How well do you know your friends?
As in — specifically — do you know where they were born?
I was born in Hawaii. I don’t specifically broadcast this minor detail in my day to day life, but I don’t hide it, either. It’s just a weird historical oddity about me (except that due to the Obama birther nonsense, it was a hassle to get my birth certificate replaced in a rush in 2014 when I needed it). And yeah, when you’re born in Hawaii and it comes up in some weird context where you have to write it on a form or you cross a border, other Americans will occasionally ask you when you became a citizen. Stupidity, but not serious. Hawaii’s been a U.S. state since 1959. It’s worse for people born in Puerto Rico. But most people know me as a Wisconsinite and they assume I was born here as well. A lot of times it comes up and people are surprised. I guess I don’t look Hawaiian. But it never really matters. It doesn’t change anything about me.
I have five good friends who are Iranian-something. I have met many more Iranians and Iranian-Americans over the years but there are four people I’d consider friends in the sense that I know them well enough that I should probably know where they were born. But I don’t, not exactly. In the general course of things I’m not in the habit of asking even good friends about their residency status or their citizenship. Their families all came here during the flight from the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Some came as small children, some were born here. Two I went to college with, I met a third in my graduate school cohort, the last two were colleagues in my last job.
So now we have this travel ban that affects Iranians — green card holders (yes, it’s true, no matter what the White House press secretary is saying; it’s been reported repeatedly), visa holders, people with dual citizenships with Iran if they don’t have a U.S. passport, people with visas. I already know one friend, who’s working in Hungary at the moment (she has UK and Iranian passports and is married to an American) is going to have a hard time entering again. Via a second friend I’ve been following the narrative of one of her friend’s aunts, who was in limbo in DFW over the weekend.
Today I was chatting on FB with one of the college friends. His son just got admitted to a liberal arts college in Wisconsin and he was wondering if I had any opinions about it and so on. He mentioned that he has a relative who has a green card who is now stuck in Iran.
I hesitated. In FB chat you can see if the other person is formulating a response — those wavy periods appear. I hesitated some more.
I mean, what a rude question: are you a citizen, Daryush?
A, who cares and B, it’s none of my business.
I know where he grew up (in four different countries), what he majored in in college, where he works. I know he likes salsa verde better than salsa ranchera. I know he speaks five languages but only reads four. I know his marriage is struggling. I know he’s funny, that he’s reserved but brave when it comes right down to it. I remember he liked The Cure in college and thought Dyson’s Disturbing the Universe was a crock of shit.
I finally typed — I don’t want to pry, but and pressed enter.
The wavy periods were now visible on my screen.
I took another breath and typed — but are you okay?
The wavy periods stopped for a few instants. Then they reappeared and disappeared again.
I am a U.S. citizen popped up on my screen from him.
I’m sorry for asking, I typed.
Wavy period. You’re so rude, lol, he typed back.
LOL, I typed back. Rude but relieved.
You’re not the first person to ask me, the screen returned at me.
Only because we’re worried, I typed.
Me, too, he typed.