A Guide to How This Immigrant/Muslim Will Survive These Elections
They say that with age comes maturity and wisdom. We are able to see the forest beyond the trees and assess situations in a more clear and level-headed way. I do not claim I am wise or mature. In some instances I am most certainly not wise, nor mature. I still love to be silly with my children, roll down the hill in the snow at winter time (although last year my down-the-hill-rolling stint ended with vertigo). I love to read Harry Potter and other fantasy works and children literature from my youth and in general I want to keep the ability to wonder at how beautiful our world is. I also have a serious side; this side has matured too early. At twelve I witnessed my country change in a way that was unfathomable for many of us (children and adults alike). Hate-mongering politicians spewed messages of hate and destruction which lead to a bloody war in which my youthful innocence was forever shattered. Part of me, unconsciously, protected a little piece of this innocence that I now cherish and protect even though life has thought me that there is too much cruelty in this world.
Today, two days after the US elections I stand confused and both sides of me, the serious one that gained some wisdom over the years and the innocent one, are struggling to come to terms what the future will bring. Our president-elect has said many things during his campaign trail. He called for a ban on Muslims entering this country and my Muslim parents who this year came to visit their grandchildren have been genuinely worried about this rhetoric. They are still worried about the rise of the hate-crimes in the USA, not all caused by the Trump speeches but also by the horrible terrorist attacks we witnessed this year. Mr.Trump talked about the dangers of immigration (we are immigrants so this naturally worried my family). His record in dealing with women has been, to put it mildly, less than stellar. All these things are true and they had made me nervous. Yet, the mature part of me and the small speck of wisdom I gained in the course of my tumultuous years of growing in war, moving to a country three-thousand miles away from home at the tender age of nineteen, working as a professional, becoming a parent, gave me some strength to look and assess what has happened and how to move forward.
I know some of the Trump supporters. I have been angry at them, silently; this anger burning my insides like the red-hot pieces of coal. I wanted to scream at them and ask: “How can you support this man, when you know me and my children? Our children play together, go to school together, how can you support a man who wants to ban their grandparents from coming to visit, and who says that we are taking American jobs, not paying taxes, taking advantage of the system ?” I was angry, so much so that I wanted to speak out and ask these questions, personally, wanting the answer, yelling, “How could you?!”
I was angry the day after the elections. I had tears in my eyes. I was a human emotional fire-ball, ready to burst at the first mention of his name. The wisdom kept me quiet for an entire day, and most of today. I kept quiet, reflecting on my feelings and reading what other folks had to say, especially the ones who voted for Trump. Some of them may be racist, some of them may have seen this opportunity to lash out and express their deep-dark feelings and profess their hatred for all things different, but not all of them, not fifty million people. A lot of them though, I surmised, are normal people, scared for their children’s future. How are they going to pay for college? Will they have jobs come next year? Will their values be shattered if unwanted shifts in power lead to changes that they are not prepared for? These people are flesh and blood, people who would want to perhaps sit with me and talk to me and even come to my house and see how my family lives, all in the effort to learn that my immigrant-Muslim family does not want to cause harm to their offspring. These people love their children; love their families as much as I love mine. They want change in Washington. I think that the way we as a country went about seeking change was wrong, but this is my opinion. Half of the country had a different view.
My wisdom tells me that all this talking at each other, through news outlets, spewing our own views at the other opposing ear has led us nowhere. We cannot look at the other fifty percent of this country and call them all crazy fucking conservatives who have no idea what they are talking about. We cannot stand here, behind our screens and words and expect that they will read what we are saying and in their hearts know that we are right. The change does not come from the passive stance that we have taken for far too long. Any change requires effort, time, and sacrifice. You may have to sacrifice your privacy, your natural instinct to close up when someone who does not agree with you approaches. We must sacrifice the time needed to invest in reaching out, getting involved, mingling with each other, locally, in your town, because this is where the change happens, not on the national level, through newspapers and news outlets.
If all the immigrants, black, white, Latinos, Muslim become involved locally in their PTO groups, sports groups, youth agencies, local charities, we are guaranteed to meet people who will be interested in where we come from and who want to learn about us, what we do and how we came to this country. This is where the opinions and perspectives and views change. I met so many wonderful people in our little New England town and more I do this, more open I am to discuss who I am with them, answering difficult questions they may ask, more I know that this is the way to influence change. I do not try to be the same as them, to fit in by mimicking what they are doing; I am just me, a member of this community, working together with them to help our children navigate the school system and stay out of trouble and play sports and have fun. These are the people who will one day ask themselves if a candidate they are listening to is full of shit when spewing hateful language because, hey, they know this nice Muslim family whose son lives down the road and goes to the same class with their son. They know these hard working immigrants who mow their lawn in the summer obsessively and coach their child’s soccer team in town. I know for sure that the white folks who grow up in the mixed neighborhoods understand firsthand the struggles of their next-door black neighbors and those white folks will forever understand the importance of racial equality. Same goes for those who know immigrants and refugees and Muslims.
I started writing this post hoping to gain a cathartic release after two days of brooding, but all I really got is an understanding that I have a task ahead of me, to go out there and talk to people and become more involved and realize that those folks who voted for Trump won’t come knocking at my door, they won’t know how. I have to reach out and offer some of my privacy and time and not be afraid to expose a part of myself to them in hope that this will make them think about what they really believe in.
I know so many people who are acceptant of me and my family and who were sad with me about the outcome of these elections. These people give me hope that the rest of the country, the other fifty million that voted for Mr. Trump are out there waiting for someone in their neighborhood to introduce themselves and bring them inside their home and offer a traditional meal and share a funny story from their youth about growing up in another part of the world.
I know that there is a long history of racial divide in this country, born out of fear of something different, this is being projected now to other nationalities and different religions, but the times have changed, we can and should do more and try harder and be with each other. Forget Facebook and news, heck, forget this post and go meet your neighbor. It is time to get involved, first locally in our communities, then project this when you travel, visit new places and don’t be afraid to talk to people, don’t stare at your phone at all times and ignore the person sitting next to you. Ask them who they are and tell them who you are. Change is hard and if I learned anything from these elections, change is necessary.