“Have you ever been told to “go home”?”

Somewhere in the swirling dust clouds of reaction storms to publicity pining populist power plays, this question appeared. It was recently posted on Instagram with a seemingly empathetic request to “respond with your own personal story in the comments section”.

This isn’t just any question. It’s a provocative question to anyone who has ever questioned or feared losing their sense of home and identity, which is either too many people or not nearly enough people, depending on who you ask these days.

For me, this question incites strong emotions, but not in the way that is immediately assigned to immigrants or liberals: I have been triggered and I feel sorry for myself, so now I’m going to tell my sob story to the world so everyone can take pity on me and other supposedly needy but hardworking immigrants. When actually, my strongest emotion is frustration at this very narrative, something I find as pervasive as it is one-dimensional and condescending.

This is what I wrote:

Having been told [to go homein deeply painful moments, I’ve spent most of my life pondering the perspectives that prompt someone to tell someone else where they do or don’t belong. It seems incredibly monocular and egotistical to believe you have that power over someone else.  

What I would love to say to the person telling me to “go home” is this:

It’s not up to you.

You don’t have the power to force me to go anywhere.

 It’s not up to you.

Being a citizen or identifying with a particular race or nationality doesn’t give you that kind of authority over someone else.

It’s not up to you.

Unfortunately, my comment was immediately detected by an algorithm, I like to think it was a well-intentioned one designed to reduce hate-speech, but who knows these days, because I was subsequently blocked from making any further comments for the day. (Instagram ignored my request to have my comment reviewed.) I also received a message cautioning against the use of “bullying and inflammatory language.”

This worrying perhaps ominous aspect of modern technology aside, there is so much more I want to say on this topic than can be contained in a single comment. And I’m willing to risk being misinterpreted further (by computer and human alike) to attempt to fully express it here.

Legally speaking, no one has the power to cast someone out of the country unless they have been vested such authority by government (in a law abiding place). However, it is certainly a promise—unspoken, implied, teased, dangled to voters by leaders and politicians. It is also intrinsic in language itself, in the possessive forms of place (“our homeland”), culture, or ethnicity, in the exclusivity of these meanings. This explains why immigrants as well as their descendants still get told “to go home” long after their paperwork has been filed.

And as much as I would love to say, to emphatically say, “It’s not up to you.” I also know my statement is wistful and incomplete. It’s only fair (and preventative of tyranny) that if any one person or group feels entitled to this kind of power, then certainly everyone is entitled to it too, including the object of the castigation: the immigrant or minority being “othered” by it.

“It’s not up to you as an individual. But it is up to all of us. Collectively, we all decide who belongs.

What is a country, a city, a community if not a group of people with a common identity? Our social interactions, the myriad of emotional bonds we make constitute the core of the place we call home. This core is alive, in constant motion, must continuously be nurtured and reinforced to keep it healthy and stable.

Certainly, masses that are arrogant, self-serving, violent, uneducated, apathetic, closed-minded, racist, fundamentalist do not make much in the way of a core, not an appealing or resilient one. Nor, for that matter, does any crowd that is largely uninvolved and indifferent. Yet, who are these people?

Are we to believe the claims of the pompous that these attributes are fixed? That they know exactly who “their people” are and who the “others” are? When they themselves require the most advanced, complex data analytics to find, speak to and energize their own base?

There may always be a part of us that yearns for a simpler world, one based on fixed nationalities, snap judgements, easy hierarchies and classifications. That may be an unalterable part of being human. The tragedy is there is more, much more to being a human than that.

And there is more, much more to being a nation than a hoard of wealth to be guarded.

And there is more, much more to the world than barbaric hordes to be kept at bay outside rigid border walls.

Ironically, it is our smart phones and computers themselves that constantly prove that, prone they may be to amoral or nefarious intents, they continue to hold incredible promise: What inspires you? What makes you curious? What do you like? What do you want? What is your idea of home?

Trying to find the answers to these questions excites us. We can search for them, find them, subscribe to, add, or remove them, we can change them at will, at any moment; all this independent of our appearance, nationality, race, religion, politics, or gender. Unprecedented freedoms that make living within the confines of an old, rigid identity just barely tolerable.


Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker 2019.

Thank you for reading. I took a small break from book writing to publish this post, which I felt couldn’t be delayed any longer in light of recent events.

8 thoughts on “Have you ever been told to “go home”?

  1. It is insanity itself to tell another they do not belong. Who belongs? What is the criteria? If it those who settled before then go back to who came before and before and before and know that very few of us belong in this land, at all. Return it to the indigenous population and send us all to the homes of our ancestors? In the end, must we all go back to Africa, where humanity began?

    It is ludicrous. It is short-sighted. It is bigotry.

    We live in an age of bigotry reawakened. It’s back in style. It never went away but for a time it was shameful, shunned. Welcome back, hate. Welcome back, ignorance. Welcome back, pettiness.

    We did not miss you.

    Your story resonates stronger with me, because I know you, I know your story. When I heard the words of this president and his misbegotten horde I thought of you and seethed. You are more American than they are; more American than the president. Of you, I am proud.

    Of them? I am shamed.

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    • Thanks so much for your kindness and empathy Tom! I haven’t been getting any new traffic on this blog, zero, ever since I decided to focus on immigrant/cultural experiences: some of them traumatic, some of them hopeful and freeing. I have had a bad string of rejections lately, I don’t know what it means, if people are not liking the subject matter, not understanding it, or if I simply need to work harder, get better at my craft (that at any case!). It’s hard to show my true feelings and genuine experiences when I get the sense that outside of myself (and a few friends) they are mostly meaningless. I deliberate ending this experiment altogether (too often!), but your encouragement helps me to stick to it. So Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

      It’s a strange time to live in right now: the best and the worst. Populist hate-mongers are in the mainstream. They spew bigotry virtually unchallenged. Yet, this is a time of great connectivity and decentralisation of once dominant information narratives. I’m all for free speech, but when this bigotry is not forced to give reasonable evidence, is not immediately, directly and credibly challenged, it’s like a doctor giving a platform to a faith healer. Why? Why are we endangering all the progress we have made in science, technology, and equal rights just to give flat-earthers, eugenics believers and fundamentalists a sense of validation? It’s troubling. I feel compelled to write what no one else seems to be saying.

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  2. I reckon ants of the same colony rarely fight with each other over crumbs. They may certainly fight with ants from different colonies for resources, but aren’t we humans supposed to be the pinnacle of evolution? (Personally though, I suspect octopuses to be more evolved than humans, and that, they are aliens!)

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  3. Who is it that lays a claim to a patch of land calling it home? Where are the original settlers of the so-called developed countries and their putative civilisations? No one who is secure will ever insult a relatively newer migrant. It is said life came to planet Earth riding a comet from somewhere out there. Perhaps the original settlers of this world are only the trees.

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    • I wonder that myself! I recently read an excellent article about geological epochs/ deep time and got a vivid sense of just how incredibly small the entire span of human history on this planet is; how extremely hard it is to leave a lasting mark, yet how extremely easy it is to extinguish life/ become extinct on this planet. Our petty squabbles over who is or isn’t welcome are not only morally and factually flawed but even more ridiculous than ants fighting over crumbs just as a rain storm is about to hit.

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