There’s a lot in the news just now about the events of January 20th, when a man many people in the US and worldwide regard as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and even mentally unstable was sworn in as the President of the most powerful nation on earth. So I tried to write a poem about my feelings regarding what I personally view as not just a heart-breaking but frightening turn of events – but nothing would come. So I thought, “Fuck it…my voice can do no good. There’s enough anti-Trump articles out there, what difference will one more make….who will care about what one immigrant has to say?”
But I kept remembering.
I am an immigrant. A legal immigrant from the USA – which I say not to disparage illegal immigrants, cause I don’t know their stories or what caused them to flee their countries and therefore I have no right to judge – to the UK, who immigrated for love. And though the man I originally moved to the UK for dumped me, it turned out to be a good thing, because meeting him led me to my adopted country – Scotland – and it led me to my current partner of eight years, who is the best man I’ve ever known (father and grandfather excepted).
So on January 20th, the day Trump was inaugurated, I found myself walking down to Dundee’s City Centre, where I protested in a demonstration against the new US President.
I am not a person who protests as a rule, in spite of being voted Most Radical Senior in my high school newspaper my senior year (much to the dismay of my parents). I can recall protesting three times in my life: the year Lt Calley was being court-martialled for the deaths at My Lai: it was Easter 1969, I was 11 years old, and my ‘protest’ consisted of writing “Free Lt Calley” in that invisible crayon pen that showed the letters on the egg once the egg had been dipped in dye. My father – who had served during the Korean conflict – was livid.
My second protest was in 1975. I was in junior high school – the UK equivalent of middle school. Rat turds had been found in the school cafeteria, so I encouraged the students who ate there every day to protest by bringing bag lunches. By my recollection, perhaps 20 students joined me.
The last time I protested was in 1988, when I called in sick to work on Nelson Mandela’s birthday to attend a protest march against his continued imprisonment.
I tell you this to show that I am a person who cares. That said, in the almost 30 years since my last protest, life – as it does – intruded. I had friends who died: some by natural causes, some by misadventure, some who were sadly murdered. And I had my own personal problems to contend with.
But on 20th January 2017, I remembered.
I remembered watching on telly as the election results rolled in the night of President Obama’s first election back in 2008. That night – having wisely taken the next day as annual leave – I had four friends watching the election with me: Tutu, a female student at Dundee Uni from Namibia, Ayo, a male student from Abertay, Myriam, my Muslim friend from Pakistan (the first Pakistani I’ve ever known), and Grace, a woman my age on benefits from Lochee, who admitted that until meeting me at a bus stop, she’d never had any interest in people of other cultures.
We were up until 5am watching as the election results rolled in. I remember the hope and the joy and the gaiety of that night: Myriam’s insistence that the smokers and the drinkers need not go into my kitchen to have a fag or a drink even though I’d told them to do that out of respect for her as it was my house and she was a guest and I smoke and drink myself, Myriam was insistent that we not leave the room on her account. Ayo’s somewhat drunken delight at finding himself the only male in “this roomful of beautiful women!” The way all my friends hugged me when Hilary made her concession speech. Halfway through the night, Grace hugged everyone and proclaimed us “the Rainbow Tribe.”
Fast forward to 20th January 2017. And I’m walking to Dundee’s City Centre on a mild January evening to protest against the Trump presidency.
Were thousands in attendance? No. Perhaps 200-300 were people gathered. But they were all people who – like me – viewed this new President with alarm and distrust.
What right thinking person mocks the disabled? Who publicly disrespects women, stating “you can grab them by the p**** and they’ll let you when you’re a celebrity” – this from a man with a mother, and daughters. One can only wonder how he would react if someone were to sexually harass or assault his mother, his sister, his wife, his daughter. This is a man who boasts of his Scottish heritage when it suits him to do so for the purpose of advancing his hated golf-course in Aberdeen whilst bullying those people who have refused to sell their homes to him. A man who denigrates immigrants while promising to “Make America Great” again, apparently indifferent to the fact that America has always been known as the “great melting pot” – it is a country founded and built by immigrants, a country that was great long before his ascendance to the office of President and whose greatness lay in her diversity.
So I proudly protested on inauguration day. Before leaving to attend the protest, I turned my TV to the Comedy Channel and left it there in solidarity with the many people who protested by refusing to watch televised proceedings of the farce in Washington. When the organizers of the Dundee protest – upon hearing what was obviously not a Dundonian accent – thrust the mike in my face and asked me to say a few words about how I felt, I was more than happy to oblige.
“But why do you care?” some of my friends back in the US have asked me. “You don’t even live here anymore!”
To them I reply that I was born and raised in the US. And though I have made my home in Scotland for the past 14 years, it doesn’t mean I love the land of my birth any the less. Like many immigrants who have moved for whatever reason, I am constantly torn between my homeland and the country where I now happily make my home. My family is in the US. My dearest friends are in the US. Also, I’m an honourably discharged veteran of the US Army, who sadly learned whilst in the Army the reality of being black in America.
Where I live now, I don’t have to worry about WWB or DWB. I can wander around any shop I choose without having a security guard follow me around because I’m black because “all black people steal”. When I am hired for a job, there are no whispered, spiteful remarks about equal opportunities and quotas. I can go anywhere with my white partner without fear or apprehension.
My fear is that all the things I currently enjoy will dissipate under a Trump administration. The rights of gays will be eroded. The right for a woman to choose what to do with her body will disappear. All the gains of the civil rights movement will be undone under the administration of a man who worships nothing but himself and mammon.
So for the next four years, I will protest whenever possible. Hopefully it won’t take four years.
I had a friend ask me the day before I posted a link on Facebook about the Dundee protest and my intention to attend it what good marches would do….what would a walk in Glasgow or Dundee accomplish? Too distraught at the time, thinking of what the new administration would mean to my family and friends back in the States, I was unable to respond to him clearly. But now, I would say to this friend:
Remember Gandhi and his followers – they marched.
Remember MLK and his followers – they marched.
Remember Mandela and his followers – they marched.
Remember the kid in Tiananmen Square and his followers – they marched.
But I won’t just protest. As a believer, I will pray for the land of my birth. And I will pray for those friends I have who are Trump supporters, that they are not too badly hurt when Trump lets them down.