What Do You Say When the World is on Fire?
I find myself in a perpetual state of shock. The emotions swirling inside of me block any attempt at words leaving my mouth or fingertips. When I do think of something to say it feels like screaming into hurricane force winds caused by the hundreds of thousands of voices shouting the same pain. I never expected to be living in this is version of the United States.
I’m first-generation American and was raised to believe in the land of opportunity; where you work hard, aim high, and can achieve any dream you desire. Instead what I’m seeing, on a daily basis, is a dystopian future creeping into our current events. Freedoms are eroding. Doors which were once open are now slammed closed and thoroughly locked. The inclusive spirit that made America a melting pot has now been replaced with blatant xenophobia. If my parents had been fleeing a communist dictatorship in this day and age there’s a strong chance they never would’ve made it onto American soil.
Some will say our newly enacted policies are a form of protection against those wishing to destroy our country. I say that we’re on a slippery slope and in banning a country of people wholesale—under the guise of national security–we’ve laid the groundwork to start banning other “undesirables” from our shores. Which can easily transform from restrictions to expulsions and we’ll see our country diminished like a balloon leaking air.
I noticed the us vs. them mentality festering in our culture around the same time we started labeling each other red states and blue states, but the reality is that life is much more nuanced and complex than a binary classification. None of the people foaming at the mouth for our borders to be closed and the refugees sent packing have ever met the people they’re railing against.
I’ve broken bread with a university educated Afghan man who fled his war-torn country and was working in an English kebab shop because the UK wouldn’t recognize his degrees. He just wanted to live a normal life like anyone of us. Same for the Lebanese kid I met in Northern Virginia who was studying medicine at Georgetown University so that he could join Doctors without Borders. His family would’ve been flagged under the new “extreme vetting” simply because they’re Muslim and fleeing a country under siege.
Change their countries of origin or religions and the stories would sound just like the ones you hear from the people in your town or family. The hopes of those searching for a better life are universal.
Sadly, this is just one small part of the inferno that’s threatening to engulf this wonderful country and its kind-hearted people and I fail to understand why a fire fueled by hate will make anything great as opposed to reducing everything in its path to ash.