The UnQuiet Resolution of Resistance, Meeting My Muslim Neighbors

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More than 300 of my neighbors got together this morning to build a stronger community.

I made a small resolution to myself on the eve of January 19, 2017. That I would not be silent. Of any of the things that happened in my world, I would no longer be silent.

When I discuss this resolution with my spouse, my closest friends, even my fellow artists, they laugh and scoff. “You? Quiet?” Eyebrows raised. Smiles big. Elbows ribbed.

I get it. I’ve been a storyteller, writer, photographer, journalist, communicator, and general rabble rouser my whole life. I’ve been marching against inequality, for justice, and defending what I believe in my whole life. I tell the world how I want it to be with how I live my life:  voting not only with ballot, but with conscience and dollars; raising my children to be the good in the world; tackling themes of fairness, justice, environmental stewardship, a world ruled by law and science, and love in all of my stories; and, putting my name behind the word Patriot and Dissident, for they are one in the same. I really haven’t been silent. Rather, I’ve been very active.

So when my circles laugh about me being silent, I can giggle, too. What I’m really mean to say is that I’m going to be LOUDER.  Anyone who has subscribed to this blog long enough, has friend-ed or followed me on social media, and especially know me in person, knows that I speak up all the time. I am engaged in my community. I participate in meetings, town halls, gatherings, symposiums regularly. But, clearly I need to be even more engaged. So my resolution evolved into doing one thing each day to resist the imbalance, the injustice raging in my country currently.

With that in mind, I attended my local mosque’s Meet Your Muslim Neighbor Event this morning. The gym of our community’s newest elementary school was packed to standing room only. Speakers from every corner of the religious spectrum and political spectrum were there and greeted the participants. There was some brief Muslim 101 given, tenets that show that the followers of Islam are a peace-loving, charity-focused, family-centered community. Everyone was super emotional, the fear for the current political climate palpable around the lunch tables and folding chairs near 300 people.  The people in this room — even a self-declared Trump voter — were there because they believe in this country and want peace and prosperity. They were there because they do not like what they are seeing happening in Washington D.C.: walls, bans, killing all the programs that help us take care of one another, the later being pillars of not only Muslim and Christian faiths, but of all the faiths in the room this winter Saturday morning.

Today chips in the walls of fear being built by the Trump administration were chipped away at with pens and paper, respect and hugs, sandwiches and coffee, and children from every part of the community playing together in the hallway. 

We sat with our neighbors from every ethnicity, every religion, every economic  background, and every age. We listened to the speakers, nodding, and realizing that we were all emotional because we were angered by the nonrepresentational actions of our leaders. Our anger brought us together because we want that anger used to create positive outcomes. There are two reactions to fear:  anger and hate. Hate is the reaction of the weak. Anger is the reaction of the courageous. Anger makes you want to work to change things. Hate makes you destroy things. I’m angry. My neighbor is angry. They’re no longer being silent. And I’m loud and getting louder. What Trump and his cronies in the district are doing is NOT OK. He is NOT my president. He does not represent My America. My America is not afraid. My America is accepting. My America doesn’t build walls. My America provides healthcare for all. My America doesn’t dismiss diversity. My America embraces all the fingers on the hand of this nation, like the Imam spoke in the gym this morning. A hand is made up of five fingers. None of them the same. But together they work together and give the hand great power. What are we going to do with that power? Build up or tear down. I choose to build. Not walls. But bridges, community, and acceptance.

Another message from the event which has stuck with me was that concept that it’s not the big things in life that require all the energy — it’s the every day, small details that create the biggest impact. I’m reminded of the quote from Anton Chekhov, that I’ve posted here before, “Any idiot can face a crisis — it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” It will be the small things like mutual respect for your neighbor, a kind word or action in the grocery store, a prayer said for those in leadership positions, a letter, a phone call, attending a meeting — these are the things that create great impact. Giant protest marches do good, too. But they are fueled by the smaller, every day moments that define us.

It’s the “US” in U.S. that was loud and clear today. After today’s event, everyone in that school gym knows they are not alone. I’m not alone.

Some coffee. Some talking. Some questions and answers. And some simple sandwiches afterward, created a stronger bond within my community. I hope to see more and more of this, with further and deeper actions following each small action. We need to not give in to fear or let our anger weary us into the hateful side of fear. We need to continue to not be silent. To speak up. To speak louder. To speak often. To resist. To resolve. To evolve, like evolving from silence to action.

So now what? We know we are many. We are not alone. We can take that anger and use it for good. Now we work to declare our communities sanctuaries. We dismiss dollars attached to fascist policy. We say No to that which does not serve justice, liberty, and freedom. We engage. We protest. We don’t give up. We get to know our neighbors. We organize. We resist. We fight. We take care of one another.

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