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Of Denise Cote and Cherry Cokes

October 6, 2014

There was a French woman who lived down the street. She was tall and slender and moved in an elegant way. She was kind, but her husband was the meanest SOB in town. Cut through his yard and he’d materialize out of nowhere to wave a cane and yell. He needed that cane because his leg was blown off in France. He was, indeed, part of the Greatest Generation, but he was always yelling – at the neighborhood kids, at people selling things door-to-door, and at her. As a result, she rarely came out of her house and didn’t talk much to anyone. But when he finally died, she joined the church choir, a book club and a garden club in the space of a week.

There was that Asian-American girl you dated in high school. It didn’t take long for you to figure out that she and her mother lived in fear of the father. He was the local weather forecaster on TV and had a nice guy image, but at home he was a drunken terror who forbade them from either speaking Vietnamese or eating Vietnamese food.  The mom and daughter were full of life when he was not around; they walked on egg shells when he was.

There was the intern in the office a few years ago. She was Russian. Very attractive. Nice to everyone. And she worked really hard. Toward the end of the internship, she asked if the office could help extend her green card status. Then one day she somberly announced that she’d been married over the weekend and would be moving to Canada. The fellow she was marrying was well older than her and half a foot shorter.

The French woman and Vietnamese mom were war brides, and it’s possible that they left their homeland for love. It’s also possible that the French woman’s entire family was killed in a bombing raid and she had nothing left.  It’s also possible that the Vietnamese woman was Hmong and if she stayed, the NVA would have done bad things to her. Again.

The Russian girl might have been like a lot of 20-somethings. Maybe she didn’t know what she really wanted in life. Then again, it was pretty clear what she didn’t want. She didn’t want to go back to Tolyatti.

Through the ages, women have done what they felt they had to do to get by. In our country’s history, a great many women have done what they had to do to leave the place they were and come here.

Do we think less of them for that?

This question will introduce a harsh and intemperate comment on our part:

What the hell is wrong with US District Court Judge Denise Cote? What distorted mindset would lead her to sentence Gabriela Rosa to a year in federal prison for marrying someone just to get citizenship? A year in jail?

This is Gabby Rosa who recently became the first Dominican woman to be elected to the State Assembly. This is Gabby Rosa, whom everyone regards as sweet and smart and dedicated to helping people.

And this is Denise Cote who was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota and who graduated from Columbia and taught at a Catholic school. This is Denise Cote, of whom Vanity Fair once said: “She seems, even to her friends, as being of another time and place…one of Cherry Cokes and glazed donuts after school.”

According to Cote, Rosa has done “a disservice to every other immigrant who did it the right way.”

Yeah, the right way – just like Eleonore, Hong Yen and Valyeria.

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