Quite unexpectedly last Sunday morning, my husband and I found ourselves bound, almost 60’s style, to an impromptu rally at San Francisco international airport: a virtual pulse test on our newly elected president Trump. So off we went. An ardent group of anti-Trump demonstrators – perhaps a thousand to begin with, several thousand later -- held the fort with multiple negative signs. The scene was ripe with a simmering but controlled protest that never got out of hand. The airport was full but not shut down. The crowd respected their limits even as they were clear about their antagonism towards Trump, now US, but not “our”
I did not know what to expect of this spontaneous group that had assembled at the airport; our immediate goal was to pressure the airport and Homeland Security to release any passengers they were detaining, or worse yet, illegally deporting. But this was also an occasion to peacefully discuss and process the pros and cons of Trump’s presidency and how best to demonstrate against his presidency. The group was extremely congenial with activists coming and going and determining how best to express our frustrations with Mr. Trump’s election. Free lawyers wandered the edge of the crowd to find families who might not be able to contact an incoming passenger. “Let the lawyers in! Let the people out!”
was one of the more frequent chants.
The reports from the lawyers that the Customs officials were refusing to obey the law, denying detainees their right to legal representation, and preparing -- in blatant violation of a federal court order -- to deport passengers, was the most intense boiling point of the rally. There was a great deal of ambiguity in the air about which passengers were being allowed to leave the airport, which were being held, and which were being deported. Considering that, I was struck by how civilized the discourse was and how well the group handled the flow of information and decision making without any rancor at all.
I am an immigrant woman who has lived in the United States for almost 50 years. I am always surprised by how Americans confront their issues head on and resolve them whether it is on public policy or issues on the home front. But now we have President Trump and that’s a whole new ball game. Let’s be clear: It is not Clinton, George Bush or Obama.
As a Muslim woman, I am somewhat trepiditious and fearful as President Trump starts his first term. What will it be like for Muslims? Will we be hounded given Trump’s proclivity against Muslims? Do we have to fear for our children and ourselves?
The President’s order, sweeping in refugee children, 40-year resident green card holders, former interpreters for the US armed forces in Iraq, and strident Iranian opponents of the current regime, pushed many of my hot buttons. There were years in which my adopted daughter from India was a Muslim on a green card – if I had adopted her from, say, Iraq, an American ally, under this order twenty years ago, I could have been cut off from her permanently. My mother, now 89, also spent several years on a green card – if Trump had decided to add Indian Muslims to his list, could she have been trapped by the customs officials, denied legal representation, and coerced to surrender her right ever to return to the US? I think so.
The good news is that the protest rally on Sunday morning at the San Francisco airport, along with similar ones all over the country, gave me a sense of reassurance that this country will make every effort to mitigate the challenges that we foreigners could well encounter.
What was most surprising about the rally was that only a fraction of those there were Muslims, although Muslims were Trump’s target. There were visible representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – and lots of secular folks as well. My favorite sign was “We love our Muslim neighbors.”
I would be deceiving you if I said that I was not worried about my children and their well-being. But I also realize that the United States has a moral rudder and after 50 years of living here, I need to have faith that it will stand by its citizens, regardless of who is the president of this country.
Having said that, Donald Trump’s victory feels decidedly different than any other United States president. As an immigrant and a citizen, President Trump’s moves are threatening. Fortunately, there is a healthy counterpoint expressed by hundreds of State Department employees who uphold their oaths and support the United States’ core constitutional values, and go public in challenging Trump’s ban. The protectionism of key bed rock values is what makes America and Americans great – even as President Trump fires Ms Yates. What a mistake that is!
President Trump seems impervious to the negative fall out to his decisions. Trump’s actions provide fuel and fodder for the Jihadists --- which is just what we, the American people, do not need. It is a risky move which could endanger Americans. We need safety, security and sensibility to carefully navigate the challenges we are faced with and to mitigate the disasters thrust upon American citizens.
One of my favorite political pundits, columnist Thomas Friedman
writes in his letter to CEO’s a few noteworthy points to consider:
“Yes, some things are true even if Trump believes them: “Islam does have problems with gender and religious pluralism, and integration in Western societies. Ignoring that is reckless.”
“But some things are true even if liberals believe them: that America has integrated Muslims better than any European country because we are a melting pot. And making Muslims part of the community at home and our alliances abroad – rather than treating them as permanent aliens – has made us safer since 9/11. Ignoring that is dangerous.”
And then, just as I wrapping this blog, the news came of the incredible response in Austin, Texas, where a huge crowd of non-Muslims showed up to provide a human chain and protect Muslim students attending a civics day at the Texas Capital which in 2015 had provoked harassment, not protection. If you haven’t seen it, look at the clip
– that is what America has always looked like to me.