Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Representing America During a Trump Presidency

I'm not going to deny that this past year hasn't been difficult; it's still unnerving to think about the impending future of the United States government once Donald Trump is sworn into office, this month, in seventeen days. I'm reminded now of November 9th, the morning after finding out that the politically inevitable had happened. I dreamed that Election night before of high hopes, with the fleeting imaginings of a first female president who would carry on the progress and legacy of President Barack Obama. When I still lay there in bed, about ready to change for my Nature and Assessment/Intervention in Communication Disorders university course, I summoned the courage to tap the side button on my cell phone, and noticed the multiple Facebook Messenger notifications on my homescreen. The messages were from one cousin in Nova Scotia, and another in Newfoundland. Clearly they had kept up with the election results until late the night before - much later than I could stomach. After I had noticed the unexpected swing states turning red, from Ohio to Pennsylvania, I clicked off the television, moved back the bunny ears, turned off my phone, and took an early night shower.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's determination throughout her campaign rang clear through my mind, and I used the essence of that strong will to force myself into believing that all would work out by the time I again checked the election news tomorrow. There was no way someone with that kind of experience and expertise could not have at least an edge against a terrible man like Donald Trump. There was no way that someone who had more respect could lose against a man like him. No way that someone with more decency, more humanity, could lose against him. That was why I was able to drag myself away from the televised results, and not check on them again 'til morning.

Alas, skip forward to my numb drive to university the next morning, where the dim, foggy November morning seemed to mimic the fresh mood cast over my otherwise happy life.

I felt the weight of nearly 62 million other shocked and disappointed Americans, many of whom were also scared of the election's turn out. While I spent the following days in shock, concerned more about myself and the resultant worsening symptoms of my ADD during school season, I didn't share with many others the raw feelings of sorrow and fright for their life and the lives of their family members. I couldn't share this reaction with them because I'm white, because I have a documented American citizenship, because I already have access to birth control, because I'm not Muslim, because I can afford a good education, and because I don't have children who will be exposed to his hateful words and rhetoric for the next four years.

The weight of these feelings remains on my shoulders two months later. It remains pressing down on me as I type on this keyboard. Given the exemptions I listed above, why would I be still personally bothered by Donald Trump's win?

No matter your religious background, you probably believe that we humans are all connected in some way. Muslim faith itself believes that Allah "created man from a clot of blood." Also to the tune of evolution, the science allows that humanity evolved equally - with each human developed to maintain the same range of intelligence, emotions, creativity, etc. The resounding opinion is that we are all from one entity. No matter Donald Trump's own religion, he is of an anomalous opinion that, for instance, women should not have the same rights that men do. He would defund a nation-wide program that allows women the ability to have bodily autonomy - a basic human right. He would punish the woman - not the man who impregnated her - for their abortion. I am still personally bothered his win, because no matter your religious background, there is nothing ethical about a Trump presidency.

For so long I put off digging into the emotions that spill out when I force myself to grasp what Trump's win meant for the opinions of Americans from my friends and family who live abroad. I worried that now my family in Canada and the friends I met during my study abroad would think less of me. I worried about my future travels and how I might by viewed by others I met around the world when I told them I was American.

I want those people to know that Donald Trump does not represent me. And he does not represent the majority of Americans.

I addressed this concern of mine previously on social media, on the morning of November 9th, to be exact, as the initial pained reaction of the news hit, and before the numbness set in. This reaction rings true today, as I recall a moment with a resident at my workplace one month ago.

One month ago at my job in an apartment complex, a distraught resident sat down in front of my desk in the leasing office, and laid down a very emotional speech. After providing me with his rent check, he gave me insight into the life of a Muslim Indian immigrant, living in the American Bible Belt, in the wake of a Trump presidency.

After asking this man, Ali, whether or not he intended to renew his lease with us at the large complex, he told myself and the leasing agent sitting next to me that he could not. He had just had an interview the day prior with the university (where I also attended), where he had hoped to maintain his position as a calculus professor, which would provide him the ability to extend his work visa in the United States. Ali said he went into the interview in very high hopes, with an impressive resume highlighting his doctorate credentials, his experience at the same university, and his friendship and business relationship with the person interviewing him. While he sat in the interview, however, the Muslim man said he spotted the resume for the white man who had interviewed moments before him, along with the few lines detailing the man's experience, and the location of his doctorate program. His resume didn't compare to his, Ali said. Regardless, later that night, the interviewer called Ali to tell him that unfortunately he did not get the job.

Ali told us that this form of discrimination was not new for his time in the southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri area. He said that he had spent his entire university career in the United States and taught there for multiple years, yet now he felt more unwelcome in the country than ever. Ali put in his notice to vacate that day, and he will be returning to India one month after Inauguration Day.

Ali's experience is one of a man who is a legal immigrant, and who has a higher education and teaching degree. He has more privileges than the average Muslim immigrant in America, yet he is not impenetrable to the kind of country Donald Trump wants to see as president.

This is why I finally found the courage to write this post. Ali was a friend of mine, and by my own religion and opinion, he lives as a brother to me, unencumbered by the color of his skin, or the religion he practices. The reality of his experience broke my heart as he sat in front of me to tell me his tale.

I wanted so badly to represent his view of America, but I alone could not.

It takes every citizen collectively in a country to set the example to outsiders that our country is great. Our country is united. Our country is made up of immigrants who welcome to it other immigrants, brothers, and sisters. For those of us who would feel the pain of Ali's and other's discriminatory experiences in this country, I want our spirits to drown out any hate that supporters of this new presidency may bring, so that we together represent the United States of America, as our founding immigrant fathers envisioned.

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