ILLEGAL, ISBN: 9780999185216 Cotopaxi Publishing, copyright and written by John Dennehy.
Plot: Grossly unhappy with the political climate in the United States and particularly resenting the rising nationalism (opposed to true patriotism) with its belief in their superiority to people of other countries, and obviously unable to effect change, the protagonist decided to leave the U. S. Searching, he discovered a job offer to teach English in Ecuador. He boarded a plane, entered the country, began teaching and felt ‘at home’. Ecuador during this period was in a near chaotic situation with a disastrous political system (elected eleven presidents in seven years), rampant corruption and bribes required for most activity. Residents had developed a rather free-wheeling attitude toward governmental authority, starting numerous road blockages and more. Completely enamored with the citizenry and of their temerity to exhibit their displeasure, he enthusiastically joined them in their frequent ‘revolts’. He also discovered the ‘love of his life’ in a young woman who lied to him, had occasional other sexual liaisons and fought violently with him after their occasional drinking bouts. Still his love persisted and with Lucia, plus his growing attachment to other friends he had made, he was willing to illegally cross the border several times – an activity he believed ‘necessary’. He had been deported once and the requirement to leave and return every 60 – 90 days required to reside in Ecuador, would mean exposure of this fact if legal crossing were attempted. The story continues by following his various activities within Ecuador and other countries during his extended stay and finally into the election of the popular presidential candidate who was ‘going to provide a government totally for the good of its citizens’. Unfortunately, this latter period in residence was that in which this ‘good’ president gradually demonstrated massively corruptive activity as well, resulting ultimately in delusion descending upon him and accompanied sadly by realization that Lucia also was no longer the ‘love of his life’.
Discussion: This autobiographical tale provides interesting observations on Ecuador in an unfortunate period from which it finally recovered, although again showing rumblings of political discord. Seemingly the author also has used this as a platform to project fundamentally a political viewpoint that entreats additional commentary because that offered is most interesting as the beliefs set forth by many impressionable naïve young people today, many of whom have not been deprived or abused but rather provided considerably more than life’s basics. As described, he was afforded a good life with his biological family’s constant support, including even continuing financial assistance when needed during this ‘rebel period’. He quite adeptly points out several problems facing U.S. residents, but particularly centers on nationalism and border control, accusing the U.S. of acting most unfairly in both cases. Summarily he states: “Borders are everywhere they exist between nations …, and they exist inside each of our minds. It doesn’t have to be this way…. products have freedom of movement. Why shouldn’t the people who made those products be afforded the same freedom? …why shouldn’t admission to migrants be the norm, and their exclusion the exception? …. Within the European Union, though travel is unrestricted, each nation maintains its unique identity … (also) there are a multitude of unique hubs that exist within adjacent neighborhoods ….”
His assessment, ideally speaking, is absolutely correct. Most regrettably realism seems to indicate a naïve failure to assess the basic components. First, “It doesn’t have to be this way” completely ignores some individual issues (see below). Second, a huge difference in the numbers of individuals who wish to immigrate to various countries exists. Largest number are those wishing to immigrate to the United States. Here, for years they’ve arrived, proceeded through immigration procedures, remained initially within their own enclave but gradually accepted the mores of our country and moved to become participating United States Citizens, accepted the laws and enjoyed the freedom offered that in many ways far exceed that encountered in others. Parenthetically and most unfortunately, today’s immigrants cannot seem to ‘fend for themselves’ causing a drain on the citizens for financial aid often for sustained periods. Third, individual differences. Everyone wishing to immigrate does not have the preferably altruistic attitude. Some come to ‘send money back home’, some have criminal records and some, like the author, might indulge in illegal activity ‘because it was necessity to live in the manner that was most satisfying for him’ – justifying the illegality as something that did no harm and he was dealing with corrupt individuals anyway. Absolutely true, but still an illegal act that could have been avoided in the first place when he decided to ‘throw himself into the local revolts’. A country must be aware of such an individual because the ‘next time’ harm might be done. Fourth, he touts the free borders of the European Union, completely ignoring the magnitude of the resulting problems. In most, local worker/economy has suffered but more impressively, criminal activity has greatly accelerated. The author does mention “unique hubs exist in adjacent neighborhoods” but does not include the fact that their strict adherence to their own rigid customs too frequently are distinctly incompatible with those of their new society. Perfectly acceptable EXCEPT that with increasing frequency they are blatantly attempting to impose their mores upon the inhabitants of the country that has been kind enough to welcome them. Reason certainly seems to indicate that such activity definitely provides an unfortunate but undoubtedly cogent reason for existence of borders. Regrettably, these features are not taken into account in this otherwise well-written but rather critical depiction of the country that seems somehow to have provided him with most of ‘the better thing in life”.
Conclusion: I hope that anyone reading this review will not interpret it as ‘taking sides’. It simply is commentary that would seem necessary to include when reading this seemingly highly politically motivated presentation in the form of an autobiography, offered by a young man who appears only to have performed a surface examination of a multifaceted, seemingly unsolvable dilemma. (An aside – unfortunately, a number of errors exist pertinent to Ecuador.)
4* Well-written autobiography/political commentary; missing details provided here.