By: Rafique Ali
Today is July 4th, 2017. Exactly 241 yrs ago in 1776, representatives of 13 colonies who were then subject of mighty British Empire resolved to succeed to form a perfect union to start an experiment called the United States of America; rest is history. For 240 years this country went through many shockwaves, Trump’s election was the most divisive shock this country ever suffered after the civil war.
I am guilty of writing a hypothetical scenario of Donald Trump’s election, it was published in Pak Tea House on June 16, 2016; I never intended or wished for his election. Here is the link to that article
Why Hillary lost, what was in the minds of rust belt industrial workers or angry white male who voted for Trump or did Russia played role in her defeat? All are scenarios for historians to write in future. I will talk about myself and how I felt on Nov 9th, moving forward.
I was 32 yrs young when 9/11 happened, the time my wife called and asked me to switch on the radio. At that time I was a new immigrant in the United States, politics or what’s happening in the country or even around the world was least of my concern. My focus was to establish and set up a firm footing in the adopted country. For next six to seven years, I avoid telling people that I am Pakistani, taking the safe route to claiming Indian heritage. My brave wife, at every opportunity, never hesitated to claim her Pakistani identity. Time passed by, the culture of freedom of speech and information explosion helped me reclaim Pakistani identity.
Campaigning for 2016 election season was started in early 2015, I was witnessing the 5th Presidential election since moving to this country. Americans witnessed divisive campaigns in the 19th century too but no demagogue ran for office or even gets close in recent history. One can only think of Senator Joseph McCarthy in early 1950s but his impact on society wasn’t as damaging as that of Donald J. Trump. For Trump, this is game and a reality show.
On the fateful night of Nov 8th, and early hours of Nov 9th; Hillary Clinton lost the election and America lost its soul. This election wasn’t about an ideological debate or policy positions between Progressive and Conservative ideas. I was fully invested in this election, more emotionally devastated after going through another personal tragedy not too long ago. Next morning, my daughter and I stayed home, I skipped work and she skipped school. Next three days I avoided Television, Facebook & Twitter as much possible.
American culture groomed me to adopt the democratic behavior, respect the opponent and accept my candidate’s defeat graciously. Despite differing in political ideologies with Matt Romney & John McCain, I still would have accepted them as ‘My President’; had they defeated President Obama. Election of Donald J Trump is different; it energized two segments of the society; the racist and nostalgic elements pushing under a disguise of nativity and nationalism, and traditional civil right grass root organizations resisting bigotry and discrimination.
Moving forward, from Nov. 9th till today, I talked to some Pakistani friends; read blogs, Facebook and Twitter about the fear of deporting Muslims or putting them in internment camps etc. Learned that these fearful thoughts were mostly in the minds of young kids and some Pakistani adults who aren’t aware of their rights; ingrained under constitutional protection they have, irrespective of race, color, creed, and religion. I never feared anything like that is possible. My thought process was never to think in term of being a Muslim in America; instead, my identity was always Pakistani American with religious identity as a private matter. A Pakistani-American, carrying progressive and liberal political ideology; who happened to be a non-white as well.
Though Trump did win the election he is losing the cultural war of America landscape, among so many factors contributed to Trump’s election; the anxiety of aging white population is a prominent one. So what would a person of color, an Indian, a Sikh, a Pakistani, Chinese, Mexican and African American do in Trump’s America? He/she can go invisible (not literally though) and go on with their lives like nothing is happening. They can also educate themselves to become a watchdog of policies of this administration. Check on Climate Change Deniers, Voting Rights violation, Obamacare haters, Police behavior towards minorities etc.
There are many ways to resist Trump and his supporters’ bigotry. Protest and participate in a demonstration, for example, one million women (and men too) marched on Jan 21, 2017, at Washington DC and many major metropolia around the country. Donate to organization protecting civil rights & liberty and DO NOT donate to an organization which directly or indirectly endorsed Trump’s election. For example, do not donate to ‘National Association Fraternal Order of Police’ because they openly endorsed Donald Trump election; Volunteer in the local chapter or clinics and call your local Congressmen.
Following organization has a long history of resisting discrimination, hate crimes, and unjust laws.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) https://www.aclu.org/
NAACP – Legal Defense Fund http://www.naacpldf.org/
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) http://www.adl.org/
South Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/
This is an era of identity politics, and of all of a sudden race has become so important, and an era of color blindness is apparently fading. People of color shouldn’t be scared, they have constitutional rights and they can make a difference; little by little in their own capacity. Republicans, the party of Lincoln embraced bigotry in the 1960s and Democrats become a champion of marginalized to spearhead political movements against unjust laws and discrimination. Politics isn’t a destination neither an election is a Super Bowl finale; politics is a journey. Bill Maher, a most intelligent liberal comedian, and a satirist host the show ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ on HBO; his post-election show on Nov 11th helped his audience to come out of depression. #WEARESTILLHERE was the hashtag and message of the show, among all the positive human feelings & emotions; HOPE stands tall.
From 9/11 novice to progressive politics was my journey towards embracing the political identity, to be energized, practice and pursue liberal politics. Here is my message to readers, inside Pakistan and around the world. We, the Pakistani Americans are safe and happy. Just like bombs aren’t exploding every day in Pakistan as some ignorant westerners tend to think; not every Hijabi lady or Sardarji been attacked in the USA either, as some ignorant Pakistanis may want to think as well.
Writer can be contacted or followed on Twitter at @GoToMtns