Molly’s a nurse. She splits her time working between a COVID clinic and a pediatric clinic. She loves her job, her husband, her family, her home, her town, and her country. Molly considers herself lucky to have all of them.
I first met Molly a little less than a year ago. I was in Butte County, California interviewing survivors of the Camp Fire that famously destroyed the town of Paradise — and some outlying areas.
Molly’s home burned to the ground. Molly’s husband, Tom, nearly did. Firefighters heroically saved Tom and some other folks from incineration. Their stories, and others, are in a book I wrote about homelessness this year.
I spoke to Molly again on the night of January 6th. The night a mob of savages treated the nation’s Capitol Building the way the Taliban treated Buddhist Relics. Molly and I chatted because she desperately needed reassurance that everything would be okay. She was horrified and terrified by the actions of those American terrorists.
Like many who witnessed the violence and destruction: the sights, scenes. injuries and death shocked my friend. Like so many watching online, she never expected the halls of congress to be defaced by her fellow Americans. But chagrin wasn’t her only emotion. Molly had other thoughts plaguing her. Notions more complicated and urgent than disbelief and sorrow. Molly desperately wanted to know which way to run. Which way is the best way to go when fleeing angry insurrection? How might she escape the unbridled destruction of the democracy she’d not only adopted as her own, but that she loved dearly?
You already know that Molly was no stranger to heartache, loss and homelessness. The Camp Fire caused all those things. Though difficult, Molly survived those setbacks. She and her family even rebuilt a house on the ridge. With hard work and patience she and Tom restored their home and returned to their town.
But destroying the United States of America — that — Molly didn’t think she could endure. Losing one’s country leaves carnage and suffering in its wake long after the effects of natural disasters have passed. Molly knows this because as a child, Molly fled the destruction of her original homeland, Laos.
Culturally Hmong, Molly, her parents and her siblings left Loas as refugees. Her family hoped for a better life — but better lives don’t just happen. Molly and her family languished in one Asian refugee camp after another. Molly watched two of her sisters die of starvation before she and the rest of the family received sponsorship to emigrate to the United States.
Molly learned English. Finished school. Became a nurse. Fell in love. Got married. Became a citizen. Survived the Camp Fire. Not all in that order, but all in stride.
I don’t want to paraphrase Molly’s feelings. The feelings of a refugee who made a life in a new country she loves. Instead, I want to relate the questions she asked me about what went on two Wednesdays ago. Questions I couldn’t answer. Perhaps you can.
“When I saw Americans going to the Capitol, I started to panic. I thought,This is how it starts. This is how the end of something beautiful happens. All I could think about was, It’s happening again. Which way should we go? To Mexico or to Canada?”
“I flip on the TV and I see the president is still in office. He still has so much power. If he wanted to, he could shoot a missile. What is there to stop him?”
“The country we left when I was a child was what I saw yesterday. I couldn’t believe I saw them breaking into that house. They didn’t think about American freedom. They thought about their own selfish freedom. You break into the house where your laws are passed that keep you safe? What part of freedom do they not understand?”
“Then I thought, These people must really hate America. Why do they hate us so much? Why do they hate other Americans?”
“These people take life too lightly. They take freedom too lightly. They want a war? I will tell you what they get with war. Death. Women and Children and elders, they are the first to die in war. When people fight each other, no one is safe. I know what is wrong. They have never seen death. When you bring this on yourself you do not get a free pass to leave. I really thought this was the end. These are terrorists. Why is this happening?
Then Molly closed with a most important reminder — she made a historical reference more Americans would understand because most Americans don’t know much about our involvement in wars in Asia. Molly cautioned, “Hitler didn’t need all of Germany. He just needed certain people. And he got those people. And he took over Germany.”