We are all individually powerless.

And that is why we have to collectively act.

Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi interpreter and refugee, released after being detained at JFK International Airport. (credit: Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s Twitter)

Note: this post is in direct response to the executive order signed by the President this morning, effectively banning refugees from “select” countries and at least temporarily denying certain immigrants on visas and green cards their RIGHT to enter the United States.

I am not an immigrant. I am not a refugee. But I stand with immigrants. And I stand with refugees.

I am an American citizen, born in Flushing, Queens to two Filipino parents who came to the U.S. to seek a better life for their family. I have benefited from the privileges they’ve given me my entire life.

I grew up in a pretty diverse suburb of New Jersey. I never went a day without. My parents always gave me a good roof over my head and as many meals as I needed. They empowered me with all the tools I could have ever asked for. That allowed me to follow whatever dreams I had.

It allowed me to go to Bishop Ahr High School, a Catholic diocesan school that had a tuition, but smaller class sizes. It allowed me to attend Villanova University, a tony college in a tony region of the country that sends many of its graduates out to high-paying careers in major cities.

It allowed me to have a dream job. It allowed me to live in New York City. It allowed me to have friends who truly see and embrace every bit of who and what I am.

So to all those who know me, my friends, current and former work colleagues, Villanovans, and the tech + startup community, know this: the signing of this executive order affects me in a very personal way. This EO affects other current and future “me-s”.

“Let’s give the new president a chance.”

Amidst the whirlwind of the first week of President Trump’s term, I, like many others, began to get mired and paralyzed by the volume of swift actions being taken across a variety of issues.

It’s become easy, then, to believe we are powerless. It’s become easy, then, to retreat to our enclaves of comfort, be it our curated Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter timelines, Slack groups, etc.

But make no mistake: comfort is the enemy. Inaction is the enemy.

We cannot let our inability to see the finish line prevent us from getting off the starting blocks.

Let’s also make this clear: right now, this isn’t about President Trump’s voters. This is about President Trump. This is about his administration, who has now taken public oaths of office and who are now denying people their rights as guaranteed to them by the Department of Homeland Security.

This is about a call-to-action to myself and the people I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. Reading and posting articles is not action. Tweeting snide remarks at GOP congresspeople is not action. Shaming your conservative friends is not action.

Standing with the marginalized is action. Becoming involved in your community in a way that empowers folks, no matter their social status, religion or race, is action. Donating to organizations (in any amount) that empower folks, no matter their social status, religion or race, is action.

No one can or should be expected to drop everything they’re doing and “take up the fight”, though I am in awe of folks who do. Most of the folks I’m closest to happen to have well-paying private sector jobs and have achieved so many life goals that they’ve worked really hard to achieve. This post is especially for us. I am that, too.

We are all individually powerless. But that is why we have to collectively act. You may not connect with the listicles of “ways to get involved”. It’s perfectly fine.

But it’s our duty to find something that does connect. In my college days, mine was wanting to empower people with special needs. I’m proud to call myself a Villanovan, in part because of its commitment to the Special Olympics movement.

If you’ve gotten this far, you probably know in your gut whether you have enough “skin in the game”. I know I don’t. But if your answer is also no, I’m here to say that it doesn’t matter.

What you did or didn’t do doesn’t matter. But it matters now.

We may never get to the finish line. But let’s at least get off the starting blocks.


P.S. In the interest of keeping my own word, this is the first and last thing I plan to say on these subjects on any social media.