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INSTRUCTIONS:

Write a two-page (about 500 words) essay involving one of the pieces we've looked at so far (story, film, song). 

Your goal is to make a clear argument about the story's "meaning" (remember no morals of the story or how we should live life; just how life "is.") and how a particular character in the story illustrates it. Then PROVE that argument with an organized essay that uses examples from the piece to prove your point. Please don't "stack" quotes. After using quotes explain why they made your point.

I'm looking for a strong beginning, middle and end. Open in an interesting manner. Stick to your main argument. Find a creative way to look at the piece.

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My corny husband loves to say, “Never make an assumption.  It makes an ass outta you… and umption!”  He tells me it’s from “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.  Of course, this is a crude and silly bastardization of a much more popular adage, but the point is still the same.  When you assume, you make a fool of yourself and a mess of everything around you.  “Exile,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, is a good parable for this maxim.  The young protagonist begins the story full of confidence and pride.  By the end, he is questioning himself and his allegiance – all because a group of authority figures assumed he was something he wasn’t and challenged his right to his own identity.

Our hero is a college student living in El Paso, Texas.  We are given enough details to assume that he is of Hispanic decent, although he is never named.  For that reason, I shall henceforth refer to him as “Morado.”  Throughout the story, Morado is repeatedly harassed by various Immigration officers as to his citizenship status.  Although he swears he was born in New Mexico, and never gives the reader any doubt of that fact, the officers are slow to acknowledge him as a member of their club.

“Just trying to do my job,” one officer says.  How often do we hear that these days?  Does anyone take the responsibility to make a judgment call anymore?  Were these officers even given the right to make such a call?  One would think that, had La Migra taken a moment to really observe Morado, they might have realized that the only thing he had in common with their quarry was the color of his skin.  But then, I’m sure their only objective was to question anyone who looked Hispanic… rather than anyone who looked suspicious.

Free and innocent men and women do not carry themselves like “illegals.”  They hold their chins up, their shoulders back, they walk with a relaxed grace – they pass by green Immigration vehicles without so much as a sideways glance.  Even Morado knew this to be true – he knew an illegal when he saw one.  He even knew what actions, or more specifically, inactions, he could take in order to be assumed straight into detention and right over the border where he did not, in fact, belong.  “I will pretend I cannot speak English.  I will say nothing.  I will bow my head…  I will let them push me in front of a judge who will look at me like he has looked at the millions before me…  I will let them treat me like an illegal.”  These differences SHOULD have been taught to the Immigration officers, but their instructors were probably too busy filling cars to care about filling in details… not unlike most “customer service” positions in today’s marketplace.  Insert Warm Body here.

 “She was as brown as I was…  I stared at her for a while – searching for a human being.”  Morado gave the young officer more consideration than she gave him.  Why didn’t she see him for what he was… her equal?  Did she become something greater than him when put on her badge and slipped behind the wheel of a green car?  Was it really his ancestry that was in question, or was she merely lording her authority over someone she used to be?

Assumptions rarely, if ever, serve any constructive purpose, and they can be quite dangerous when made by those in authority.  My former teacher’s complaints over several weeks about an Aide wreaking havoc in her classroom were assumed by her superiors to be petty whining – until a School Board representative sat in to observe her teaching style and came out with a report that confirmed the Aide was encouraging gang behavior among the students!  On a more humorous note, I was once told that the fact that I wore a diamond ring, an heirloom gift for my 16th birthday, on my right hand indicated to all young men that I was desperate to wear another diamond ring on my left hand and that I should be avoided as a potential date because I’d only try to trap them into marriage.  Ridiculous!  My affiliation with my mother’s well-to-do family often made my friends assume that I was a snob or that I had connections they could use to climb the social ladder.  Baloney!  Still others assumed that my blunt manner and tomboyish habits pegged me as a Lesbian.  Tell that to my husband!  In fact, my husband is the only person who has ever assumed anything right about me… but that’s another tale for another time.

Although it is reassuring and inspiring to see this young man take a stand for his rights more and more with each incident and to resist the temptation to become a martyr, the story ends on a rather down note.  “Sure you were born? … Identification? … Do you live? … Where are you from?”  These questions smother his confidence and cast doubt upon his pride.  His only answer is, “I no longer know.”  But is he more confused about WHO he is, or about WHAT he is?  Is he truly a Free Man?  In a country where law-abiding citizens MUST show identification to demonstrate their rights, can anyone assume to be free?



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