Gary does not have a very strong imagination. He cannot easily imagine himself in a claimant’s shoes. When he thinks that a claimant’s decision to take a risk was too foolish to be believed, often this is because he is picturing the claimant facing a simple choice between safety and danger. Why would anyone choose danger?
By explaining in detail what they were thinking when they decided to take a risk, some claimants have been able to help Gary to see that the choice that they had to make was more complicated than it seemed. Sometimes claimants have helped Gary to understand the factors that they were weighing. Claimants have also helped Gary to imagine how they thought about the danger.
Sonia told Gary in detail about the kinds of thoughts that were going through her mind while she was living with the danger. She explained, for example, that while she did take the threats seriously, she continued to hope that the situation would blow over. She allowed herself to believe that it would get better.
Manuel explained that by taking a few days to wrap up the business, he could keep his family from being destitute in a new country. He was willing to take to take risk to give his children a chance at a good future. Purabi was able to help Gary to understand that, for her, finishing her degree was not only important for her future, it was also itself a victory over the man who was persecuting her. She knew that having a degree would give her a much better chance of being able to support herself in Canada. But also, she would not let a man who was determined to ruin her life succeed in costing her something for which she had worked so hard. By forcing her to flee, he had already robbed her of so much: her home, her friends, her family. She would not let him take this away from her.
Ester and Mukisa told Gary about how they weighed the advantages and disadvantages of making a refugee claim sooner. Ester explained that she thought that Canada was a much safer option. She believed that Canada was a more welcoming country and that she had a much better chance of being accepted here as a refugee. She thought that she was more likely to be sent home if she made her claim in the United States. Mukisa explained that because he had a valid student visa he did not feel that he was in any danger of being sent home while he worked to prepare his claim. On the other hand, since he knew that he might be returned home if he did not do a good enough job preparing his refugee claim, he felt that it would have been dangerous to make his claim too soon, before he had the evidence that he needed.
Désirée helped Gary to understand how she was able to convince herself that it was safe enough to return home. Looking back, she knows that she was fooling herself. But she wanted to go home to her children so badly that she came up with ways to justify why it would be safe enough. She told herself that the state police probably had more important people to persecute. She told herself that they probably felt that she had learned her lesson and would not bother with her anymore. She told herself these things and made herself believe them.
Andrés told Gary that he wanted very badly to see his father again before he died. He also explained that he would never have been able to live with himself if he had refused to visit his dying father out of cowardice. As his father’s eldest child and only son, he was supposed to care for him in his old age. When Andrés had to flee the country to save himself, he left that responsibility to his sisters and his aging mother. He has carried the weight of that ever since, and the shame of leaving them to handle his father’s final days would have killed him.
Lisa explained to Gary how she dealt with her fears when she found herself falling in love again. She told him that she was afraid, of course, and that at first, she had wondered herself whether the risks were worth it, both the risks to her safety and the risk of loving someone again and losing her. But as she fell more deeply in love, her heart took over. She told herself that there was not much point in living without love, and that her partner who had died would want her to be strong and brave and have a chance at being happy again.
There are words that Mohammed has said to himself every day for as long as he can remember. “If today is my day to die, then I will die today.” He said this to himself after he got the threatening phone call. He said it to himself again as he put on his coat and again when he got in his car. He explained to Gary that these words have always given him the courage that he needed, and that that day they gave him the courage that he needed to go to the rally.
Constance explained to Gary that she believes that it is her duty to tell others about her religion, that this is what God expects her do to. While she certainly values her life, she values her relationship with God more, and she would not let Him down. She was certainly afraid that she might be caught, but she felt that public washrooms were where her pamphlets had the best chance of reaching the largest number of people. She trusted that her life was in God’s hands, and whatever came of it, she knew that she would be rewarded in the afterlife.