You're Red in More Ways than One

By Iqra Nadeem (Brooklyn College Undergraduate)

You’re red in more ways than one.

In the electoral college map, the overwhelming red.

In the bloodshot eyes of my friends who stayed up late Tuesday night, hopeful yesterday but teary-eyed today, who got up early in the morning, still. For many of us, this was our first time voting. We wanted it to mean something. You see, my generation hasn’t ever experienced loss; we’ve always won, with our values, with social media, with entrepreneurship, with social justice. It felt like the day after a big game, when your home team loses. It’s dispiriting.

In the photo of the red-capped Trump supporters whose faces are lit up at the news of him wining Ohio.

In my mother’s flushed face because the mention of your president-elect elicits duaa from her lips, a prayer to God, a prayer of one who has been pained. Those are always answered.

In the red leaves that lie fallen and squelched on the ground because that was all I could see on Wednesday morning on my way to class. It seemed easier to count leaves than to think about the number of people who not only voted a demagogue but who essentially voted against us. I think I counted 75 before I lost count; counting, too, requires focusing.

But lest we forget, we’ve always seen red from you America. In your communist purge of the 60s that red-baited civil rights activist, in your red-lining that nurtured the de facto segregation in the North, especially in NY, in the literal blood of my black brothers and sisters who are so ruthlessly slain, their deaths becoming mundane, in the red hue of the land of the indigenous people that you’ve robbed for 240 years and clearly you haven’t stopped. In Buddhism, there is this concept of dukkha, that everything we experience follows cycles of highs and lows, that our actions are karmic, that what you do matters. Malcolm X in describing the case of “the chickens coming home to roost”, kind of said the same thing. In the context of the Vietnam War and the assassination of President Kennedy, Malcolm X beckons the audience to consider how the United States could expect to maintain its peace if it went around the world, especially in Vietnam, wreaking all sorts of havoc. He probably would have said the same thing today, given the current state of the union. How can we, the American people, expect our country to remain grounded if the people in whose hands our country is entrusted are complicit in the violence that is happening all around the world? How can we expect it to not come back to us, in the form of hurt, like Trump?

So before we dive into mourning the visceral loss of our values, maybe we should make clear what those values really are - what their place is in our society. Maybe Trump is a godsend because now we’ll finally start building the social infrastructure that has been lacking and dismantling the existing one, which abuses and limits us. The Quran says, “Indeed with hardship comes ease” (94:5). In its every passing, hardship brings with it some glimmer of hope, some room to grow and in our case, some roots to overturn. Racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia need to be rooted out. Not only to bar more proto-fascists from taking the White House but also to change the attitudes of the sixty million Americans who help such people get there.

Let Trump be the wound, the paper cut we we weren’t expecting, the hurt from our fall from what we thought was a never-ending roller-coaster. It will heal. But if we keep picking at the scab, if we keep focusing on Trump, then we won’t. We have to hold the entire system accountable. But for now, we need to love. Love and be loved. There has already been a great outpouring of love and expression in our communities. Students on my college campus organized a healing circle where everyone contributed to the dialogue of supporting one another and turning to one another. It was a Bandung experience. This is healing. Many oppressed groups are forming coalitions and opening up their arms to welcome others who feel targeted because of their beliefs and color and race and region and ethnicity and gender and sexuality. Muslims Giving Back, a charity organization in Brooklyn, is starting free self-defense classes for women of all race, religion, ethnicity, beliefs. This is healing. Matthew Chavez, a street artist, started Subway Therapy on the subway station at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, in an effort to promote positivity. People were asked to express themselves and many took to posting nice messages on the wall. This is healing. 

But you only learn to love another if you’ve already learned to love yourself. Love your body, your skin, your color, your race, your religion, your ethnicity, your culture, your heritage. Develop a steadfast love of yourself that protects you from the random, debilitating insult thrown at you by this invalidating society we live in. This is healing.