Robert’s grandmother is a photographer and writer living in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.
Years ago I moved back to New Hampshire to be closer to other family members, to settle my family in a place free of the hustle and bustle often found in urban centers, to be where I thought it would be after living and working in the Middle East. For a long time, that was the ideal — a sanctuary close to Boston, close to the Atlantic, hopefully nestled within the beauty of the Granite State.
Close to where I was nurtured and inspired by family, friends, teachers and librarians.
I did not expect that, on my return, I remembered a homeland from which I had previously emigrated; It was an unrealistic expectation that my return to those roots would probably be the same as what I left.
It is not.
I know and expect that free societies are dynamic, often in conflict, and that it is through conflict and debate that we not only witness evidence of our existence as free individuals, but learn from it as we engage with others. Neighbors, they are enemies.
This morning I took a deep breath before I started writing.
For over a decade I have been sharing my childhood, my fears, loves, doubts, discoveries and questions with you and the world. As a second generation Arab American Muslim who is told to go back to where he comes from (note to readers: there are no direct flights between Exeter and Manchester) I stand for and believe in America’s hope.
Believe in the aspirational promise set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that all men are created equal.
I believe within that promise as written by one of America’s greatest prophets, James BaldwinNotes of a native son>: “I love America more than any other country in the world, and precisely for this reason, I insist on the right to constantly criticize her.”
I also insist on that right.
For more than a decade, I’ve been watching communities being torn apart by walls, screens, ignorance and prejudice – and that scares me.
I have never been more scared than I am today.
It’s a scary time and if you don’t fear with me you may be unpatriotic or immoral but I believe you are actually a threat to people like me.
I was in college when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was working on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign when MLK and RFK were assassinated. I remember Fred Hampton, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X; Remember many others.
In the last decade I remember Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Bronna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Ahmed Arberry; Remember many others.
I remember the 1963 March on Washington, 2017 march in Charlottesville.
But I never thought that I should be reminded that the President of the United States of America instigated a coup d’état on January 6, 2021 with the intention of overthrowing our legitimately elected government in order to remain in power.
I never thought that nearly two years after the 2020 presidential election there would be so many Americans who believe or claim to believe with zero evidence that Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate; Americans who trust QAnon and Falun Gong/EpochTimes more than American intelligence services.
For a long time I thought New Hampshire was different from other places; People value not only independence and self-reliance, but also education and community. I never thought, never imagined that here, like all over America, candidates who believe such lies and propaganda would have a chance to win.
Many so-called Christian nationalists are weaponizing God to justify the unthinkable, trying to use God to justify the unimaginable; Trying to deny rights, marginalize, threaten and build walls to separate fellow Americans who don’t look, pray or think like them.
The few who have a chance of winning are the real racists and antis who think their day has come. Others are power-hungry opportunists who never miss an opportunity to profit. Some are terrified of demographic changes and want to build walls, others are simply narcissistic, ignorant, people who hate the complex, people who have never read poetry.
Written in 1914 by New Hampshire poet Robert Frost Mending Wall:
“I ask to know before I build a wall
I’m either in the wall or off the wall
And to whom I like to give offense
Something in there doesn’t love the wall
It wants to go down. “
“We don’t need a wall there,” Frost continues. What we need is truth and fidelity to truth, fidelity to the ambitious promise that all men are created equal.