My mom once shared with my sister and me a harrowing experience she endured right after Trump clinched the GOP nomination. She was in the waiting room of a car repair shop when another customer, watching a Fox News story about ISIS, loudly talked about banning Iraqis and Muslims-while side-eying her the entire time.
Nobody in the store said or did anything. She forced herself to calm both during and after the entire episode. She was scared of saying anything, or reporting him to either the management or the police afterwards. Why? Because she was afraid this "patriot" would follow her back to her car afterwards.
My mom does not even wear a hijab-she could have been Latina and Catholic for all that guy knew. Not even to mention the fact that she loved this country so much that she and my dad were willing to leave everything behind to come here, have been for 22 years, and have been American citizens for over a decade. But none of that mattered-she simply committed the crime of having a different skin pigmentation than his own.
When I think about how that man-and many who are far worse-now have a champion in the White House, it kills me. I desperately wonder whether my non-Christian, immigrant, black, Latino, and LGBT sisters and brothers will feel safe, especially if they live in the Deep South as most of my family do. I worry about women, and what the election of a sexual predator to the highest office in the world will mean for the already-pervasive rape culture in our country and around the world. I agonize about the kids who will go to school in the coming days, weeks, months, and years who will face unprecedented levels of racial abuse and bullying-even by their own teachers.
A Shared Experience and Global Struggle
In the midst of my disgust and despair, the response from the people of London has been incredible. I've been getting the full "Adopt and Hug an American Week" treatment. People have treating me and other Americans like adopted family fleeing an unimaginable tragedy. And they haven't even been condescending or arrogant about it either, despite the fact that our choice directly impacts the lives of everyone around the planet. Instead, it's been variations of "Mate we've been there. You'll endure, because we have."
While eternally grateful for all of this solidarity, I almost have a sense of "survivor's guilt"-that I can be thousands of miles away from dealing with the aftermath of all that my family, friends, and millions of my fellow countrymen will have to endure. Yet by recognizing my privileged position, I can at least try to use it for a productive purpose. By taking advantage one the most vibrantly diverse metropolises on Earth, I can share the experiences and counsel of my classmates and friends from all over the world to the shocked majority of the American populace-okay maybe not all of us were "shocked."
John Oliver, comedian-journalist and Last Week Tonight host, offered:
"Well I figured I should visit my family while I still can go back and forth freely before White Mugabe takes the rein. So you're Muslim-Are you enjoying the UK? Fantastic-you might have an unexpected extended stay here. People better be buying you pints and tea ."
Okay you got me-that's not actually John Oliver and that entire quote is fictitious. John Oliver's actual epic reaction is now world-famous. Yet this gracious gentleman is Richard Wilsom from the visionary Stop Funding Hate campaign, who have developed an innovative approach to dis-incentivizing xenophobia and bigotry in the media which can and should urgently be adapted in the US as well. Mr. Wilson not only has an uncanny resemblance to him, but the quote is totally something John Oliver would say if I met him at a conference for woke legal professionals #HireMeLastWeekTonight.
Anyway, here are some actual reactions from people around the world in London:
Harjeet Sahota, who worked closely with London Mayor Sadiq Khan's historic campaign, relates:
"This is exactly how I felt post-Brexit, but what you unfortunately have to do is look at the positives: Not every American is a racist or sexist. Have faith in your processes of checks and balances and have patience with the people who voted Trump. Understanding is key to become united, and these negative and divisive campaigns have allowed for xenophobic rhetoric to fester. Yet getting frustrated and creating that "otherness" is counterproductive."
With regards to the role of the media, Harjeet passionately advocates for accountability:
"They play such an unbelievably influential role in elections and campaigns, but they remain completely unregulated and disgustingly bias in favor of those who have money."
Nefeli Douma, a LLM student at Queen Mary, related her own challenges in her native Greece
"I actually come from Greece and last summer we faced a huge disaster in my little country. Our PM, Alexis Tsipras, held a referendum calling the Greek people to vote against austerity policies imposed on us by the EU; he won, but in approx. two-months' time he signed the 3rd memorandum of understanding with the EU "Troika". In the meantime we were the first western country to go bankrupt before IMF. Tsipras actually reversed everything he had promised and as a result we are now encountering the deepest recession in the last 40 years (that will last for at least another 3-5 years), unless the conservative party takes the lead
Our present left government espouses the worst form of populism, they shouldn't have put an issue of such great perplexity to public judgment. Brexit actually reminded me of our adventure but the main discrepancy between the 2 examples of populism is that the UK will indeed abide by the outcome one way or another (either through a soft or a hard Brexit) and not deny responsibility for the promise made to the British population"
With regards to her advice for the American public, Nefeli focuses on the diffusion of power in our government:
"What I would say in the first place is that fortunately there are solid and rather comforting constitutional safeguards in the United States; even if the Congress and the House of Representatives are both controlled by Republicans at the moment, they are of primordial significance to your federal government. So there are still solid checks and balances."
Analogies to Brexit was a common theme, and one of my classmates showed me "the seven stages of Brexit." Fearing the distinct possibility of a Trumpistan for quite some time now, I've been on "testing" ever since I arrived here (e.g. "What is the immigration process for the UK?" and "Am I eligible for refugee asylum status if Muslim ban becomes a thing?")
Azzah Ahmed, a Masters student at SOAS and fellow -Muslim American, commiserated with me by offering her immediate reaction to the results:
"I was talking to my cousin and he was like hopefully we all get deported on the same plane. And I was saying hopefully there will be Wi-Fi in the camps."
I second that sentiment Azzah-amen. No word on the Wi-Fi, but at least we will probably have legalized marijuana.
Yahya Abu Seido, medical student at University College London, offers his solidarity and challenges the American public:
"To all my friends in the US, do not despair. Every rise of fascism is faced with a political backlash in the future. This may in fact be the stepping stone for the US to actually elect someone like Bernie Sanders in the coming future. It's time for us to stand united and strong in the face of the struggles ahead. Nothing worth having comes easy, and with every hardship comes ease.
Speaking with so many classmates and friends from all backgrounds and walks of life has been a deeply humbling rejuvenating experience. As much as I worry and despair for the state of my country right now, they remind me that people all over the world have endured and even overcame so many greater challenges. They have endured unflinchingly fascist governments, revolutions, coups, devastating wars, and failed peace accords to stop those wars. They have lost family members and loved ones to the most vicious regimes in the world, and still summon the conscientious courage to devote their talents and energies to oppose those regimes.
If all our fellow sisters and brothers in humanity can endure and overcome all of these challenges, we can absolutely handle this Fascist Frat Brah-in-Chief.
Tune in for the second part of this story, which will outline a three-part action plan to deal with The Orange One and his brand of fear and hate-based politics.