Border Crossings

The Handmaid's Tale, Radiohead, and the Need for Immigration Reform

I wasn’t sure if I’d finish The Handmaid’s Tale. Having read Margaret Atwood’s version, and making it through the first three seasons, my interest had waned. It fit a particular cultural moment when politics and religion intertwined, when churches, families, and friendships fractured over a version of politics that had become much more than differences between big government and small government, but given everything that has transpired during the 2020 election, I felt I needed a break. Real life was tough enough, I couldn’t bring myself to watch June struggle to survive a crazy, hyper religious, world. A week ago, looking for something to watch, I gave in and started season four.

I haven’t been able to get the end of “The Crossing” out of my head. The entire episode was tough to watch, and as June was being driven away to a Magdalene colony I thought, “I can’t take much more of this.” Then, the van stopped at a train crossing, and music started to play. Radiohead—"Street Spirit (Fade Out)”.

Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out

I knew it was Radiohead right away, though it’d been awhile since I’d heard this song. It’s from The Bends record, their second, just prior to the explosion of Ok Computer. The guitars, Thom Yorke’s voice, and all of a sudden I could feel something well up in me as the women took action. They broke out of the van, running in slow motion. Faint smiles on their determined faces—freedom was right there, they could see it.

Cracked eggs, dead birds
Scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
Fade out again
Fade out again

They ran with their hands chained, gun shots ringing out, a bullet striking and killing one before she could get to the tracks. The sound of a train horn, the dinging of the railroad crossing, and the sight of women running for their lives. If they can get there before the train, they’re free. If they don’t make it? They’re dead either way.

A few months ago I was on a call with a Senate office along with young Dreamers—children who were brought into this country when they were very young. Someone from the Senate office commented that we can’t have people coming across the border “willy nilly”. When the call was over, they were upset. Not for themselves, but for their parents. “Does he/she know the sacrifices my parents made to come here?” “Does he/she understand the courage it took for my parents to seek a better life for us?” This scene from The Handmaid’s Tale has gripped my heart because it speaks to the crossings desperate people make everyday. We sit on the other side, with the luxury to call it “the border problem” or “the border security issue”. Most who make the dangerous crossing see it differently: it is life or death. What kind of parents would send their child across the border, alone? Courageous ones who love their children so much they are willing to risk separation—even death—to give them a better life.

Immerse your soul in love
Immerse your soul in love