US President Donald Trump's "America First" policy has only succeeded in leaving behind and alienating many Americans.
In 2015, I had the privilege and honour of serving on the US delegation to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. As a young woman growing up in Pakistan, I could never have imagined that I would one day get an opportunity to represent and uplift my adopted country’s mandate to work harder on behalf of women and LGBTI people in the developing world.
I sat in the same hallowed UN chamber where Donald Trump delivered his speech as president.
It felt surreal listening to Trump's “America first” rhetoric and his report that the US is doing well. I couldn’t help but reflect on how much has changed in the last year, and how we have shifted from a country that took a bold stance on supporting human rights abroad - to a country that is cracking down on its own marginalized communities. From a country with strong diplomatic ties, to a country that wants to withdraw within its borders.
How can our success be measured only in economic growth and increased military spending when our country is burning with white supremacist hate, and the rights of so many marginalized communities are being systematically and consistently rolled back?
How can the president of the United States critique authoritarian regimes without acknowledging that his administration is fast resembling one of them, with people in the streets of American cities marching for justice while his administration—reversing an Obama era policy—once again approves supplying local and state police departments with surplus heavy military weapons?
How can Trump talk about peace, freedom, justice, family and humanity when immigrants, LGBTI people, women, people of colour and Muslims are targeted by his administration, including crackdowns by ICE that involve going to hospitals and courthouses? Families are being torn apart, neighbours are turning on neighbours, and people are scared for their very lives.
There is no justice, and there is no peace in today’s America.
Trump's harsh critiques and name-calling of black athletes protesting racial injustice and policing policy compared to the president's finding some "very fine people" among the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville is yet another example of his attack on marginalized communities - using the power of the highest office in the U.S.
Trump talks about being guided by outcomes not ideology. Yet, his administration continues to practice the opposite. In fact, his administration’s delegation to the UN, to the very same conference I attended, has included the Center for Family & Human Rights, C-FAM, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBT hate group.
He asks us, “What is possible when people take ownership of their future?”
That question mocks those of us who know that many in our communities will not survive this administration. He mentioned the word “sovereignty” 21 times, sovereignty of the US, as well as of other nation states. But what about those of us who are targeted within our own borders, those of us who cross borders in the hope of a better life or a just life but are rendered stateless, those of us whose hearts belong to several countries at once?
After Charlottesville, and the president’s remarks equating neo-Nazis and KKK members and those who came to protest against them, “America first” means only white supremacists in this country come first.
The rest of us will continue to pay the price for this isolationist strategy. We have so much to learn from our friends in the developing world who have survived autocratic regimes.
In this interconnected global world, isolationism and fundamentalism are different sides of the same coin and those of us at the margins, no matter where, always pay the heaviest price.
In 2015 I was so proud to have been asked to serve on that delegation. I am a middle-class queer girl from Karachi, no family connections or wealth. Yet, I was seen as someone who could bring a unique perspective as someone born and raised in Pakistan, but spending my formative college and work years in the US.
These days, I question how someone like me can continue to exist here. But I also continue to think about the resistance.
Recently I brought together a group of young Muslim leaders to work on reproductive justice, LGBTI rights and immigrant rights. Their vision of the world they want to live in and their love for one another left me in awe.
I wish for a country and a world that is beautiful enough and bold enough to hold them. Let’s get working on that.
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