This is the first, maybe the only, post that I intend to write that could be considered divisive. I hope it isn’t. I hope that everyone reads this as the deeply personal account I intend it to be. Afterward, I hope it resonates as something that could happen to our neighbors and our children’s friends. Certainly I’m not unique in these feelings or in the childhood experience that affected me so strongly. I should note that I’ve been Red, Blue, and various shades of purple throughout my adult political life. This has nothing to do with one side, the other, or the middle. It has to do with fear, rage, and sorrow, mostly mine.
When I was in junior high school, I met two new students. They had moved from a town not too far away, by upstate New York standards. The older brother had trounced me in a school tennis match the year before, and I still hadn’t completely forgotten it, but that was the only time we’d met. The younger brother shared several of my classes. He was new, and I wasn’t popular, so I introduced myself before anybody could tell him how uncool I was. (In hindsight, he had probably already noticed by the time I approached him.) We became best friends in record time, chiefly because we loved tennis and science fiction. Throughout our school years, we studied, played tennis, and rolled polyhedral dice together. I forgave his brother for humiliating me on the tennis court, and the three of us shared some of my most treasured high school memories.
If I had heard a presidential candidate at that time support ideas to register or imprison my friends and their family, I would have been outraged. If that candidate won the election, I would have been heartbroken. Why would the President of the United States, leader of the Land of the Free, want to do this to my best friends? How could voters let someone like that be elected? What would my parents and other adults do to stop it?
My friends, who had so much in common with me, were Muslim. They were my first exposure to any Islamic people. In a town that was 99% white, my cultural ignorance wasn’t surprising. I wasn’t wise enough to recognize the ignorance for what it was, what it might have become if I had never met those friends. It might have become fear, frustration, and rage. It might have become hatred, or perhaps worse, indifference.
Photo by Fibonacci Blue
I wish everyone who considers a registration or internment of Muslims in this country had experienced a friendship like the one I enjoyed. I wish they had been warmly welcomed into a Muslim’s home and shared a meal and conversation or laughs over a movie. I want them to consider that their children’s best friends could be stripped of their rights and forcibly separated from them. Their study partners, teammates, and shoulders of support would be irreparably branded and convicted. I want them to imagine the hurt their children will feel when it happens to their friends. I want them to attempt to find any valid moral, let alone constitutional, justification to give their kids.
I’ve tried several times to write this. This is the first time my heartbreaking disappointment and anger have allowed me to finish. I couldn’t give up after my first two incomprehensible drafts. It’s not much, but writing this is some small way to speak for my friends and others facing such potential horrors after the election. I owe it to my friends and their parents after all the kindness they showed me. I hope, no matter how you voted, you can tell that Muslim people deserve your voice, too.