Let me start by making something very clear – I am an Independent voter and don’t fully identify with any one party. I have voted for Democrats, Republicans, Independents as well as Green Party candidates. So when I say that in the days since the election, I have been utterly devastated, I do not say this because “my party lost”. I say this because of who I am.
First and foremost I am a woman. I am a confident, educated, healthy, independent feminist – and yet, I have still felt the humiliation of being objectified. For four and a half years, I worked in the male-dominated field of design and construction. I have been in several construction meetings where everyone was twice my age and a man. I have been laughed at in these meetings after declaring that “yes, I am the Project Architect on this project”. I wasn’t laughed at because of the quality of my work – I can say confidently that I am an excellent designer and project manager. I was laughed at because of the vessel I was born in. I have been ignored during project walk-throughs that I would be leading. Contractors would ask a man that I was with questions that only I knew the answer to merely because they saw the man as the boss and the “girl” as someone in a position that was “lesser than”. I get cat called and harassed by men every day. Every time I step out of my house I think about the high possibility of getting raped.
I am an Arab-American and a moderate Muslim. My parents emigrated here from Egypt in the early-80s and I was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1990 (I should note that my parents and siblings are all legal American citizens). After I was born, my family and I moved to Saudi Arabia and lived on an American compound. A lot of people ask me how my “English is so good” knowing that I lived in Saudi Arabia for almost half my life. Again, I lived on an American compound and the school system adopted the European system of learning. I grew up with people from all over the world and because of this, never realized that racism and segregation was a thing. I learned that all cultures were to be honored and celebrated. I knew a girl from Finland and one from Tasmania. I knew a boy from Bangladesh and one from Jordan. I also learned Arabic and English at the same time. I am fluent in both languages but frankly I speak and write English better. I moved to Pennsylvania in 2003 and attended an all-girls private school that was 95% white and Jewish. I started to realize that I was different once people started asking me how my “English is so good”, if my parents are “anti-Semitic”, and whether or not I “believed in Sharia law”. But hey, guess what? Once they got to know me, I became friends with a lot of those Jewish girls, and I’m still friendly with some of them today. They came to realize that at the core, I was no different than they were. It’s too bad everyone doesn’t realize this. People are still very much afraid of people like me. I have been discriminated against countless times. That’s why, every time I step out of my house, I think about the high possibility of becoming the victim of a fatal hate crime.
Finally, I am an Environmentalist. I am studying to get my Masters in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Policy at a fancy shmancy Ivy League School. It is quite possibly the most miserable thing for a human to study, especially when considering the fact that plenty of environmentalists hate politics, and several politicians hate environmentalists. I am studying the politics of the environment. Yeesh. From my studies, I’ve learned that in every way, our environment is screwed. Well, the earth is going to be fine. WE won’t be fine. Animals and humans won’t be fine. WE are screwed. The North Pole and Greenland are melting so fast that they WILL NOT EXIST in 15 years. Sea level rise will erase trademarks of American Culture – New Orleans, Miami, New York City, and San Francisco will flood and disappear in 30 years. Climate change will affect every single country and industry in every corner of the world. I could go on and on with statistics – but the biggest disaster is that so many still do not believe in science or at least pretend to because they own stock in coal. Science has somehow become debatable, even political. This is the most terrifying thing of all to me. Yeah, I risk getting raped and killed… and yet, I am most afraid of climate change issues and the denial of these issues. Do you blame me? I am afraid of walking out the front door into 10 feet of water!
More than anything, I think the state of the earth should not be a partisan issue. Everyone is at risk – not just poor people, not just brown people, not just women, not just scientists – EVERYONE. What frustrates me the most about this whole situation is people do not realize the economic potential of “going green”. “Going green” would be like a brand new “New Deal” for America. It would create a ridiculous amount of jobs for EVERYONE and make it much easier for us to sustain our American lifestyles and resources. Struggling coal mining towns could be flourishing solar panel farming towns. People who have been laid off from the automotive industry could enter a government program that could set them up with a job at Tesla. People who have been losing yields at their farm to droughts could get federal funding for starting an underground farm, or vertical farm, or aquaponics farm. There are so many possibilities. It would be like the moon landing – America would start an amazing new era of sustainability that would be the envy of the world – and we would do it all without sacrificing clean water and clean air. This is my dream.
Here’s the thing, after all this, I haven’t lost hope for every part of me, because I love every part of me. I love being a woman. I love my culture. I love what I study. I love my country, and I love the planet that hosts my country. I love my fellow Americans, even the ones that deeply disagree with every part of me. This love is what drives me every day. I will not stop fighting for my loves, no matter how much they are met with hate. I still hold onto the dream that the “Green New Deal” will come to an all-embracing America sometime in the future. I believe this because of the immense love I feel – and love will always be stronger than fear. Every time I step out of the house, I remember this, and I keep on walking.