I’m a six-foot-four, middle-eastern, Muslim man. I have a beard and brown skin and I fast during Ramadan. I’m a first-generation American born to parents that immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. And I value inclusion, humanity and dignity. Does that seem radical?
Many of my formative years took place after 2001, when I quickly learned what it meant to be “me” at a time when being “me” wasn’t so popular, heavily relying on the strength of my family, my friends and my community to help me get through those difficult times. And trust me there were difficult times!
As the years progressed though, and my character began to develop, I became more and more accepting of who I was and where I came from, with a growing confidence that everyone around me was starting to feel that same way again. Until November 9.
I remember that morning, waking up to that feeling… you know the one. Where you’re made to feel less than – for whatever reason. We’ve all experienced it.
If then President-Elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric became reality, what would that mean for me and mine? Exclusion, separation, injustice? That’s not what I voted for. Surely, the President of the United States wouldn’t try to white-wash the country, tearing away fiber by fiber at the very fabric that this America was quilted from.
We’re a nation of immigrants living in a place where religious freedom is revered as one of the most prosperous things a country can offer. But still, all I could hear was “wall” this and “ban” that. Let’s not forget my favorite, “Radical Islam.”
And then with the signing of each executive order day after day in these first two weeks, it became apparent that the reality I was dreading, that we were dreading, was coming to life.
How could anyone think any of this would work? When has there ever been a time that anyone ever uttered the phrase, “stronger divided?”
Sometimes, though, a bit of reassurance can be found in the most, in this case, likely of places. Splattered across the 8 meter-high wall in Palestine in plain sight was a graffiti message that read: “TRUMP, IT DOESN’T WORK!”
On a trip to the West Bank with ActionAid in June 2016, it was still the early stages of his campaign, but I could see that his divisive speech had already made its way across the world and his message had garnered a strong reaction from people actually living “his dream.”
The parallels were uncanny. Both walls were to be built under the guise of safety, without care for the implications of placing giant concrete slabs or fences in between people’s neighborhoods.
And interestingly enough, the company that built parts of the wall in the West Bank and Gaza, have offered their services for Trump’s US-Mexico vision. And that’s all I needed to make up my mind.
Right there, towering in front of me – all the proof I needed. A wall, built in ambiguity, whose sole purpose is to separate people, illegally grab land, cripple an economy and create an undignified living environment for an entire population. A big, grey example of why division will never work.
No ban, no wall – justice for all.