I find myself sitting in a packed Cafe right outside of DC on this beautiful Thursday afternoon, trying to finish all the work I need to before East Asia wakes up and my inbox fills up again. I am drifting away from the work to the events that are happening less than 10 miles away for Inauguration week.
I am tired: stuck between individuals telling me that things will be terrible, and others that tell me that I have lost my mind, because everything will be fine. Both are wrong. The reality is that things have never been fine due to my intersectionality and I am tired. I am not scared of the possible outcomes, I am simply tired of trying to make things work in a system that is clearly not working. I see us grappling with a reality that many have just come to terms with, and just as many continue to deny its existence. I find myself waiting for the world to catch up to the true reality of oppression, and to start doing something about it.
Many have said that Trump was a good thing, that people are finally seeing the truth, but the reality is that even with their newfound awareness, most are still not taking an active role in fending off the systems of oppression all around us.
Two months after the election the question of how this could've happened still haunts many, and we're no closer to identifying an answer that can give us the awareness we need to combat this tidal wave of hate. On the one hand we can't call everyone voting for Trump racist, and on the other we can't ignore the racial tensions that allowed a person like Trump to become president.
I'm sitting here, struggling to write the words of Hope I wish I had. Since the election, my PTSD has been triggered, and the world, as I know it, has fallen to pieces. I've been trying to pick myself up, but fear and anxiety have dug into every part of me, rendering me catatonic and at the mercy of a very harsh world.
Many have asked how I feel about this election, and honestly, it goes between overwhelmed and dissociative. I either feel everything, or nothing at all. I have been told how unlucky or lucky I am depending on who I'm with. Many believe that I am unfortunate because of being a Muslim, Non-Resident Alien, living with mental illness. Some believe that I am lucky for having a home to go back to, telling me that I can at least go back to Jordan.
Two of my sisters are thinking about going abroad for school, from Jordan, and I've been asked if I'd advise them to move here. I can't. I'm asked if I will leave. And I can't answer that. Throughout this election, and after, I have never felt more homeless and alone than I do now.
There's a lot of uncertainty these days, but I have gotten a few things from these challenging times. I have learned that I deserve better than to be homeless. I have learned that I deserve to belong. I have learned that there are things that I still need to heal from. I have learned that I deserve to heal. I deserve to live in a place that loves me back. And I deserve to choose the Love I accept.
I hesitated, shaking from the cold and the unknown, and as I did, the crowd swept me by. I was in the front, and now, more and more individuals were passing by me. I thought they'd look at me judgmentally, but there was no judgement. This was Friday morning, around 11 AM. I had been at a protest in Union Square since 7AM. I was energized, motivated, and wanted nothing more than to march with the rest of the crowd to the White House to demand that we be seen. But I couldn't move. Because I knew that if I walked there's be a risk of arrest by the more than 30,000 police officers, national guard, and other security officers. I knew what an arrest would mean for me. It'd mean deportation. This might sound like an exaggeration but it is not. I will not try to explain, but this is real. This is reality for individuals like me. Protesting has become so criminalized that individuals can literally lose everything they've ever worked for.
I thought about it for a couple of minutes, as literally thousands of individuals passed by me and took to the streets. Do I leave? Go home, and make a difference behind a keyboard somewhere? Or ignore it all? I didn't like those options, but what choice did I have? Leave? Then what?
But the more I thought about it the more I remembered why I have never let the fear stop me before. Because if I let the fear in, where would it end? I'd never say another word about a thing. I'd watch the world suffer everyday, and I wouldn't do a thing about it.
So I walked, I stood in the back at first, on the side of the thousands of individuals willing to risk their lives to stand for what they believed in. We walked for miles, and with every few 100 feet I sped up. It was all or nothing. A few blocks away from the White House I was holding a sign on the front lines.
I saw the cops blocking our path before finally moving. The cops that tried splitting our group by giving us wrong directions. I saw the chaos that could have ensued had the group leaders not had a good enough grip on the thousands marching. I saw many soldiers, and police officers on their phone because no event needs 35,000 officers to guard it. We went past the White House, and headed back.
I was not arrested, and I stood for what I believed in, but hundreds were. Hundreds were violently ripped away from the rest of the crowd and now face riot charges with a max sentence of 10 years in prison. This is the reality we live in. Whatever you believe in, regardless of your political views, freedom of protest should be holy and untouchable to you. Unfortunately, it's usually the activists who get the most flak for their oppression.
Despite the fear, and coming to terms with this realization, I would not trade Friday for anything. I started the morning with the weight of hopelessness on my shoulders. Starting at 7 AM, I stood with hundreds of others, chanting the things that very few truly accept about me. I found myself standing with others wearing a Keffiyeh, a Palestinian scarf, and even the entire crowd chanting 'From the River, to the Sea, Palestine will be free.' The highlight was hearing these words, with the White House a block away from us. I felt seen, I felt whole, and I felt like I belonged with thousands, something I've never experienced before. Even the risk of deportation was worth that feeling. For the first time, I was with my people.
Many are asking what they can do now. Over two hundred people were arrested Friday, and this is just beginning. Here are a few quick things you can do, right now:
- Support the Legal fund for the 200 individuals that were arrested here.
- Follow activists in your community and the National Stage. If you don't have activists in your circles you will not hear about these things.
- Follow grass root organizations from your community that are actively standing against this and other forms of oppression and SUPPORT them financially, with your time, and anything else they might need.
- Raise awareness and start conversations about these topics with your circles.
- Ask the individuals on the ground for their story; chances are it's a very different story than what the media and the opposition are saying.
- Find support. Being awake is not easy, that's why so many turn away.
This is the most basic list I could think of, but it is something. Get out there, support the individuals doing the work, and keep the conversation going. This won't end in a day, a week, or even months. This takes years. Thank you for your willingness to support, and I look forward to seeing you sharing.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.