A Sonnet for a Kid I Never Knew

December 1, 2011

Joaquin Luna is no longer a kid, though he was when he was brought to the U.S..

He was an 18 year-old undocumented high school student, an A+ student before he shot himself a few days ago. Besides that, I don’t know the details of his suicide nor the circumstances the press wants to talk about and/or omit, and I sure as all hell don’t want to think about all of the political implications–all the petty, hateful online arguments about immigrants in the comment sections I used to read so much–and that, I presume, have been stirred by this kid’s publicized story.

I’ve been enjoying my media blackout lately and I hope to keep it that way for a little while, for my own sanity’s sake.

So, I honestly didn’t want to know much, if anything at all. Unfortunately, I could not resist my organizer friend’s Facebook posts and I read on and on. What I do know is that, apparently, there were notes of his with stated worries about his immigration status. Notes not dissimilar to the picture below.

Found this on Post-It[dot]com about a year ago

From Post-It.com


I found this image on Post-It.com last spring and saved in my computer. I’ve had it since and use it as a reminder to stay strong; to not see myself as a victim; to keep my commitment to the movement, the people in it, those who work day in day out organizing, planning, doing, and to the kids. I will continue my efforts to educate them, to tell them they can because I have been there. I am still there. I can only hope the kid who wrote the Post-It didn’t end up like Joaquin. 

********

I was a teenager just like Joaquin. And just like the kid who posted this note, I often thought of “jumping off” a bridge or a ledge of some kind (though at thirteen I could barely stand). I didn’t belong anywhere. All those teenage years, I felt I had no voice. “I might as well drown with my fuckin’ voice” I’d whisper.

I often thought of how I would manage drowning myself in Buffalo Bayou or some other creek in the Southwest or Memorial Park or better yet, somewhere more isolated where my body wouldn’t scare too many people once found. I’d have to shoot myself first; then I’d fall in and drown. Wherever. I didn’t exactly matter. That was my plan. I just dreamed of drowning because it seemed better than the kind of drowning I was already experiencing. Society told me being an “illegal” was less than a person. Being an “illegal” meant you weren’t welcome, wanted, cared about, needed. You were a criminal not a human–you weren’t anyt/hing at all.

“I am seen as a waste of righteous and rightful tax paying citizen’s dollars even though my illegal daddy pays taxes too. I’m a waste of flesh, regardless.”

That’s not taking into account all of what family told me, the fears that were bred. “Don’t ever say anything you hear about it! Nunca! Don’t ever call the police, even in scary situations.” It was more so implied than actually said.

No soy de aquí! Ni soy de allá!” I used to silently scream while banging my limp body against a wall, a doorknob, a table corner–anything that would make my body throb, anything to quell the thoughts.

Then I realized that there is such a thing as a privileged class. I learned how much societal structures try to bind us and how much we willingly let them shackle our minds. I learned this thing we humans do in our wonderfully organized societies–we set classes, we classify. And by classifying, we degrade one another.

I was fortunate: the nineties were easier, hell anything prior to 2011 and the aftermath of 9/11  was easier. There weren’t that many Joe Arpaios in Arizona making immigrant detainees dress in pink panties to humiliate them; there were no Tent Cities in Texas; there were no private prisons who profited on “illegal” children and their mothers being detained. I was able to go to college, partly because of my tenacity and partly because I was in the right place at the right time. I got a private church-based scholarship and with that, and a few academic awards, I went to college. Many cannot; many will not. The limits are boundless. Yes, we are the embodiment of that very oxymoron you see in that last sentence.

***

Initially, I didn’t think to/want to write a post, especially not one like this. I just had this blog here waiting for something to strike me, to compel me enough to dive into this thing, all nervousness aside. It sat here lonely in November, my little blog.

Unfortunately, something did hit me, but not in the way I’d hoped. I just heard so much about this that I feel I should speak now. It is imperative that I speak up for all of my silent years, for those like Joaquin. Yet, suicide is something that I do not feel comfortable talking about. My thoughts on the subject would require many posts because it runs too close to home for me to even begin.

Being undocumented, however, is something still sitting on my doorstep. It scratches at the door of my thoughts like a hungry street cat that never leaves. What shall I do today? Oh, right, I can’t, I don’t have the nine magic numbers. It’s like being chained on a leash and someone–the great big hand of daddy State–smacks you with the belt and places the plate out of reach.

And so the news of his suicide did cause a strange intimate unease in me. Most suicides do, but this one is considerably different.

It was a momentary unease but it was intense enough to tear a piece off of me. It reached a core in me.

Believe it or not, each stressor–be it big or small–can dance around in an emotionally and mentally unstable person’s mind. Any additional stressor can send them spinning over the edge.

I also find both topics–immigration and suicide–are ones I know a good deal about, or think I do at least. But I can’t argue and I am not going to argue about the reasons or the causes now, because for one, to any given suicidal person there are many (mostly reasons arising from distorted perceptions) and they’re all relative; and two, I never knew the guy. So I will not speculate further.

I will say this however: Suicide is a reality in EVERY population. And there is a markedly high population of undocumented youth living in the U.S. whose mental health is being overlooked, whose lives are forsaken.  It is tragic. I cannot say there are so-and-so thousands hurting because I cannot back this up with statistic. Roughly 65,000 undocumented students graduate U.S public high schools every year. If one in four people are likely to have a severe mental disorder, I can only guess. How many feel pushed back and forth like a bobo doll? Pushed towards furthered mental instability by society.

I can only back it with personal experience, though. I was a participant of a study Dr. Lauren Luttinger conducted on immigrant youth and depression in a New York City university near the Bronx. She told me it  was very telling. Some of her findings were that risks are higher for “illegal” kids much like kids from, say an urban, poverty-stricken neighborhood where the daily diet is violence and hopelessness; kids who are raped; kids from a household with an alcoholic parent; or queer kids in a predominantly Baptist, conservative, rural Texas town. These are just a few examples of the many “high risk” populations.

****

This is not just about some bill (D.R.E.A.M Act) being tossed around for a decade by the men in black suits and grey beards calling all the shots, trowing up the bill like a rotten steak. Meanwhile, the chained and malnourished dogs can only look down and salivate.

It’s far too complex. I know. It’s about groups of people and their “place” in society, keeping order, blah blah blah. The “places,” the “classes” nations put them in. The “place” we put ourselves and each other in. It’s the way we treat ourselves and each other.

I just hope people take a little time to consider these things from a broader perspective. I hope they would take a step back from their daily lives for a minute to see it from a more sociological view because society DOES play a role in the nature vs. nurture dichotomy of depression as well as other mental health issues and mental disorders.

***

To Joaquin R.I.P.:

Sonnet of the Undocumented Student

Hackneyed, unkind, lost words my mind once bore
In unspoken airs of my resistance.
They’re not a love to write a sonnet for—
These words barely breathe my fumed persistence.
See we, not conquerors of course, are told
And expected to pay our loyalties
To those who make social constructs; yet fold
And love to scorn whilst in their boundaries.
Gracious ports once opened no longer hear
Hope’s clangs rebound, up down, up down on stones.
Now our bodies, voices and dreams call near
To the only land that’s taxed our bones.
Students deemed ‘aliens’ for lack of forms,
Let’s not trade empathy for empty norms!

© Paz 2009



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4 Responses to “A Sonnet for a Kid I Never Knew”

  1. […] in its usually winter timing. I moved on. I started this blog. In fact, my very first post–A Sonnet for a Kid I Never Knew– was a poem dedicated to an “illegal alien” (note the sarcasm) who had shot […]

  2. PAZ said

    Reblogged this on Melancholically Manic Mouse and commented:

    This was my VERY FIRST post here on WordPress. As mentioned before I started the blog in November of 2011 but didn’t get to publishing anything until Joaquin Luna died. This is his story and mine. I think those of you, my old followers will find this a good read. I hope. It’s very important to me and a very sensitive subject I hope to write about more. I guess I came into the bloggie world with a bang! hehe. Mouse love

  3. lyxia said

    I never read your first blog, but now I have. For the study, I come from a country with the greatest amount of suicide in the world (after some other country). The stats say 1 in 5 ADULTS have attempted. I know its more and many succeed. In my little school it was about one a month (NON-ADULTS). By butcher knive or AK16 or an “accident” with the car or jumping off a cliff or hanging.
    Its like a very old and depressed country with a high suicide toll. But pssssshhhh, dare I speak it.

    • PAZ said

      Now I really wanna know where that is. Where my mom is from, there are a lot of suicides too. We think there’s something about the mountains and isolation. Who knows.

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