Not Here

I was at a party last week and someone brought up 2017, and I made a sound and they were like “Wow you’re pessimistic,” and I realized they were all straight, white, nominally Christianish liberals. For them, now, the president to be is a late night joke. They’ve “moved on” from the election. Their marriages and civil rights aren’t going to be put up for invalidation. Their neighbors didn’t vote against their right to exist here. Their jobs and healthcare aren’t at risk.  They and their children aren’t the ones who will be put in “special neighborhoods” or made to wear identity badges, as some have proposed. One of my friends posted “Stop saying 2016 was terrible, it was great,” and I just feel like anything else that happened is necessarily or should be necessarily overshadowed by 11/9. Even if you aren’t a marginalized person, as an American you might think that the idea that an election was hacked or manipulated by a foreign power, especially that one, tips the scales — forget the celeb deaths. You would think as straight women they might feel alarmed or personally threatened by the assaults on women’s reproduction rights that are going to shift into hyper speed next year.

I keep telling myself “It can’t happen here,” but I know it can. A lifetime of Muslim paranoia about them “coming to get us” is coming to fruition. A lifetime of Muslim paranoia means I don’t know if I have perspective on this.  Within two months of seizing power, that Austrian man and his party began enacting laws and policies that drastically curtailed the civil rights of Jewish citizens and others.

In Islam, there’s always inshallah. It means you don’t know what’s going to happen. Only the god knows. “I’ll be there at 8, inshallah.” “I’m going to be going to college in the fall, inshallah.” Nothing about your future is ever concrete. It’s the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure book.  The inshallah belief has had a major impact in my ability to conceive of time and of the future, and to plan. So I can’t look at 1/21 and beyond and know with certainty that we’ll still be here, still be watching terrible reality shows, still have the kids pleading for a new video game, still be paying our bills. I don’t know where we will be in a year. I have no idea. None of us have any idea, really. We’ve no idea what’s coming at us, and it’s natural that people want to believe that it can’t happen here, that it can’t be that bad. For those of us who have lived in or worked in totalitarian states, we know it can happen anywhere, and it can be that bad.

I hope I can look back on this in four years and say “Wow, I was really wound up.”  But I don’t know.  We have 19 days before we enter an absolute unknown.  Mitt Romney would have been a known. Jeb Bush would have been a known. This is unknown.

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