Joseph was tortured for 20 consecutive days before being taken to a military prison and crammed into a dark unventilated cell with 36 other men, little food and no proper hygiene. Some died, and in time Joseph was stricken with dysentery. When he was too weak to stand, he was taken to a civilian clinic where he was fed by the medical staff. Upon regaining his strength, he escaped to a nearby road where a sympathetic driver took him north through the night to a camp in Sudan where he joined other refugees.
Joseph was on the first leg of a journey that would cover thousands of miles and almost 10 years. Before Donald Trump had started his political ascent promulgating the false story that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, while my nephew, Stephen, was famously recovering from the hardships of his high school cafeteria in Santa Monica, Joseph was a child on his own in Sudan in fear of being deported back to Eritrea to face execution for desertion.
He worked any job he could get, saved his money and made his way through Sudan. He endured arrest and extortion in Libya. He returned to Sudan, then kept moving to Dubai, Brazil and eventually to a southern border crossing into Texas, where he sought asylum. Today, at 30, Joseph lives in Pennsylvania and has a wife and child. He is a smart, warm, humble man of great character who is grateful for every day of his freedom and safety. He bears emotional scars from not seeing his parents or siblings since he was He still trembles, cries and struggles for breath when describing his torture, and he bears physical scars as well.
He hopes to become a citizen, return to work and make his contribution to America. His story, though unique in its particulars, is by no means unusual. I have met Central Americans fleeing corrupt governments, violence and criminal extortion; a Yemeni woman unable to return to her war-ravaged home country and fearing sexual mutilation if she goes back to her Saudi husband; and an escaped kidnap-bride from central Asia.
Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human. Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews.
Almost every American family has an immigration story of its own based on flight from war, poverty, famine, persecution, fear or hopelessness. Most of these immigrants became workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and soldiers of America. Most damning is the administration's evident intent to make policy that specifically disadvantages people based on their ethnicity, country of origin and religion.
No matter what opinion is held about immigration, any government that specifically enacts law or policy on that basis must be recognized as a threat to all of us. Laws bereft of justice are the gateway to tyranny. Today others may be the target, but tomorrow it might just as easily be you or me. History will be the judge, but in the meantime the normalization of these policies is rapidly eroding the collective conscience of America.
Immigration reform is a complex issue that will require compassion and wisdom to bring the nation to a just solution, but the politicians who have based their political and professional identity on ethnic demonization and exclusion cannot be trusted to do so. The inventive videos on YouTube showed the band are amongst the most creative we've covered, so I was expecting to find an optimistic George Maude when I spoke to him. But the singer from Rendham was feeling downbeat after a bad experience for the band the previous night.
We got there on time for soundcheck and all that and then nobody else turned up throughout the evening. So you do and you make an effort - and then at the end of the night suddenly the promoters disappear and they don't respond to our emails saying 'can you pay us please'. Essay Like Nephew have been playing gigs around London and the South East of England since recording a series of demos at George's parents' house near Saxmundham. The band met at school when they were "around 16", but it took a while to build the confidence required to actively promote their music.
We then got very embarrassed that anybody had heard them so tried to take them back and hid them so nobody knew they existed. China Pop, Sharks and Sound of Mind were part of that seventh recording session and demonstrate the band's ability to produce catchy, indie pop filled with intricate details.
George says the band put a lot of emphasis on the finer points of the overall sound, but admits the lyrics aren't high up on their list of priorities. I know that's quite a contentious statement but I never listen to the lyrics when I'm listening to my favourite bands.
I think a lot of people will listen to us for the melody. The band are also likely to win over fans via the extras - take the video for Sharks and the Halloween webcast from , which both use band member James Spinney's talents from film school. It's the start of , and Essay Like Nephew's members are all in their early 20s and in jobs which are flexible enough to allow them to dedicate sufficient time for the band.
They plan to make further CDs available to the public, perhaps on a donation scheme, but George fears their long-term future could be in doubt unless some form of sustained income is generated. We keep trying to get on the radio and play shows and do the things bands are meant to do, but until somebody from a record company comes and says 'we want to pay you to do this', to some degree, it's a bit worrying.
It's a bit of a nightmare and a real struggle.
The latest Tweets from Essay Like Nephew (@EssayLikeNephew). A four piece pop 'n' roll extravaganza. Your new favourite band. London.
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