Farida ran hard, panting. She had thrown off her shoes a few blocks away. They were low pumps, but new and made of hard leather. When she put them on in the morning, she hadn’t planned to be running for her life in the darkening streets of San Francisco.
The offices of Google glowed in the distance. She prayed she would see the guards in the green shirts, rifles in hand and batons securely at their belts. “Look for the green star,” she murmured to herself, just as the clerics at the mosque had told the children last weekend.
She remembered the promise that the Second Sons and Daughters had made. “Look for the green star and we will keep safe,” they had tweeted.
She heard her pursuers grunting and gaining ground.
* * *
The attacks hadn’t really gotten bad until the second half of 2017, when President Trump signed an executive order that was nicknamed the Bannon Bill. It made concealed carry legal in all fifty states, and broadened the definition of self-defense. That was when she still lived with her parents in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. It hadn’t seem so bad, at first. “At least we’ll make more money,” her uncle had joked, referring to Trump’s previous executive order, which extended tax subsidies to real estate businesses — including, of course, much of his own crumbling empire. The Senate Republicans still talked about impeachment, but it had become kind of a joke.
Some of her parents’ friends toyed with the idea of returning to Iran. Farida’s family decided to ride it out, doubling down on their construction business, which built luxury homes. The Abads had immigrated to the States in the late eighties and had done well for themselves: children ensconced in respectable professions like engineering and medicine, a two story home and enough socked away for a cozy retirement someplace warm.
She remembered the Thanksgivings of her childhood, celebrated with requisite immigrant zeal. Someone in her family would invariably raise a glass high and offer a toast to their newfound homeland, and to safety and opportunity.
They had gone soft, all of them. Forgetting Iran, getting amnesia when it came to the specifics of their hasty and terrifying departure. The jail cells full of friends and relatives who hadn’t quite believed, who hadn’t made it. They stopped looking in rearview mirrors, stopped speaking to uniformed officers in low and submissive tones, stopped being worried.
But they didn’t feel safe any longer, now now, not after the police stops, the smashed-in window of their new Mercedes-Benz, the note dropped on their front door along with a generous bag of excrement.
“It’s unbelievable!” her younger brother had shouted, slamming his fist into the wall and leaving behind a spider web of cracked plaster. The next week he got into a yelling match with some guy in line at the grocery store. Somehow the words turned into shoves and as the young men tumbled into the shelving spilling Altoids and Skittles and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups all over the floor, the police arrived to hear the words, “Sand nigger!” hissed through clenched teeth at her brother.
But it was Ahmed that they arrested.
After the Abads paid out a colossal bail, he returned home with a swollen lip and both eyes bruised black. “They said I was resisting,” he spat out, but the tenor of his anger had changed, it was laced with terror now, subdued in a way that it had never been before.
Two nights later, her parents purchased plane tickets for San Francisco. “There is something happening in California,” they told her, but would say no more. “We need to get there now.”
* * *
Farida’s foot landed on something sharp. She felt wetness on her sole and she stumbled. Her attackers whooped with delight. “She’s slowing down,” they shouted in drunk, ebullient voices. “We’ll get that little Muslim cunt.”
“Please… don’t,” she called out, startled at how thin and ragged her voice was. The offices were too far off — another three blocks to go, she would never make it. Then she noticed to her left that the door of the building was pulling ajar. She thought she saw a glimmer of a green shirt.
“Sir!” she screamed out, summoning the last of her strength, and between breaths “Please! Help!” The door opened further and as the rest of the uniform came into view, she realized it was not a man, but a woman who wore it, her build tall and slender, and her chestnut hair pulled into a severe ponytail.
“Not sir — ma’am,” the woman corrected her, lazily pulling her gun from her holster and pushing the door open wider. “Get behind me, quickly.”
Farida was only too happy to oblige and as she threw herself inside she murmured an apology.
“No need to apologize, miss,” the guard said to her as she whistled a warning and aimed her gun.
* * *
In April of 2017, a group of engineers from one of the biggest tech companies in the Bay Area threw their friend Farouk a bachelor party. They rented a lovely house in Merced and filled it with Cirque du Soleil performers, tapas and wine. Sometime around midnight, a neighbor stopped by with a noise complaint.
“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” Farouk had said, coming to the door wasted and covered in someone’s bright red lipstick. “We’ll settle down.” If he had been a trifle more sober, perhaps he would have seen something in the man’s scowl that alarmed him — but then again, maybe not. After all, the country was still kind then.
At one in the morning, a group of young men forced their way inside with baseball bats. The contortionists screamed. For the next fifteen minutes, there was the sound of wood hitting glass, wood hitting metal, and wood hitting flesh. By the time the police arrived, the perpetrators had fled, but not before scrawling, “Go back to where you came from, motherfuckers!” on the wall in a startling shade of red. They also etched a swastika into the front door.
The next day, the CEO at the company where Farouk worked called a company-wide meeting.
“From the day that we opened our doors, we have sought to hire the best talent in the world. Immigrants, people of color, women — what mattered to us is that you were incredible. It is your hard work that made us the company we are today.
“Today, in Trump’s America, the diversity that made us who we are, that put us at the top of our game, that has given us a market cap of billions, is under attack.
“I will not stand by and watch this happen to one of our own. Enough is enough. If President Trump won’t take a stand and protect his citizens from acts of hatred committed in his name, I will. Ladies and Gentleman — I give you the Fucking. Second. Amendment!”
At first, there was stunned silence, then, staggering applause. Through the door on the left marched man after man, woman after women, in immaculate green uniform and armed to the teeth.
Within weeks, the Green Stars were at every major company and visible everywhere in the city. They stood beside tech executives for lunch, they sat at bars, nursing cranberry juice while their charges partied, they accompanied mothers in hijab to the supermarket and they stood guard outside the door at predominantly African American churches. Wherever employees went, the Green Stars followed.
Word got around that the best way to be safe was to be near them. A girl at a bar frantically dialed her friend when a few of the patrons offered to walk her to her car and then show her what ‘grab your pussy’ actually felt like. “Can you bring your guards, Liz?” she begged. “I’m at Star Bar on Jones Street.”
A Black Lives Matter event on Facebook posted a plea:
We’re meeting near Kezar Stadium at six p.m. on Sunday. We’re nervous because of what happened last time — if any of you tech guys and gals can come out and bring your security we would all feel a lot better. We’re trying to get at least 30 of you. Last we heard, you were limited to one guard each, but maybe that’s changed? Please share widely.
At first, the CEOs looked the other way at these extra-curricular uses. “The security forces are primarily for the protection of our employees and their immediate families,” they explained.
Donald Trump tweeted, Liberal elites hiring their own armies. What happened to trusting American government? Disgraceful!
That was when the tech leaders finally came together formally and the S.S.D. — Second Sons and Daughters — was born. ‘Second’ was a reference to the second amendment, although some preferred to think it was also a clever shout-out to Game of Thrones.
* * *
Farida tucked herself behind the Green Star and waited anxiously. Probably, it was ok, she told herself.
“Let’s just shut the door,” Farida whispered to the unknown woman who was protecting her. “They were drunk. They’ll go away.”
“They were chasing you,” the guard said with a nod of the head. “That’s provocation. Under the new presidential order, it means I can fire.”
“I can just call an Lyft,” Farida suggested, rubbing her injured foot, which was bleeding.
The women assessed her coolly. “You shouldn’t be out at night — not wearing that.”
Farida almost smiled. A lifetime ago, it seemed, those words would have meant something else — a teenage girl in a too-short skirt, a see-through shirt, a midriff-baring camisole. But in 2018, the guard was referring to her hijab.
* * *
When Vox and Slate printed photos of the S.S.D.’s newest acquistion of guards, Trump took to Twitter again. UnAmerican group Second Sons and Daughters — shameful and should apologize! Putting all Americans in danger. Appointing special prosecutor to look into it.
The S.S.D. hired the cast of Hamilton to film a video-response. They offered the Daily Show the first run.
You think you’re hot shit ’cause you got a tall tower
You say you’ve got money, you think you’ve got power
Well here’s news for you that I didn’t read on Twitter
Your tax returns say that your fortune’s in the shitter!
Half your army’s not yours — it’s just private security
And if I pony up they’ll be glad to belong to me
Don’t forget what happened in the thirteenth century
Instead of grabbing pussy you should’ve studied your history
While you were dicking ‘round with Billy Bush and Apprentice
Sending out goons to screw your workers and collect rents
I was building a business and a fortune and a legacy
And now I’m unstoppable like you wish that you could be!
C’mon D, take me on, I think this will be fun
Check out my brains and my money, you ain’t got either one
Let’s make your slogan come true, let’s make America great
We’ll show you what it means to be a sanctuary state!
In November, when the leadership of the S.S.D. were together planning for the next few months, there was a commotion in the parking lot. The captain of the Green Stars came into the room quietly, and with a nod, indicated towards the door.
A disheveled man stood there, his brow thick with grease and sweat, his shoulders stooped and eyes nervous. Behind him, were a woman and girl who looked equally rough, the teenage girl’s shirt stiff with darkening blood.
“There are more… in the parking lot… sirs and ma’am,” he said nervously. “We are so sorry. But we didn’t have anywhere else to go. We just needed somewhere safe to spend the night.”
The S.S.D. were quiet for a moment. The reality was hitting them all at once, and they were overwhelmed. Craig Charles was the first to act, leaping up from his seat, gesturing for an admin to come over, ordering food from the cafeteria, digging through a box of company gear to find clean hoodies and t-shirts.
It turned out there were twenty-eight people total, all of them migrant workers from farms just south of the city. It had been a payment dispute, at first. Then the boss’s drunk son had gotten involved, swinging a pipe and yelling slurs. The pipe knocked over an electric appliance, and before they knew it, the whole village of shacks where they lived had gone up in flames. There had been screaming and grabbing and fists, and threats to call the police.
“Soon your little Dreamer children will be dreaming of what a good life they used to have, when you’re back in whatever shithole you came from,” the son had taunted.
“Or in prison,” his father added.
Ever since the Executive Order that incentivized citizens to turn in undocumented immigrants it had been like this, the man explained. With the economy starting to fail, everyone wanted the “illegal capture” tax credit. If you were brown and spoke with an accent, everyone snapped photos of you, texting them into their local I.C.E. departments, hoping to hit the jackpot.
“There was a boy at her school,” the father said, gesturing to his daughter. “He said to her, ‘If you don’t give me a blowjob, I will call I.C.E. and tell them about your father. And they’ll deport him.’”
The S.S.D. housed all twenty-eight of the migrants in the headquarters of Craig’s company. They rearranged couches and brought in blankets. They left a dozen armed men, because the migrants thought they had been followed.
If nothing had happened that night, perhaps the conflict would not have escalated so quickly. Maybe the S.S.D. would have been content with the good deed and the migrants would have been sent off with a helping hand and promptly forgotten amidst the continuing atrocities.
But something did happen. At four in the morning, a small explosive sailed through the first floor window.
The next day, the S.S.D. incorporated. They bought a township on the outskirts of the city, and began building housing and hiring more guards. They pulled orders from foreign suppliers, made plans to reopen shuttered factories and announced that they would provide housing, work, and safety for anyone who didn’t feel like they could get that elsewhere.
We’re going a few steps farther than just wearing a safety pin, they tweeted. Welcome to our America.