Philadelphia Women’s March

On Saturday, Mr Pict and I took our four sons to participate in the Women’s March event happening in Philadelphia, one of many marches happening across the country and around the world.

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As a result of my Gran’s passion for politics and issues, I started attending protests, marches, and demonstrations when I was tiny, maybe five years old.  I have attended scores of such events over the years but then I developed an anxiety problem related to crowds that prevented me from attending any large events, from music festivals to rallies.  I could not join last year’s Women’s March anyway because I had to work but this year I decided to push myself past my crowd anxiety for a number of reasons: I wanted my sons to have the experience of this form of civic engagement and understand how they can utilise their privilege for the benefit of others; as someone not eligible to vote, it is one of the few opportunities for me to stand up and be counted; and most importantly, I am an advocate for civil and human rights, social justice and equity so I felt compelled to go there and represent not just myself and my family but also be there to support all those who could not attend for reasons of mobility, finance, logistics, or personal safety.

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The event was superb and very well-organised.  The atmosphere was energising and inspiring.  Although there were tens of thousands of people there (I read an estimate of 50,000 people), the route up Benjamin Franklin Parkway was wide enough that I never once felt hemmed in enough for my crowd issue to spark my anxiety.  The boys were great and enjoyed reading the placards that so many people were carrying and listening to the chants along the way.  Our ten year old is particularly engaged in current affairs so he especially enjoyed the experience of participating in democracy in this way.  The march ended in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and it was there that we listened to various women delivering powerful speeches about the importance of engagement, participation, and activism.  It was also thought-provoking and challenging and, given I am a white woman, prompted some self-reflection on what more I can do to channel my privilege for good.  I am so glad that we went and added our voices to the throng.

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Non-Person

I don’t intend for this blog to be on a “living the dream” theme or for it to only showcase sunshine and lollipops.  I want this blog to truly reflect my experience as an immigrant to the US and, let’s face it, not every day is going to be a gentle breeze with prevailing unicorn farts.  Getting to the US was a tough slog and I, therefore, fully anticipated part of the slog to continue.  This, therefore, is my first post that’s a bit Eeyore gloomy.

I have arrived in the US as a Legal Permanent Resident.  (My children have become US citizens upon arrival as they are now the children of a resident US citizen parent.)  We took the Direct Consular Filing route through immigration meaning that we were processed through the US Embassy in London which theoretically makes for a smoother, easier journey.  Certainly we found it to be pretty straightforward – demanding, of course, expensive definitely, but with no glitches or surprises.  I, therefore, am now entitled to a green card and social security number, both of which I applied for in advance as part of the process the children and I undertook.  Meanwhile, however, I am in limbo waiting for these documents to turn up.  Because until I have those documents in my possession, I am a bit of a non-person.

So much here is dependent on having a social security number that there are barriers everywhere preventing me making progress because of my lack of SSN at this given moment in time.  My husband and I have a joint US bank account yet I cannot access cash from an ATM or use my debit card because I have been unable to register it without an SSN.  This is my biggest deal.  From having been able to pay for things independently, I am now in the position of having to ask my husband for money.  Of course, it is our money so I am not quite a kept woman receiving pin money but, nevertheless, my psyche is out of sorts because I am having to exist on little bits of cash here and there and really think about every dollar and cent that is in my purse.  It will be a bit of a celebratory moment for me when I finally have independent access to my own money.

There is an election in the US on 5 November.  I have voted in every single election in which I was eligible to vote (with the exception of one local election I missed because of being in labour – valid excuse I think) because exercising my democratic right to vote is very important to me.  The franchise was fought and won by people who in some instances literally gave their lives in the cause of making their countries truly democratic.  I am also politically aware and have strong opinions.  Now, of course, I am living in a country where I am not entitled to vote.  I am disenfranchised.  Right now that does not feel like such a massive deal but if I think of the future and continuing to have a political stake in a country (because I live here and am raising my children here) while having no political voice here that, again, reminds me of my non-person status.  The right to vote may well be the thing that drives me to seek citizenship at some juncture.

This all comes on top of a baseline feeling of regression.  In Scotland, I was a fully fledged adult, able to operate fully and independently, understanding all the systems, routine and structures of everyday life.  Here I don’t even have a sound grasp of basic things like volume measurements and I am very slow at making change because, of course, I am trained to add up cash in different denominations.  Whereas I could drive in the UK almost on autopilot, here I am having to concentrate at each junction, stop sign and traffic light because the rules are different.  All those little differences that make me have to stop and think and figure things out make me feel as if I have regressed from adulthood to being a teenager again, just embarking on an independent life.  It’s quite a discombobulating feeling.

Of course, these woes are all short term.  At some point in the not too distant future I will receive my green card and SSN and can be a fully functioning adult here.  But, nevertheless, it was important to record this gripe here on this blog for the sake of truth because I am sure ever so often being an immigrant will suck.