I’m Afraid for My Friends

I have serious, legitimate fears for the physical safety and mental health of millions of Americans in the next administration, but I need to talk about something else right now.

This is the second time I’ve cast my ballot with the majority of American voters, but the bigoted isolationist won instead. Last time that happened, hundreds of thousands of people died and millions are still displaced – Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, American and European soldiers, Yemenis, UN officials, US Foreign Service Officers, New Yorkers and Washingtonians.

Could a Pres. Gore have avoided a War on Terror? Maybe not. It may have already been too late to save the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and those three planeloads of people. But it was also clear to me long before he was elected president that George W. Bush was intent on invading Iraq and finishing what his father started.

The afternoon of Election Day, a Jordanian leftist drinking buddy texted me.

“When are we going to know the result of the election?
Everybody in Jordan is afraid that Trump could win.”

I was optimistic, confident in that moment that cooler heads would prevail. As the night went on, though, I kept coming back to his words. As much as I voted with the future of minority Americans on my mind, I also voted with the futures of other countries in consideration.

We live in a single-axis world, and we are that superpower. What the United States does ripples across the world. Who we attack and who we defend. Who we buy from and who we sell to. Who we ally ourselves with and against. Who we let in and who we keep out.

The path to protecting our rights and freedoms at home 
isn’t clear, or easy, or safe, but I can see it. 

I don’t see the path to helping my friends abroad at all.

It was never going to be all peaches and roses in a Hillary Clinton Administration. I know that she and Pres. Obama presided over more deadly drone strikes and more deportations than the second Bush Administration. Obama and Hillary’s response to the Arab Spring was uneven and inadequate, and Obama’s pivot on Israel broke my heart.

But for all Hillary’s flaws, my politically astute Jordanian friend was afraid she wouldn’t win, and his fears were realized.

All I could do was apologize, first thing the next morning.

“I’m sorry. I’m heartbroken and so so sorry.”

He said,

“American refugees are always welcome to Jordan anytime.”

Jordan is a country strained to its breaking point caring for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The kingdom keeps itself stable and afloat with the generosity of the US Government, one of many things that are perilously uncertain in the years ahead. Yet he was not the only Jordanian I saw offering asylum to Americans on Facebook that morning.

A little later, I got a text from another Jordanian friend, a hijab-wearing Fulbright Scholar in DC, where nationalist slurs were hurled on the subway yesterday.

“Thank you for everything.
Your insights are so valuable.
Please don’t stop. We need this.”
* * * * *

Despite my loud liberal politics in high school and on Facebook, I do have a handful of lingering online friendships from the deep red Pennsylvania county where I grew up. (I still remember my high school civics teacher saying, “When you’re able to register to vote in this county, regardless of your politics, register as a Republican. It’s the only way for your primary vote to matter.”) I’ve bitten my tongue and policed my own tone more times than I can count to keep those lines of communication open, because as long as the conversation continues, there is still a chance I can shift someone’s perspective. And sometimes we even find common ground.

Among these friends is one of those straight white rural evangelical men who have been pilloried on Facebook this week. I don’t know why he wanted to be my Facebook friend, but the request came at a time in my life when I turned no one down, and I’m not sorry I accepted this request. In fact, I would say that my conversations with him about politics have been among the most civil I have had this year. So, in recognition of this improbable bridge we’ve forged, I texted him Wednesday morning to say, “How are you and your family?”

He doesn’t understand why I’m so afraid for the future. He thinks I’m overreacting about the hundreds of hate crimes that happened in just the first three days after the election. And yet, three times he has said to me this week, “You alone are why I no longer hate Muslims,” and urged me to keep doing whatever this is that I’m doing.

I’m still scared, for myself and for too many others. I’m still angry. I still can’t see my path, but I think it lies somewhere between Jordan and the red counties. And I’m not going to stop looking for it.

And I will continue to fight for the rights of minority Americans at home, too.

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