Saturday, 7 November 2015

I'm sorry I do not know your name

Names are important. They are the words by which we make sense of the world. They are tied up in history, and religion, and culture. They are how we create and receive our identity, or identities. They enable relationship. They are given as a gift from those who love us most.

Anonymity can be important too. A place to hide from who we really are or from who others think we may be. A freedom to express something the identifiable self cannot or will not say. An escape from a reality too painful or too constrained to contain who we have become.

One of the blogposts I wrote during the summer included references to the “Sudanese male” who died in the channel tunnel. There have been others before and since, both here and at every other stage on this arduous journey. There are exceptions, but most, like him, have remained unknown and unnamed.

I was struck at the time by this absence of a distinguishable, personal identity. It was so different from my relationship with the asylum seekers I know: real people, with not just names, but families and histories, with fears and hopes and dreams.

And yet I knew I could not challenge his anonymity by revealing theirs. When I have written about them, I have also concealed their identities behind a protective veil of anonymity. But there is a difference, I think (hope) because they have taken ownership of their anonymity. But his is an anonymity that has been imposed rather than chosen.  It is not the anonymity of protection, but the anonymity of being ignored.

Maybe he would have wanted it this way. I doubt anyone tried to find out. We will never know.

There is a place
A safer space
In the protection of a promise
Anonymity can choose its name
And each can opt
To not be known
To hide
From all they are and cannot be

But what of you
Was this your choice?
To remain forever
Unnamed, unknown

Or were you victim of a system
In which
No-one tried to learn your name

And would you choose that once
Just once,
A friendly voice might whisper

Your name

Was it far from here, and long ago
That someone
The promise of an identity
Inscribed in love
With all you are and hope to be

This the gift
Of those you knew
Left far behind
To wonder
Where are you now

Who’ll never know your final fate
A better way
That they might live with this
The hope you dared to share
That you might find
A better place
A safer space

 The protective veil
Through which one day
You might just dare
To whisper once again

Your name

The promise of an identity
Inscribed in love
With all you are and hope to be

In the midst of this,
Our nation’s shame
I’m sorry
That I do not know
And cannot speak
Not even once

Your name.

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