February is almost over now, and for many reasons, I have not had a chance to take a moment and reflect on a new year.
This brief personal reflection will mostly be about the transition the US is making and the events that have begun in this critical transition.
Last month, the world witnessed something quite dramatic and I had the opportunity in Washington DC during this time to experience and witness a few unforgettable moments.
Before the inauguration events, I took a moment to walk through downtown DC in Washington to take a few pictures, which I have done quite a bit over the years. I walked through the White House area, and Washington Monument, National Mall and Capitol building area, and breathed in the city, thinking about what it has meant to me the past 7-8 years. It was an emotional walk, reflecting on the kinds of changes that may happen the next four years.
It was a pleasant final visit before the inauguration, to enjoy the beauty and history of what has become my second home, with a somewhat good conscience, before a President that did not represent my values, came into office. As I walked up to the White House, I recited a few prayers (in Arabic and English). Of course these memorials remain special and significant regardless of who takes leadership, but it would feel a little different for me.
I took a walk around the White House, which of course was blocked at the time, and then towards the Monument and National Mall area, and all the way up to the Capitol building. It was a really peaceful walk,…though the protests had already begun at this time. In recent years, I have only been in that Capitol area seldomly, but that day, I felt a hint of nostalgia, as I reflected on my time in DC the past 7-8 years, at the personal level and generally, and the dreams that begun to sprout with my first ever visit to DC for the week-long National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense, Intelligence, and Diplomacy when I was 17 in 2002, as well as general reflections about what is to come for our future. The restricted area signs felt a little symbolic of what the climb has been like in Washington, DC, for me.
At the inauguration days later, it was a gloomy afternoon with massive crowds, lots of clashing among various groups..almost impossible to get through security check points into Capital and Mall area … but I had the opportunity to witness a few different protests that day… I was honored to have stood with Standing Rock protesters,,… while the President was inaugurated…wouldn’t have wanted it any other way… they were incredible people.Thinking about that day, I remember I had come to the inauguration protests assuming I would only be an anthropologist, an observer, and perhaps a “fly on the wall” distant protester/supporter, but when a young woman grabbed my hand and locked her arm with mine yielding me to the front of the “wall” with just a thick metal fence being pushed against me by the military police, the diplomat took a back seat, and what emerged and blossomed was the inner revolutionary… Some people I met at the inauguration protests were telling me that it was one of the more effective protests… and It was really moving. What moved me most, was the song they were all singing while blocking Trump supporters from going past the check point, and the song continues to be stuck in my head since then. Unfortunately, the President did sign an executive order to move forward with the Dakota Access pipeline construction, so it is a heartbreaking if nothing came of all the National outrage.
The next day was truly phenomenal in many respects. I joined the Women’s march, among the signs and chants, and overcrowded people, you could feel the social capital, the energy and it was amazing to be on the ground where all the action was..…Also, it is generally very difficult for me to leave home without any makeup on, but that morning I did it…put on my gilmore girls feminist shirt and my semicolon project necklace that says “and so she goes on” and headed out the door to what was a very empowering day….I have participated in many protests, but this was the largest I’ve experienced in my life…DC was destroyed that night, and littered with signs all around the city from the White House, to the Monument, to the Capital building and Museums, and around downtown….I think we did get the message across that when “the people unite, they will never be defeated”…
It was pretty amazing to have been part of the history having marched with nearly a million people in Washington, DC, and among the millions around the US and the world… Truly a breathtaking phenomenal experience… Much had been said and written already about this day and I have my personal observations and reflections, but I just want to say that I hope the voices will continue to remain loud and will be heard, and it has been wonderful to see that the energy and power of the people has progressed and I hope it will continue to do so in the months, and years forward… We must be ready for a fight on a personal and collective level going forward…
We may have many excuses for not being able to engage in our communities or civic life, but not knowing what to do simply can’t be one of them now… Consistency is key. And this I believe is an applicable lesson for us on a personal level for everything we aim to do… Consistency is just as important for our personal mental health and well-being…
Looking at it from a different perspective, there is also much light in this. This election and this presidency has given a national platform for many people who’s voices have been silenced and these communities have been capitalizing on it, which is great.
I think in some ways there is wisdom in loving your “enemies.” Sometimes, in some cases, more than your friends. Because it is those that box you in, that make you think and live outside that box.
Let us remember to remain steadfast in our values of peace, social justice, and more beyond this election…
The people’s movement will get stronger than ever, day by day, …I am confident our social capital will become greater and our boundaries will expand…
Though we live in a new world right now, in some respects greatly devastating and challenging, we should embrace this challenge and struggle and grow from it. I am someone who embraces these moments as challenges, because I have had to embrace a particular difficult and dynamic struggle my entire life. I am confident and positive there are many great things to look forward to for us, at a personal and collective level, even if it may take a lot more time to get there.
Happy Belated New Year, my dear friends. Wishing you all a prosperous and productive 2017.
Your Warrior Queen,
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
– Howard Zinn