Sunday, January 29, 2017

Who Tells Your Story?

On Friday, an executive order was signed by President Trump barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. He claimed they would be instituting more rigorous vetting procedures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States, despite the fact that the vetting process to get into America are already some of the strictest in the entire world.

"We don't want 'em here". You can find multiple sources on the unlikelihood of being killed by a radical religious terrorist of any faith all over the web, so I don't need to drag them here. I can say that you're more likely to be killed falling out of bed than you are by a Syrian refugee.

After this order was signed, those very same refugees that were making their way towards a sound night's sleep, mile by mile, had no idea they would be detained when they reached US soil or even sent back to the horrors they were fleeing from. This executive order has trapped innocent people escaping extreme violence in a horrifying limbo. People with permanent resident cards and visas are also unable to come back to the place the call home now, the place they're working and raising their family and studying.

In 1989, my mother packed up everything she could in a single suitcase (including VHS tapes of I Love Lucy) and brought my sister and I back to the United States to escape the political unrest that would eventually turn into the Gulf War. I have two passports and dual citizenship and the reality is not lost on me that if I decide to leave US soil, I may not be welcome back. Even flying home from New York City fills me with this sense of unease that I may be detained at the airport and denied due process. Rules and laws have been broken before, they're bring broken now, and I am afraid.

While thousands gathered in airport terminals around the country, blocking exits and demanding the released of those detailed, while lawyers worked tirelessly on their days off to assist in any way they could for free, I was doing something very different.

I, a queer Muslim immigrant, was sitting three rows from the stage of the Richard Rogers theater, watching a cast of people of color tell the story of another immigrant. I got my ticket way back in August. Back before we knew what would happen, back before Trump, before any pen hit paper. I saved every penny I made for six months, stashing it away and watching for tickets to go on sale. I finally managed to get one at face value when another round went on sale, but just barely. I wasn't even sure I had gotten a real ticket until they scanned it last night and actually allowed me in the building.

There was a part of me that didn't want to go, didn't want to be there when I could have taken a train to JFK. But the other part of me wanted nothing more than to hear the line "another immigrant coming up from the bottom". I've been fighting hard since November 9th. All I wanted was a little bit of reassurance. Say what you will about the actual Alexander Hamilton, and there's plenty to be said about the cultural aspect of the show itself, but all I wanted was my one, single line.

Everyone loves the line "Immigrants: We Get the Job Done", which received a thirty-second standing ovation, but the line that comes in the opening number of the show has always stuck with me, since the first time I heard the song a few years back. I have yet to meet an immigrant who doesn't work themselves to the bone to "make it", myself included. 

Lately, I've felt very lost in this new administration, but last night's show has planted a seed of purpose in me. It's inspired me to continue head-on into more school, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to demand more for myself, to demand success from myself, to be nonstop and unrelenting, to do more than the bare minimum. 

The world's gonna know my name.

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