Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Tyranny of Now

As salaam alaikum,

I almost have no words for this time. I'm so happy that I got to marry before the storm, in a time of relative tranquility, in the time of the first President I voted for that I was proud to call mine, flawed and polemic as some of his policies were. I was a black woman marrying a white man in the era of our first black president, born of black and white. We wed in the waning time of hope and progress. We spend our first married weeks in a time of turmoil.

My husband, bless his heart, doesn't want me to worry. My husband, accordingly, is used to compartmentalizing himself away from fear when certain things do not directly affect him. We are both citizens. We will be provided good insurance from our employers. If I want long-acting birth control, I can afford to pay $800 for it out-of-pocket, and we have no pre-existing conditions. He is not from a country on the current travel ban. If public schools go to hell, insha'Allah we'll be able to afford to get our kids into private school. We live on a literal hill, above it all, protected from flood and tsunami, protected in a way that we can be at all times blissfully unaware, if we so chose, to what is happening below.

I am not used to ignoring those things that do not apply to me. Everything applies to us all, as long as we are all human. More than any one group of people in my life, the executive actions of this administration so far has and will affect the people I trained to serve--my patients. My patients are low-income, immigrant and refugee. They are documented and undocumented. Thirty percent of them are insured by my state's Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

When I heard the election results, I curled up in a ball and cried for these people who I've dedicated this big part of my life to, for all of the rights and necessities that would be stripped away from them. In that sorrowful way, I have not been disappointed.

I hurt for my patients. I am trying to find the best ways to be active, but recognize at the same time that I am newly married and have this relationship to nurture. When my colleagues were protesting at SeaTac airport the recent Muslim ban, I was present for a business meeting my husband had at our home. I balance the desire to start a family right away with the reality that I will bring children into. Are we headed for a coup? Will the US see its first dictator? Do I want to wait (even longer than we've already waited) for things to become more stable?

I don't know.

He doesn't want me to worry. This is a man who lived in a communist country, protested as a child, lived as an undocumented immigrant in another country, immigrated legally to North America and forged a gradual road to citizenship. He has seen a lot, probably a lot worse. I respect his perspective.

But I will not sit idly by just because I, personally, will be alright. Because those who I serve will not, and to the extent that I empathize with every patient that enters my exam rooms, I will not be alright.

And this is not to speak of the friends and family members who are more directly impacted.

And this is not to speak of how, with any given tomorrow, this could be any one of us. My new Muslim surname, my old Muslim self, the daughter of an immigrant, the wife of an immigrant...anything.

It's reached the point where most happiness is hollow.

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