I’m not here to share my political beliefs. Whether JFK or GWB’s portraits hang above my bed is of no concern to you. And I won’t make it your concern. Those of you who have been with me since the first issue, know me to be even-handed, non-agenda driven, quick to diffuse and all around keep my nose out of it, kind of guy. Most of the time, I don’t even have a damn opinion. That hasn’t stopped people from asking me what my views are. Truth of it is; I don’t have a team, a party, a majority way of thinking. I’m a down the middle dude. Always have been. My personality leans toward empathetic, but I am an Alpha male. I’m a complex man with but one rule; don’t be an asshole.
And yet, here I am. Deep in the quagmire that has been the last 6 months of political fervor. Make no mistake about it, not even I, the Zenmaster, can keep from being inundated with political views from both sides. Fake news. Socialism. They’re coming to get our something or others. They want to stop me from (insert cause or action here). This stuff used to tickle me. I’d sit back, my nonobjective self, above it all, taking it all in and forming my inevitable down the middle opinion.
Unfortunately for my peace of mind and sense of calm, I cover a system deeply entrenched in politics. So again, here I am. If I’m here, and you’re here, isn’t this our time? (Fast Times at Ridgemont High reference. I like movies, I’m sure there are more of these coming.) No! This is my time, down here! (Damn, that was fast. Goonies reference) This is the section of the magazine where I explain things. I tell you my thought process, I give you some insight into how I put this thing together each month. And sometimes, sometimes, I give you something a bit more. Most of the time it’s my first-hand experience in this thing we call foster care. I’ll tell you what I’ve been through and how it relates to kids you might care for. Not this time.
Deportation has been almost nonexistent in the pages of this publication. Out in the real world, deportation happens, happens often, happens under a fog of no information. But my thinking has been, “I’ve got the Family Finding column and Rich works almost exclusively finding family members in Mexico, I’m covered.”. Then came the Presidential campaign. Then the immigration rhetoric. Then the wall. Then a win for the illegal immigration focused candidate. Then the travel ban attempts, two of them. Then the raids. The round ups. And here we are. Deportation is now a big enough issue that I’ve been compelled to cover it.
Without a choice, I sat down to learn as much as a person can learn about the subject. Every ugly corner. I found that I had already dipped my toes in these waters during my research and continued learning of human trafficking. My focus this time is foster care heavy. I want to convey to you, the reader, as much about this little explored corner of the foster care world. So seldom is deportation, as it relates to foster care, spoken about, that it was a pretty tough job just to find the materials to do the research. I managed.
What you will read later in this issue is an unbiased account of deportation as it pertains to foster care. I’ll give you facts and figures and, as always, you draw your own conclusion. Oh boy, rant headed your way!
There’s been a lot of talk of “fake news” and “alternative facts”. I’m not touching the political fervor that surrounds these hot words. I will however address the integrity of this magazine. From day one I’ve had one mission; give you a down the middle, no lean, unbiased look at this foster care system that we are all somehow a part of. There’s no need for fake stories in this arena. I’ve got people lined up to tell their stories. Good stories. Horrific stories. Sad stories. Stories of triumph. Stories of redemption. Stories of loss. Stories that can and have filled volumes of this magazines. They are first-hand, real stories. How far do I go to verify stories? I have made personal friendships with roughly 70% of the folks who write for this magazine. I learn about them. Not just the stories they tell the world, but the stories they tell only me. I’ve been so fortunate to have surrounded myself with the real deal(s). The genuine articles (Did he just drop an Editor pun? Yes, unashamed, he did.).
There. That’s handled. Moving on.
The magazine has been laid out. There are great articles, as I hope there always is, in this issue. I’ve pulled together a mess of subjects to keep you informed and entertained. Again, I have highlighted some tremendously talented writers that the world should get to know. Once again, I have put together an issue I can be proud of. What’s missing? What is it….oh yeah, my lazy ass won’t sit down for the two hours it will take to knock out a fantastic article on deportation that will enlighten folks and answer question about foster care and deportation.
I’ve complained at length about my love/hate/mostly hate relationship with writing. For someone who likes talking as much as I do, you would think that writing would just be an extension of that. Not the case. Do I hate writing or typing? This is an argument that I will have internally until I pass away in some remote cabin over a laptop with an unfinished manuscript on the screen. I can barely recall a time that I enjoyed writing. Is there somewhere, buried beneath interviews and stories I’d like to forget. There was joy once. But come on man, I write about some heavy stuff. This month is no different. Maybe worse than usual.
If you watch the news, scroll on your Facebook newsfeed or talk to politically minded people, deportation seems cut and dry. You come to this country. Depending on whether you made that trek legally or illegally, this government has an opinion of you. You stay if you did it the right way. You go if you fail to follow the rules. Simple, yeah? No. Not even a little bit.
Saving the specifics for the article, there are families involved here. Real families. Kids. Real kids.
The goal of immigration, in its’ purest form is; keeping tabs on who is coming in and out of the country, with the hopes of keeping talented, thoughtful citizens in, safe, and keeping out those who would seek to cause harm. As you will read later, these goals get muddy and marred in a slew of red tape and wasted good intentions.
About now, hopefully, saying “Chris, you have such a way with words. You’re so unmistakably talented, how can you possibly hate writing?”. Come on, you were thinking it! Anyway, I like writing this column. Can’t mess this up. It’s my brain getting rid of excess information. I’d have to be terrible to mess that up. The tougher stuff, like the stuff we’re talking about here. That’s the stuff that takes all the joy out of Mudville.
You might also be saying, “What the hell are you doing still writing this thoroughly entertaining column? You have a ridiculously depressing article to write!”. You’re right.
So, I’ll go do that. Y’all read all the other great articles in here and we’ll meet back at the deportation article. I promise I’ll be right there. I’m not going to check Facebook or get lost on Netflix….
ADDED MUCH LATER:
Holy cow did I screw up! I bit off way more than I could chew on this article.
What started as a well-intentioned idea to take on a hot button issue and break it down for those in the foster care world as it applies to them. This would be a great time to drop some kind of clever metaphor about this thing having layers, but my brain is far too fried to attempt such intellectual gymnastics. I will say this, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
I’m nothing if not open and transparent about the ups and downs of this job. I messed y’all. I don’t know if I’m the guy to write a piece with such weight attached to it. I thought that, then I remembered I wasn’t the guy to start a national magazine from scratch either. I wasn’t the guy to cover suicide, tragic stories, success stories, pro sports or Hollywood movies, until I was.
I forget this all the time. When the story is too big, the circulation too much to deal with, when I can’t find the advertisers or when I fall behind on an issue; I am the guy. I decided to be the guy all those years ago, and for better or worse, I got what I wanted, I’m the guy.
Being the guy sucks.
The cheap way out of my dilemma would be to scratch the story, get the issue out in a hurry and pretend it didn’t happen. I’m not built that way. Instead, I’m going to take my screw up head on, deal with whatever fallout may come and put out the absolute best article on foster care and deportation that Chris Chmielewski can muster…. incredibly, incredibly late.
By the time the digital issue hits your email, it will be nearly two weeks behind schedule. Print? Three weeks late or better. I did this. The guy did this. In the words of the great Will Smith in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “What had happened was,”.
I thought I knew enough about citizenship and deportation to do a quality article on the subject. I was wrong about that. There was so much more to it all than I was aware of. The way this works is; I learn all I can about something, I break it down in a way that anyone can understand, it is absorbed into brains and the world is a better place. The key to the whole puzzle is my understanding of the subject. This is the stumbling point of this whole mess.
My brain runs on simple logic. The immigration system in this country does not. This became a problem. I needed to stretch my brain muscles to grasp the fuzzy logic that immigration was founded on. It took hours and hours of research, asking questions of experts and countless first-hand accounts but I think I figured it out enough to do serviceable job.
I am overwhelmed at the amount of time and effort this particular article took and how it hamstrung production of the magazine. I’ve been keeping track and I get thanked or congratulated more than I have had to apologize for the magazine, but this is one of those occasions where I must sincerely apologize for the late appearance of the mag. My hope is that it was worth it this time.
Okay, that’s all. Hope you like the issue.