A Sobering Dose of Solidarity

Immigrants rejoicing at sight of Statue of Liberty
All men and women are to each other
the limbs of a single body, each of us drawn
from life’s shimmering essence, Nature’s perfect pearl;
and when this life we share wounds one of us,
all share the hurt as if it were our own.
You, who will not feel another’s pain,
you forfeit the right to be called human.

-Poem by Saadi Shirazi, 13th Century Persian poet

I know there are many of you out there that feel the same. Since the presidential elections, most days I feel at best confused and at worst betrayed. How could a country that gave me and my family refuge from one of the worst totalitarian regimes in the world in the early 80’s show such shameless signs of xenophobia and bigotry and itself exhibit the same behavior from which millions have escaped? Is this some kind of cruel joke of destiny?

I don’t believe we the-more-recent-immigrant-residents of this great nation are helpless. But although there are many that are fighting for us and rooting for us, what deeply troubles me is that the burden of proof of our humanity, goodness, decency, value, and dignity has overnight shifted on us. We are no longer considered “innocent until proven guilty”. The overt presumption in the rhetoric of the new administration is that by and large, immigrants are here for some nefarious purpose or as deadweight burdens on economy and anyone can now give him- or herself the permission to judge an immigrant’s motives and reason for existence. This is annoying when done by some troll on social media but outright unnerving when done by a person of some kind of government-sanctioned authority, such as a border agent.

Throughout history, immigrants have been convenient scapegoats for failure of government policies, especially those policies that have resulted in economic hardships, unemployment, crime, etc. Why do the hard work to fix the policies if you can easily materialize a common enemy without even waving a magic wand and unify the masses behind an “us vs them” rhetoric? And nothing solidifies an authoritarian regime better than a common enemy, be it internal or external, which gives the perfect excuse of “National Security” for all sorts of suppression of dissent.

Although not all instances of racism or xenophobia have resulted in the holocaust or genocide, you can be sure that they all resulted in tremendous human suffering and setback, not only for the immigrant populations, but the host nation as well.

And it is in that suffering that I feel we can create the common ground to stand up against divisive rhetoric and bring to light our common and shared humanity. Each immigrant needs to tell their story and broadcast it as proudly and widely as possible. Let your neighbors know. Let the nation know. Let your pain show, there is no shame in that. The immigrant narrative has always been and will continue to be the foundation of America’s greatness. Defend it!