Ever since the election, I've been talking to people a lot more than I used to, striking up conversations with strangers that look friendly, asking them about themselves. Something in me is telling me to try and connect with people around me, even though it takes some effort, because by nature I am a fairly introverted extrovert.
I'm reaching out, making conversations.
My uber driver to the Nashville airport was an immigrant, from Northern Iraq. Jahmir's been in the US since the 90's. He received asylum in America, for safety from torture under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. He has a wife, two children. He has kind eyes, and a gentle voice. I told him it was a pleasure to meet him, and that I was glad he was my driver. I tried to make my eyes say that I saw him, I liked him, and that I was safe to talk to. I tried to make him feel welcome and comfortable.
As we started talking, he said he is an American citizen, but ever since the election people were calling him a foreigner, and treating him differently. People who he thought were his friends are turning on him, and he is afraid for his family. He said he was worried about his children, but that he believes if they just stay kind, and be nice to everyone, everything is going to be ok. He talked about how shocking it is to think someone is your friend, and then as they pull away, to see that they never were.
I told him that I understood. It is happening to me too, now. I told him I am gay. Some people who I thought were my friends are now pulling away from me too. I told him someone drew a swastika on the door of the West End Methodist Church where I go to meetings, and trashed the “God Loves Everyone” banners.
He said, “But we are all alike, there is no such thing as different! Humans, we are all human.” I said yes, I know, I know. But there are many who do not know, and they have been given license to openly hate. I told him that people like you, and me, we’re at risk for violence, and we have to be careful. His face looked sad, and he looked down. Then he looked up again and said, “But this is a great country, a great place to live!” I said, “Yes, yes, it is. It is. I know we will find a way to get through this time of violence and hate. We are better than this."
When he dropped me off at the airport, he helped me with my bags, and we hugged.
We told each other to stay safe.