Flying Home During the Immigration Ban and Feeling Guilty

Flying home and feeling guilty

Illustration by Breanna Cooke

As I entered the Denver airport to catch my flight back to Dallas Sunday, it didn’t matter that I was late. I moved in slow motion, studying the faces and signs protesting the immigration ban ordered by President Donald Trump. I’m flying home during the immigration ban and feeling guilty.

I get to go home, but I didn’t earn this right to be treated differently — with respect. I simply was born in the United States. I’m uncomfortable with this privilege. Confused. I thought our country believes in innocence until proven guilty. Now we assume guilt simply based on a birth country.

And this is only week one. Trump’s handlers promise it’s only the beginning.

What I understand our country stands for has been turned upside down, for the worse. Lessons of the past forgotten, a divide over beliefs separating us further apart.

Confused & Feeling Guilty

I fear it will get worse.

Eighteen million Americans, including me, could lose their health care coverage. Friends could be deported. A woman’s right to have an abortion could be in jeopardy.

I’ve called my U.S. Senators. Ted Cruz’s office simply added me to their email list without my permission, which I plan to report.

I’m resentful, feeling powerless and uncertain what actions I can take to stop policies I abhor and cannot understand. I’ve tried watching Fox News. I know why Trump praises the network. They beat up anyone willing to come on and question him, even an elected mayor.

What Can I Do?

I force myself to listen to the conservative A.M. radio station during commercial breaks on NPR. The zany commercials are the only tolerable aspect.

I’ve tried — in earnest — to understand Trump’s supporters. Conversations haven’t gone well. Yes, dad, I’m talking to you. Instead of gaining understanding, it’s polarizing.

Strangers sharing a common table have been more interested in lecturing than connecting. His friend offered us money to take him off his hands for an hour. No amount would suffice.

I donate money to the ACLU and think of other organizations to financially support. I joined a group of women looking to make a difference at the state level.

It’s hardly enough.

I’m grateful for the attorneys at the airport, foregoing their time with loved ones and their own work, volunteering to help those stuck in a system with new rules that none of us understand.

But what else can I do?

I understand Trump was elected by the electoral college, but it still feels horrible to have a leader you do not trust. Whose words you cannot take at face value. Where what isn’t said is more important than what is.

From dismissing the women’s march to throwing support behind the pro-life movement, I’m not comfortable my interests as a woman will be protected.

Trump has taken on things I believe in, including the importance of the media while framing those who question him as liars. He’s creating a Cold War within our own country, and I fear we’re playing along, encouraging the divide.

We’re unable to have civilized conversations to try and find common ground. I fear the next four years will be a scary roller coaster, lots of twists and turns filled with uncertainty.

It’s not whether you agree with my beliefs, but how any of us can ensure our voice is heard among all the noise.

Luckily there is some good news — we are paying attention! Taking to the streets, demanding to be heard, refusing to be ignored. Offering to help. Taking action.

It’s the only thing providing me any inner peace. Knowing what I believe in, what I stand for and what’s okay and not okay — for my own moral compass. It doesn’t matter what the president tells me should be right — and wrong. I get to make that decision for myself, and that is one of the greatest freedoms we have and need to protect.

I hope as a society we’re realizing the danger of putting in the White House a showman who tweeted his way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. That we’re realizing 140 characters of nasty isn’t the same as a well thoughtout and executed strategy.

It’s hurting all of us, and it’s only with the chorus of our concerns can we change course, and I don’t see that we have any other choice. I made my flight home, slept in my own bed. Sadly, many others didn’t.

Column first appeared in the Katy Trail Weekly.
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