over Trail Ridge Road
you’ll visit every season
(finding home in each)
from spring to winter,
Colorado wins my heart
the best home on earth
family’s found here too:
in fires and puffed pancakes
bigger than ourselves
it’s that blue sky range
just past the elk on the trail
that leads our hearts home
one week after snow:
sunny summer theme park day
because spring’s fucked up
Nearly nineteen years into our marriage, it is time for new furniture. A friend came over the other night, and as the girls piled onto my lap on the sofa claiming their right to me, the wooden leg busted underneath, exposing the reality of its twenty-year-old, hand-me-down state.
Hence, Bruce and I spent four hours today driving between stores, researching cat-scratching deterrents, and deciding on a leather reclining non-power furniture set… that we didn’t buy.
Instead, we continued our twenty-first century journey to the grocery stores. We bought the usual to feed our family of five: avocados and cilantro for our weekly need for fresh guacamole, bananas, apples, and clementines to fill lunch bags, chicken and sushi to make our dinners.
And something more: a stockpile of nonperishables. Beans. Pasta sauce. Brown rice. Cans of soup. Tea. Flour. Canned tomatoes.
Yesterday, my husband of nearly nineteen years and the man so nonviolent that he cringed at the idea of actually killing an elk the one time he went hunting, told me he thought it might be time to buy a gun.
Today, we decided to save our $2000 on furniture because we might need it to stock up on food and provisions before the coming of the war that inevitably will destroy our democracy.
This is what Sundays have become. There is no joy in errand-running, no hope for a new living room set. There is the impending doom of a future that none of us can predict nor look forward to. There are three girls in our home whom I fear will not have a future at all. There are tweets and executive orders and absent investigations and jaw-dropping obstruction.
Soon there will be food shortages. Rations. Militia.
It is all around the bend as we navigate from city to suburb to city on the highways brought to us by progressivism, searching for what we need today, for what we might need tomorrow.
This is what our Sundays have become: me sitting in my nearly-nineteen-year-old recliner, hoping this marriage, this world, my children, will live to see another nineteen years.
Red hair, green eyes, tall and sure of himself, he peeks into my room, searching for a familiar face after lunch. I have seen this look before, as my students often seek their native-language counterparts.
“Who are you looking for?” I ask, the after-lunch crowds raucously meandering around our conversation.
“I am looking for you. I am a new student.” His accent is smooth and meticulous, genteel and articulate.
“Oh, OK. What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Iran? … And… how did you get here??” But I have to look away because the tears are already in my eyes.
“I boarded the plane on Friday morning. I was in the last group of Iranians to come.”
I want to continue the conversation, but I can’t. I can’t because the tears will fall. I can’t because I have to teach for the next ninety minutes. I can’t because every waking moment of my life since this election, since this inauguration, have become a cycle of servitude. Of serving this need or the next, of wishing for this and receiving that, of hoping for the best and seeing the worst.
Instead I tell him where to sit and hand him a hard copy of I Am Malala. We will listen to the lilting Pakistani accent from Audible today as we continue to highlight human rights violations from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (we will highlight thirteen incidents in three chapters; we will connect media suppression and fascism and women’s rights to an education too closely to our lives; we will hear Fazlullah’s rants with an American accent).
My weekly volunteer returns from the library after a time with a group of students. She meets with my Iranian student to explain to him his role in the group as they create posters connecting Malala’s experiences to the UDHR. He fits in well and tells the group he cannot draw very efficiently, so can he please have the role of interpreting the quotation from the chapter and connecting it to the UDHR document?
He has been here for five days. He got in on the LAST PLANE.
After class, my retired-white-woman volunteer asks, “If he just got here from Iran, how come he can speak English?”
And that is when I decide.
I have to start here. Right in this moment. With this woman who drives one mile from her upscale mansion in Cherry Creek North to “make a difference.”
“Pretty much all of the students who come here learned English before they came. Usually only the refugees have interrupted schooling. But most countries start teaching English when the kids are in kindergarten.”
I swear her jaw drops ten inches. She wants to say something, but she doesn’t have the words to describe her ignorance.
And now you know, I want to say. But I don’t. I don’t cry when I want to, because I have to be strong for them. I don’t tell her that Trump’s America is not my America, not Arvin’s America. I don’t tell her that the combination of students in this room represents the values of our country better than most Americans I know. That a red-headed Iranian entering my classroom five days past an executive order banning Muslims is as beautiful to me as Ziauddin’s tears in the New York Times documentary as he sees Swat for the first time in three months (which we watch at the end of class).
Instead, I say, “Thank you for your help. I’ll see you next Wednesday.”
And that is all I can do to resist.
All for today.
Where is my place in this America? It is the question asked by millions, and so frequently no answer is ever offered. Our collective experiences often lead us to both hate and love this country. It’s a balance, a scale, ready to tip as easily towards hate as towards love.
I am a white woman. It is a blessing and a curse. It comes with white privilege and preferential treatment. It comes with the burden of white privilege and preferential treatment. Because yes, these are burdens. I participate in the historical women’s march and am demonized for the privilege the protesters are allowed by law enforcement since the organizers and protesters are primarily white. I am reminded that “white women voted for Trump” even though I am not one of those white women.
I am trapped between feeling like I want to do everything to stop the hatred that has taken over the world and feeling like no matter what I do, nothing will change. Trump will continue to sign executive order after executive order (ten so far in three business days) stripping every last one of us from our human rights. I have signed at least 100 petitions since election day. I have posted on social media. I have spoken to friends and family about my beliefs. I have supported my students as best as I can while “remaining neutral” (a requirement of the school district). I have called the Department of Justice, my senators, my congress men and women (only to be blocked, to receive a busy signal, or be directed to a full voicemail box).
Where is my place in this America? As a mother of three daughters, a wife of a white man, a teacher of refugee and immigrant students, a Democrat, an atheist, an idealist?
Because white women have betrayed me. Defriended me. Voted for Trump (58% of them??).
Because mothers don’t seem to care that we have a president who brags about grabbing women by their pussies.
Because white men (nothing like my husband)–63%–voted for a man who publicly mocked a disabled reporter.
Because Democrats voted for third party candidates instead of Clinton.
Because I spend my day surrounded by non-whites from every culture and religious belief you can imagine, and I don’t belong with any of them, other than as a figurehead to the white world that is Our America.
Where is my place in this America? I can’t seem to find it. I search in my students’ eyes, my daughters’ artwork, my husband’s anti-government views… And no matter where I look, I feel homeless. Hopeless.
I am searching for what we have lost and will continue to lose. Seeking the solace of activists and friends. Pouring myself into research and writing. Studying law and politics and fact-checking every last piece of media. Taking the time to understand how horribly impactful the violation of human rights can be, how that violation trickles from person to person until the entire society buckles under itself.
And all I can ask, all I keep asking as I am surrounded by doubt and alternative facts and fact-checkers and protests and postcards and last-ditch efforts, is where is my place in this America?
Where is yours?