Fifteen years after 9/11, we face a new attack, a new crisis for immigrants and human rights
The morning after the election my mom called and told me to be careful. Just like my dad did after September 11. Fifteen years ago, Dad was worried that I might be a target if I wore Indian clothes on the subway. Today, Mom is worried that my activism on behalf of immigrants will make me a target. 9/11 and 11/9. Both are tragic days in our history, evoking hopelessness and determination simultaneously.
Following the September 11 attacks, we came under attack for our values as a country. But now, I feel under attack for what I believe in and who I am: an Indian immigrant, a woman of color, a social justice advocate, a global citizen. And the person attacking me and people like me is our President-elect.
In a crisis, we look to our leaders for comfort; but this time our leaders made this crisis. The struggle for the soul of America, brought on because our leaders didn’t hear the hunger for authenticity or heed the call for solutions to real-life problems like paying our student loans or saving the family home from foreclosure.
Crises are uniquely capable of numbing your best thinking while fueling your desire to act.
And the crisis we face as a country today is no different. We acted, and now we must face the outcome. And let’s be clear, even our inaction was an action.
After the September 11 attacks, millions of us were in shock but wanted to do something. That’s the same feeling we’re experiencing now. I know this because I have received texts, emails and Facebook messages from people interested in running for office, helping immigrant communities, strategizing about the future. All of this is important. But we also need to take a breath—to love, listen, learn.
I need this more than ever after a campaign season filled with so much hate. I need it because I hurt from the knowledge that we are so divided as a country that we would elect a person who even our children are scared to see as President. I need it because there is a brutal journey ahead. I need it because Presidents will come and go, but our loved ones are ours forever. I started with the ones closest to me, my husband, my daughter, my close friends. I wanted to hold them, hear their voices, feel their pain and share my own.
I’m also paying attention to what those around me are saying, and in it, I hear what I didn’t before. The desperation of those who were hoping for a different outcome, the brazen outspokenness of those emboldened by the outcome. We failed to listen closely enough, painted people with the brush of our own values or judgments, jumped too quickly to action. It’s time to listen.
I’m paying closer attention to these voices, the ones like mine, yes, but also the ones different from mine. What do they want that’s so different from what I want? What’s the same? How can we find common ground? We’re all suffering, motivated by economic insecurity, social isolation, physical threats. And the root cause may be the same: fear. Can we overcome our fear together?
That’s all I have so far. Loving, listening and learning. It’s enough for now.
You may also enjoy reading Crossroads of the Immigrant Nation by Sayu Bhojwani