Finding My Voice, 3,000 Miles Away

This past weekend, I spent the majority of my Saturday night at a formal ball. When I finally reached for my phone late that night and checked my social media, I was flooded with updates on my newsfeed; thousands of people were detained in major airports, protests were raging, and the ACLU had made a move on blocking this newly enacted legislation.

In this moment, the weight of an overwhelming sense of guilt washed over me. It crushed me. I felt that I was so far disconnected from the country I called home. I felt as though the world I knew was caving in, and I was just watching it from afar.

Being far away from home is difficult. Anyone who's taken a semester abroad could tell you that. But when your home country is changing drastically by the second, in ways you could never really expect, this combination of homesickness paired with guilt is amplified. And when the events taking place aim to threaten your friends, family, and identity? Well, that's another story.

And it's the story that I want to tell you today.  

Me and my Iranian father.

There are a million reasons why we should must speak out against this immigration ban. Here are mine:

Because my father was born in Iran, and came to Boston at the age of 16 who, like most immigrants, was looking for a "better life."

Because he spent his early years washing pots and pans to pay his way through University, and eventually earned his PhD in mechanical engineering. He is now a professor at that same University.

Because he married my mom, an American whose family, like nearly every American, were once immigrants too. And from there, they passed down bits and pieces of Iranian culture- from the songs and rhymes we learned as children to the New Years traditions we still do today.

Because I have three brothers who went to Farsi school to learn more about their culture. They hated it but hey, at least they tried.

Because I have a boyfriend who, despite being as English as can be, loves to cook Iranian food and goes out of his way to make sure he gets the recipe exactly right.

Because it is the diversity of our country that makes us who we are. Because if we got rid of every person who came to America in search of refuge and hope, there wouldn't be anyone left.

Because every immigrant, refugee, and human being deserves to have the same opportunities that my father did, regardless of where they come from or how they choose to worship.

Left: My Iranian grandfather & my American mother, a long time ago. Right: My Iranian father & my mother, wearing the same bald eagle and American flag-print scarf at the protest in Boston this past weekend.  

This ban is cruel, heartbreaking, and misguided. It plays into the fears of Americans, and subsequently into the hands of Trump himself. It fuels a fire of "othering" that causes Americans to fear their neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

For Trump, it is far easier for him to destroy the lives of others than to help those that he promised to lift up. To give American citizens a false sense of safety by making others fear for their own lives is a disgusting means of exercising power.

There is a bigger story to this ban, one that goes beyond simply refusing entry to those who come from the targeted countries. It's something far more permanent than that. The larger narrative that Trump aims to invoke is one of hatred, fear, and chaos; we can't let that win.

Despite my frustrations, however, I have felt every bit of pride toward my family, friends, and classmates who have done everything in their power to speak and act out against these hateful acts. It doesn't take much to throw up your hands and ignore an issue because it doesn't directly affect you. But to recognize your own privilege and stand up for those who don't have a voice is invaluable.

My friends joke about how lucky I am to be in the UK. To not be home during these tumultuous times. To not experience the full affects of a Donald Trump presidency. And, in a way, they're right- I'm lucky that I've been afforded the opportunity to seek refuge from my own country's governmental turmoil. Even considering the liberal "bubble" that is my hometown, this is a great privilege.

But those who are coming from those seven banned countries won't have the same chance. And the relative sense of "safety" I feel here in the UK is only a fraction of the type of relief a refugee would feel entering the US. They're absolutely not equivalent, but for me, this puts the gravity of the situation into perspective.

And in these difficult times, this is exactly what we need: perspective. To become in tune with our own and to see it from another's. We must turn our feelings into words, our words into action, and our action into change. No matter how close or far away, no matter if it directly affects us or not, there is work yet to be done. And it's up to us to get out there and do it.

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