Then Grab a Cage So I Can Put You In It

Location: Beirut, Lebanon (Supermarket parking lot). Year: 2012

I gently swerved off the main road into the lot, careful to avoid the crowd of happy-go-lucky pedestrians enjoying the cold Sunday afternoon. (Who, due to their happy-go-luckiness, never actually watch where they’re going, so I had to do it for them). I pulled up to the guy at the entrance to pay the parking fee, and rolled down my window.

I had expected to only exchange the usual pleasantries as I dug out change from my wallet, but the man wanted to add more to the conversation.

“It’s a zoo! A zoo. We have a lot of them now,” he said in Arabic, gesturing to the pedestrians.

The people he were pointing out were Filipinas. Domestic workers, enjoying some fresh air and shopping on their day off.

“So many of them now,” he repeated, his voice a mix of incredulity and exasperation.

I handed him some cash. I had no time to really tell him what I thought of his racism so, stumbling over my Arabic words, I replied, “You know, if we didn’t bring them to work, they wouldn’t be here.”

I grabbed my change and went off. I had no time to mull our conversation over—the subject was hardly surprising. Besides, I had groceries to buy and essays to write when I got home.

But now that I’m here, I wonder:

Why would anyone be surprised or upset that Filipinos are out having a good time on the one day off in a week that they have? And of course there’s a lot of them! Aren’t we the ones who open our doors so they can come do everything the Lebanese would find beneath them? What is there to tell people like the parking lot attendant besides the blatant obvious? “They’re just as human and just as much in need of a good time every now and again.”

Like that would change anything.

All of a sudden, because domestic workers actually behave like people and not lesser creatures who only come when called, people feel the need to point them out specifically and liken it to a crowd of animals. Great.

There goes another point of pride in my debacle of a country.

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