I finished off my previous post with the word HOPE.
When I typed it, it felt like the only way to end a piece that was otherwise defeating. It isn’t in me to be bleak. I can’t bear pessimism for too long before I’m torn asunder, and I couldn’t bring myself to pass the despondency along to you.
But my God, in the week since the MARCH IN JANUARY, the news coming out of the United States has drenched us all with such vile and gut wrenching ugliness that the effect of reading it has been emetic.
It’s reconnecting me with my formal academic training. I am (or was) an historian by trade and the dark clouds emerging over the United States and spreading beyond its borders to parts of Europe are reminiscent of so many sinister periods in history that only the ignorant or the malevolent can ignore them.
This week, an unbridled Trump and his men did as much as they possibly could to shred the social fabric of their vast and beautiful nation in order to maintain the privilege and status of their small, coagulated, self-interested cabal.
The effect of this week on millions of people has been galvanizing.
How good it feels to know that it’s Trump’s executive orders targeting refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority nations that has just caused the pot to boil over in the country’s metropolises for the second time in one week.
Watching the crowds, live online, at Dulles, JFK, SFO and Logan airports yesterday chanting for hours and hours, selflessly and righteously in defense of the rights of ALL, got my pulse racing and overwhelmed me with an emotion that’s too complex to name.
The day ended with a temporary victory as a federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban.
NO BAN, NO WALL, SANCTUARY FOR ALL!
NO HATE, NO FEAR, IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!
NO BAN, NO WALL, NEW YORK CITY IS FOR ALL!
These were the chants in America’s big city airports—and the entreaties in countless hearts.
As I watched my Facebook feeds, I imagined others, just like me, all over the internet, bursting with a desire to join those crowds, seeing a petite Elizabeth Warren’s face and hearing her clarion voice urging the echoing crowd: “Let’s make our voices heard all around this world”.
I know many of us were listening and watching, and checking in at regular intervals. I expect that many of my immigrant students were. I thought of my former student Nima—a lovely Iranian man who has settled in Montreal but has hopes of living in Boston someday soon—being made to see himself as something odious in the eyes of the Trump administration, and what that must feel like.
I was moved when a childhood friend of my sons—a boy who arrived in Montreal (Dorval) at the age of eight, speaking “only” Farsi, German and English, but who was fluent in French by the time he was thirteen, went on to med school at McGill and is now a practicing neonatologist in California—wrote this on his Facebook page yesterday:
I have always abstained to post political comments as I am aware that nothing I have to say will be influential. Those, including myself (maybe through denial), who were encouraged to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on what type of president he will be once elected in office, can now rest assured that all doubt has been removed. To live in a “democracy” and yet fear that my parents (Canadian citizens) may be denied entry into the US to visit me because they were born in Iran is frightening.
After having been spat at by the White House, he remains, in my opinion, far too polite, far too gracious for his own good. Still, if the measure of a man is in how he expresses himself in difficult times and what he contributes to society through his work, then the man in the White House doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as this bright, young “immigrant”.
It means something more, that all of these expressions of resistance and human solidarity occurred the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day; that they happened on the Chinese lunar New Year.
The world has become as accessible as the closest internet connection. No borders can obviate the fact that on this improbable, beautiful blue planet, WE ARE ONE.
Learn this lesson quickly, Mr. Trump.
If a man is to shed the light of the sun upon other men, he must first of all have it within himself. -Romain Rolland
Addendum, Monday January 30th:
I awoke this morning to the news that a twenty-seven year old Québécois university student entered a mosque in Quebec City last evening and started shooting. Six people died and 8 were injured. In a searing piece published in The Guardian, Nesrine Malik speaks of Islamophobia having burst its dams.
I start this day fearful of the waves ahead.