values, I’d danced with the devil to save one friend who was bound and determined to self destruct. It is a point of shame for me to this day as I believe that drug dealers are worse than murderers. I’m not talking about the kind that is addicted and deal to maintain their addictions – I’m talking about the ones who would never touch those drugs – who know how damaging their wares are and yet sell them anyway. A murderer rips apart one family. A serial killer rips apart a number of families, but a drug dealer . . . there is no way to measure the number of lives and families destroyed by that – no possible way – and I’d actually given ground and let that very activity continue for selfish reasons. I had failed myself and I’d failed everyone and everything that really matters to me – and worse, it didn’t help my friend.
There is no telling what might have happened, who might have been spared a great deal of grief if I’d stuck to my principles and continued after that one dealer – he was running a very active business on that street, hooking new customers on a regular basis. I didn’t know those cops were dirty, but I should have seen something was wrong. They didn’t want to enforce the law – that was a huge red flag! I had very deliberately looked the other way and wound up aiding the worst kind of criminal. Those failings that we have in ourselves are the hardest to deal with. I lost some trust in myself when I learned that those officers were dealing drugs. I can be a real pain-in-the-ass when I go after something and if I’d kept going after that dealer a lot might have been exposed earlier, lives might have been saved. I had been complicit in those officers going undetected; what’s worse, I actually liked the guys. They betrayed the trust we had placed in them and I had helped them by being reasonable, by making nice-nice to accomplish what turned out to be a useless goal. I vowed to make up for the damage I’d done and promised myself not to ever do that again. That, right there, is one huge motivator!