“I highly recommend you vote for Trump” the words had dropped on us out of nowhere. I was walking to class with a friend, and we had stopped to say hello to a groundskeeper. He was a nice old guy who would always be kind to the students. Even when he caught us smoking on school grounds, he was very nice about it and merely told us to move across the street away from the school property—nice old man. And there, sitting on his lawnmower, he casually looked in my eyes and began listing all of the reasons why Trump should be elected and how he was going to “drain the swamp” and was using his own funds and couldn’t be bought by anyone else.
He was not unique. Many people that I looked up to and considered bright and compassionate were adamant about Trump. But for some reason, that conversation with him specifically stood out. And when Trump said racist things, did a travel ban, began heavy deregulation, began fighting to remove federal protection of land and wildlife, I thought of him. With every inflaming tweet, terrible crime, allegation of sexual assault, blatant sexism, and fueling of extremism, I thought of that guy. When the capital was stormed, I wondered where he stood on that. In my imagination, he began to cry. The tears began as the images flooded the airwaves –an insurrection, a deadly attack led by violent extremists. Between sobs he began saying, “I’m sorry, I was completely wrong. I surely thought there would be a line drawn a warning sign that couldn’t be crossed…”
I will no longer think of him. I will no longer think of how I merely nodded along that day and tried my best to not be confrontational. Like all the other times with the many people, I worked with, went to university with, grew up with–my silence, a peace offering to remain amicable. I will no longer think of them. I will no longer carry any guilt of simply being brown—of being the son of illegal immigrants. For a long time, I convinced myself and everyone around me that my parents did it the right way. That we respected the law, were honest, worked hard, and we weren’t like those other bad immigrants. I will no longer beg for forgiveness. Beg for acceptance. I will not bow my head avert my eyes and reply meekly as anyone interrogates my right to be in any space. I will not shudder and quickly explain myself as a fellow veteran barks at me, “you checking out that alarm system? Is that alarm system good enough for you?” His eyes and words implying that I was trying to steal a car when I was only trying to help a woman in distress over a dog in that car. I will no longer be silent. I will be brave. And I will be beautiful.