As we share our stories, we learn that the platitudes of the universal may mollify us, but cannot truly unite us. We live—and love—as individuals in a world of borders. We do not look for words; we look for one another and, all too often, instead of finding one another, we find the borders of geography, history, and language, of our genders, races, classes, ages, and abilities.
These borders break our hearts. This heartbreak stems not only from distance of geography and difference in language, but the militarization of that distance through histories of oppression and discourses of misrepresentation. It sits lodged in our chests in times of strife and times of change, when we are held back from marching together, from talking and working and loving together.
However, even in hopelessness, we choose how to respond to that heartbreak. We can deny the realities of our borders and our actions to proclaim, as in the first draft of Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of Occupation, that we are “one race, the human race, formally divided by race, class…,” that, in the words of Manissa McCleave Maharawal, “all power relations and decades of history of oppression” have not left a mark. But we are scarred by oppression and defined by our survival, and we have constructed our own stories of pride and love within the borders that we have come to call our homes.
The pain we have felt in our bordered lives, the despair we have known in our separation from one other and from ourselves, and the distance we have come to expect when approaching people from whatever we construct as the other side, have created anger in us, anger that cannot be forgiven for an empty universality. But we have survived within those borders; we have lived in them, grown in them, loved in them and past them.
In understanding the borderlands as living places, we defy the assumption of their immutability. We challenge both claims of all-encompassing universality and fears of irrevocable difference, for we know that life inside our borders is not universal and it is not enough. Thus, we “learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it,” to commit ourselves to liberation and to love.
Anne Schwartz, email@example.com