Bigly Fears

Last November, my journal was filled with pages blank from neglect. Donald Trump had just won the presidential election, and although writing often paves a way to truth for me, this time, I could manage only one sentence: I’m scared.     

I’m scared had hummed over the last two decades of my life: I had feared loneliness before I married,  then I feared myself during the marriage and most recently, I had felt frightened of making it on my own once I left my husband.

I now feel alarmed in a completely new way.

The magnitude of Trump’s win arrived like slow-drip coffee. It was almost imperceptible at first, but suddenly, there was a cup of it. Then, the cup overflowed with scalding, hot water. Analysts posited that Trump won because he had tugged at deep-seated anxieties among many Americans, particularly regarding perceived external threats like terrorism and illegal immigration. Well, I have my own set of apprehensions now that Trump is sitting in the Oval office.          

I’m afraid that I will lose my health care along with millions of Americans who can’t afford coverage without subsidies.         

I’m afraid that the country’s food security is under threat, because the administration might retract trade agreements with those that feed us — countries like China and Mexico. Mass deportations of undocumented immigrants will cause the U.S. agricultural system to collapse, and as a consequence, food prices will dramatically increase.         

I’m afraid that environmental issues now sit on death row.

I’m afraid that changes to immigration policy will further militarize local law enforcement who will be expected to act in tandem with Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) agents.  The government recently increased law enforcement responsibilities with 287(g) under the guise of targeting undocumented immigrants. Counties that don’t comply could face financial penalties. Cooperation with ICE has been voluntary, but may eventually be federally mandated. This will set a precedent that will inevitably impact other targeted communities: people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, Muslims, or anyone who dares to dissent.          

I’m afraid my city will no longer be able to protect me. Some Republican state legislatures have already passed laws curtailing cities’ power.  Meanwhile, Trump is threatening to pull funding from Sanctuary Cities committed to protecting immigrants and the undocumented. These moves will likely legally bar local governments, or at least financially reprimand them, from passing ordinances in favor of protecting some of the most vulnerable segments of society.           

Of course, there’s another issue: I am Muslim.           

I’m am afraid that with the passage of time,  the administration will only amp up its use of  language that dehumanizes and discredits Muslims as a whole.  The initial execution order banned immigration from “terror prone countries” — seven Muslim majority countries.  The ban received pushback in federal court. Yet, another similar executive order is expected soon.  

The administration is considering changing the name of the Counter Violence Extremism (CVE) program to Countering Violent Islamic Extremism.  Meanwhile, a proposed law sponsored by Ted Cruz would label many Muslims and Islamic organizations in the U.S. as connected to terrorism in some way, thereby leaving Muslim activism of any sort subject to suspicion and prosecution. Meanwhile, hate crimes are on the rise, including vandalism and  bomb threats against mosques and Jewish community centers, all of which tells us that the government is encouraging a culture of suspicion against religious minorities.

I’m afraid that America’s system of checks and balances is in peril. Too many Congressmen and women seem to be in lockstep with Trump. Recently, North Carolina introduced legislation that makes it illegal to publicly dissent against elected state officials. North Dakota takes it a step further; lawmakers have proposed legislation that will legalize “accidentally” running over protestors if they are blocking streets. That bill was voted down 40-51 on February 20th. Yet, the number of lawmakers who voted for it  makes me fearful, too.           

I’m afraid of the surge in white nationalist militias who could try to make America “great” by their own violent means.  In a nation populated with armed civilians, I shudder to imagine the consequences for anyone who dissents or criticizes. Just one domestic terrorist attack would empower this administration — or localized white nationalist groups — to take more control In the age of fake news and fictional massacres, it will be impossible to discern the real truth about such an occurrence, and the blame will likely land on the most convenient scapegoats–Muslims and/or immigrants.

I realize that this all sounds like an awful B-movie script. But remember, Americans elected a reality TV personality as President.           

The 13-century Persian Muslim poet Rumi said that fear is the cheapest room in the house. I tend to agree with that sentiment. The currency of fear put Donald Trump in the White House and it is this same fear that has cheapened America.           

My journal pages remain blank. I’m still scared, but I remain motivated to respond to these times within my capabilities. For me, that means writing, reaching out to others in my city, performing interfaith work, and (sometimes) protesting.  It’s art, good food, great literature, and being joyous at times. This list of slow drip items will not offer immediate results, but these little droplets of good will eventually break the dam if others are slow dripping too.


Deonna Kelli Sayed is an author and journalist. She coordinates “Ask A Muslim Anything Series” at her local independent bookstore.  She is currently working on a memoir about love, faith, and ghosts. To learn more, visit dksayed.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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