Oh but why this poem? Why?
I don’t know. Other than when I thought of the title for this post I thought of this poem that I’ve loved for so long and I wanted to share it with you. I haven’t shared many over the 12 or 14 years we’ve been here together, so I appreciate the occasional indulgence.
This past week I was asked to speak on a panel. They flew me to Los Angeles and I stayed in a nice hotel near a beach. I talked to people about social justice and movements and what inspired me to start American Muslim Women. The other panelists had excellent stories and histories filled with activism passed down from their parents and grandparents.
Mine did not. My story of why I started the PAC isn’t filled with decades of oppression or suppression or angst. It is, instead, a story of refusing to fall victim to what it was society expected of me, wanted of me. We love a good victim and we cry if they die at the end but man, what raw emotion – right? I wasn’t going to give in to that.
But back to my panel – look friends, you know what I do every day for the most part (other than baking and cooking and ranting on twitter.) I consider this job social activism and I consider the work my colleagues and I do nothing but pure activism. We are literally the only thing standing between the force of the State and a human soul. How much more activist can a person get? And although we aren’t the ones who face the harsh consequences of the terrible power of the government when they don’t get their way, we know that there will be consequences for us for not backing down and giving in. This activism is what makes starting a PAC almost feel like child’s play.
No, I get it. It is important. For sure it is. But it isn’t as if I haven’t had a great training ground for this. The bar is set pretty high – if no one is going to end up in prison then it’s going to be a good day. That’s it. That’s the standard. No one in jail? We are good to keep moving forward. Someone in jail? Let’s see what we can do to correct that.
I write this today because it is Martin Luther King, Jr. day and today I get to take my boys on a tour of the West Wing. This is, indeed, an incredibly moving event for me. I’m not enamored of our President for lots of reasons, primarily because he left a lot of my clients writhing in agony when he promised to help. But, I am not blind to the truth of what it is he stands for. He is our first black President and our country elected him in great numbers. He has broad support and appeal and has not brought private disgrace to our Nation’s home. These things cannot be discounted or dismissed. It is important.
Eight years ago my brother and I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to watch Obama (kinda, it was really far away) get sworn in. It was powerful to say the least. History was unfolding and we were – finally – going to see MLK’s dream fulfilled. Finally. Today, I am going to take my kids to see where our President has worked for the past 8 years. On MLK day. His last one. It seems a perfectly fitting ending to this era.
The title of this post is hope. I’m devastated by what our country has chosen to do. In a desire to show some of America just how angry they are, they have elected a man who has in no uncertain terms, told me and people like me he has no use for us. At no time has Donald Trump walked back the words he used about Muslims nor has he sought out friendship with our communities. He acts as if we do not exist as Americans in this country and while he has extended a weak hand to the African American, Spanish speaking and Jewish communities, he has ignored us completely. While there are Muslims who support Trump, they are the exception to the rule. Why should we support a man who may claim to not be a war-mongerer (they all claim this) and want to drop bombs on our mother-lands, but acts as if he would prefer to not have us as United States citizens? He won’t be kinder to my clients than Obama was. And he certainly won’t be kinder to those Americans who need a safety net.
And yet, there is hope.
If there wasn’t hope this blog would have ceased to exist years ago. As it is, it continues to pump out letters and words and sentences that sometimes form cohesive paragraphs which contain ideas and thoughts. I am here. And so are you. We breathe. So we hope.
At the end of the panel (that’s where this all started, remember?) we were asked to give advice to the members of the audience on what they should do if they want to start a movement, to become activists. How would I know how to motivate people to do a thing? Since I am not a professional panelist, I did what I thought best – I quoted Eminem and told them they were just going to die anyway so why not do something?
Breathe in. Hope. Breathe out. Hope.
If this particular era is to end, and a new one beginning, isn’t it fair to think that soon enough this one too will end and another will begin? We should always be at the ready for whatever happens next. For the next post on MLK day. For all of it.