9 november, 2016 florence, italy -the world I had previously refused to imagine was 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 and officially became an immigrant by marriage. Italy is similarly struggling to deal with an increasing influx of strangers. The daily news is flooded with images of people barely surviving, desperate for a new start and a better life.
There are immigrants 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 __ love is legal and yet this ___ other love is illegal? I don’t presume to be able to fully 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 truth in your injustice.
Even when we don’t understand and have no connection to others’ circumstances, we as adults can and should choose compassion.
My experiences where I could be labeled as an immigrant are mostly 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. Immigrants are people just like you.
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 sister who moved to China to teach English? Are they your friends’ daughter who got married in Italy? Are they that much different from you?
However you may categorize us, “immigrants” are people too. 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 wanted to represent a nation of progress and tolerance. I wanted to be proud of America. Instead, November 9th was the most devastating let-down of my life. As I continue to wait on my immigration status in Italy, I feel disappointed and ashamed to identify as an American and yet I feel like I will be a forever outsider in Italian society. I feel betrayed-like 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 by itself, 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.