For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.
Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.
Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.
(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)
After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.
“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.
I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied.
I committed to doing so.
A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.
I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too.
When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”
(I vow now not to let it.)
“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”
Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.
“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.
Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.
What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.
I meant it,
and I will.
When I was little, my mom took me to a few town halls and political rallies. I remember some of those experiences–especially meeting Representative Peter DeFazio, who later wrote me a letter!–fondly.
Yesterday, I took my seven-year-old, Li’l D to his first rally. We met up with a couple thousand other Angelenos opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Why are they even protesting?” asked a couple of young men who passed us as we walked toward the rally. “Isn’t it over?”
I shook my head and said, “No. The Army Core of Engineers denied easement, but DAPL proceeds. They’re fighting against the ruling and still very much on the ground in Standing Rock.”
“Damn,” murmured one.
“Yep,” I said, as Li’l D and I parted ways with them.
I’ve told Li’l D that there are hundreds of oil pipelines crossing portions of the U.S. Apart from transporting fossil fuels whose extraction contributes to climate change, they break and explode often, resulting in pollution, injury, and even death. While the rally was about one pipeline, I explained, it was also about all pipelines, fossil fuels, rights of indigenous peoples, and the rights of children who deserve better from adults. (He already knows about the inspiring Our Children’s Trust federal climate lawsuit, which can’t proceed quickly enough for me!)
Li’l D made his own signs, of which he was proud. He held them up for five or ten minutes before handing them to me. (Of course!)
While he quickly grew bored, I was invigorated by the palpable love, passion, and commitment of the people around me.
I wrote last week about some of the many ways individuals can express their loving might. You are mighty, I concluded.
Marching yesterday, I felt in ways I can’t begin to articulate that our individual might is eclipsed by something else: Our might.
We are far mightier than we realize.
We are mighty.
After months of fury, I finally found my way to empathy earlier this week.
Finding it–seeking it–changed everything for me.
Doing so enabled me to find the root of my anger, followed by empathy for myself and then empathy for those with whom I’d been angry.
Read about that here.
(What’s written below is incomplete without it.)
Friends who voted for Trump: Please stand up for my husband and sons, and anyone else you witness being persecuted in the days and months ahead. I will stand up for you even as I rail against any and every injustice so much as suggested by Trump’s team.
Friends who voted for Clinton: Please stand up for my husband and sons, and anyone else you witness being persecuted in the days and months ahead.
Know that people of color–like my husband and sons–and other vulnerable citizens will bear the brunt of hostilities when fans of hate are flamed. Engaging potential allies with empathy is thus one of the most important ways you can protect more vulnerable members of society. Please stop fanning with your proclamations that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot to be scorned.
Many people who voted for Trump are allies. I know a few personally, and know from listening to them that their votes were not cast in support of hate. Others could be allies, if approached with empathy instead of blanket condemnation. If understood as more than the sum of a single vote.
If you stand for my husband, my son, for Muslims, for hardworking immigrants, for refugees, for anyone who is currently on precarious footing as we all face a Trump presidency, you’ll practice engaging with empathy.
Please act in pursuit of peace. Protest not each other, but each and every Trump policy and action that is hateful.
Please don’t sacrifice my husband or sons to loudly condemn someone else for their vote and tell me you’re doing it for my family’s good.
We’ve all got a fight ahead, and we’ll fare better if we undertake it together.
I recently called President Obama a magician. He’s quite a skilled one, too; he consistently has you believing he’s doing one thing while doing quite another. I’ve listed several specific examples today.
President Obama has dramatically, scarily expanded executive power just in time to hand the U.S. presidency to Donald Trump.
Rather than protesting Trump individually, we ought instead protest this expansion, and unify to demand return to a truly representative government with appropriate checks and balances reinstated.
We must not cede to any individual president any power that might terrify us in another person’s hands.