9 november, 2016 -the world I had previously refused to imagine is here. The news that Donald Trump was to be the 45th President of the United States hit me with a force. My new Italian husband could only hug me through my tears and try to tell me to try not to care so much, my life is in Italy now.
But I do care. I take this year’s election results very personally for several reasons, least of all because of my political leanings. On August 24, I arrived in Italy as a tourist and on October 26, I got married to an Italian citizen. Italy is in the midst of a crisis struggling to deal with an influx of refugees and asylum seekers. The news is flooded with images of people barely surviving, desperate for a new start and a better life.
There are outsiders coming into this country too and I am one of them.
I made the decision to move to Italy to be able to be with my husband. When two people from two different countries decide to live life together–tell me where do they go to live? In this highly globalized society- how do we decide who gets to stay and who has to leave our borders? Where do we draw the line that says this marriage is legal and yet this other one is illegal? I don’t presume to be able to empathize with those who have endured life-threatening journeys in order to escape physical danger. I don’t know what it feels like to be in love with someone and live in a society that has elected a government that wants our union to be seen as illegal under the law. But I do know that this stirring in my gut tells me that something is wrong and that I feel the injustice.
Even when we don’t understand and have no connection to others’ circumstances, we as adults can and should choose compassion.
The times I have been labeled an immigrant have always been innocuous. I feel a bit ludicrous even labeling myself as one now, but it is my reality. As I stood for hours in line outside of the questura (police station) in the November chill among people from all over the world, I realized something:
I am no better or worse than the people in front or behind me in this line.
Think about the real people who you want to build up walls to keep out. Are they the families that live on the other side of the railroad tracks in your town? Are they the people who wash the dishes in the bakery you love for Sunday brunch? Are they your friends who moved abroad for work? Are they your friends who moved to Korea to teach English? Are they your friends’ daughter who got married in Italy? Are they that much different from you?
I am both expat and immigrant. I am a human. All of us have a different story that brought us to where we are today. We are your great-grandparents and your friends and your neighbors and your daughters and wives and children. We are all just people.
I want to represent a nation of progress and tolerance. I want to be proud of America. At times, I have felt disappointed and ashamed to identify as an American and yet I feel like I will be a forever outsider in Italian society. After the 2016 election, I felt betrayed. The place I thought was home is not what I thought it was. I still love you America, but I am not proud of who you’ve chosen to lead and I won’t stay quiet about it.
My heart is still broken over the hostility that is plaguing American culture. I hope in this difficult time that the outrage does not wane and that the messages of tolerance are not silenced. My voice may be small, but I am here for you. In my own small way, I will keep spreading love to all beings everywhere, I promise you.
I can only choose to love, for that is all I wish to know.