Its not what it sounds like. By street life I mean: protests, marches, and rallies. And I have only just begun.
First they came for the Mexicans. ‘Put up a wall, keep ‘em out.’ I wasn’t a Mexican, neither was Marianne or David, but we came out to speak out; joined the fight, held up those posters, waved our fists, and stood up for the Mexicans.
Then they came for the women… ‘grab ‘em, humiliate ‘em, control ‘em bodies.’ But these weren’t women who marched alongside us—my husband, my girl-friend’s husband, and so many men, who came out to speak out, as we walked together in what was a Woman’s March.
Then they came for the Muslims and refugees. ‘Ban their entry.’ Cathy and Joseph were not Muslims, neither were Singh and Amrita, nor did they have any link to refugees other than humanitarian, but they and thousands came out to speak out, took to the streets chanting, ‘No hate, No Fear, Muslims are welcome here, Refugees are welcome here.’
Next they will come for Me. I have no delusions about it. Will anyone stand by me, behind me, with me, for me? You bet. Not in thousands, but in millions.
I have been doing a lot of crying lately, not over the executive orders, but in how my fellow Americans are responding to it. When I stood in Foley Square in protest of #TheMuslimBan, there were as many people of other faiths as there were Muslims, and of course, more residents than refugees. They stood holding banners, giving interviews to the press, and raising their voices. Banners proclaiming ‘Jewish New Yorkers Support Our Muslim Neighbors,’ ‘#Refugees Matter’, ‘I Stand With #ImmigrantsNY’. It was Jumma prayers in the square, and as we sat on the blue tarp over the cold concrete to listen to the sermon, all others stood in a circle to form a shield around us. When Imam Khalid Latif took the mic, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, as I felt a snowflake brush my cheek. ‘If they build walls, then our bridges will have to be taller,’ he said. We linked our arms, walked single file over to the Federal Building and formed a circle around it, chanting, ‘no hate, no fear….’
I don’t feel alone.
Well, you all know what happened next. Detentions at airports, travellers off-loaded from planes…
America got moving. They descended at JFK, at Logan, at LAX, in Colorado…Cab drivers at JFK, giving up their earnings, went on a one-hour strike; pro-bono lawyers took a seat on the floor, their laptops in their laps; Jews, on the Sabbath, gave up their day of rest to join the protest; on this cold night, people spilled out into the streets, and onto the rooftop garages. I had never seen anything like this. While all this was unfolding, and I was hooked into social media, my daughter-in-law texted me, ‘Have you seen yourself in the breaking news of NY Times.’ I guess now you will find me on the streets of New York. Politicians took notice. The court was petitioned. And it worked. You all know what happened.
It’s not over. It’s just begun. But I can see now that pushback works. If I was disillusioned about democracy, my faith is restored. But I learnt something else. I have friends—foul-weather friends. I have received emails from people I know, and people I don’t know. Why would people I don’t know, write to me? Because they had read my book, looked me up, and took the time to write a warm letter of support. I don’t even know what they look like, but I know that they are praying for me, and sending me their positive energy. They said they were weeping as they wrote this letter; I wept with them.
My dear Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is not missing a beat. I get all my action items from their Facebook postings.
This morning I got onto a call with my Jewish and Christian friends, and the conversation was all about of ‘how can we help Muslims?’ You bet we hung up with quite a to-do list, and as we closed, one of them asked, “Do you think the officials at the airport will refuse to carry out the executive order?”
“I suppose not. They are afraid for their jobs.”
“You know what this reminds me of?
‘I was only doing my job.’