Have empathy when considering others’ plight

Courtesy of Irene

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. There has been a massive lack of it over the past few months ever since Donald Trump was elected as President. And no, I am DEFINITELY not talking about empathy for him for being President, and it being a difficult job. He signed up for this position knowing what he was getting into, so there’ll be no empathy from me. Rather, I am talking about empathy from his supporters for those who are in REAL fear.

Let’s start at the beginning of the timeline to when he first gets elected. There were a lot of people who were upset at him winning and Hillary subsequently losing, myself included. Then, we get the gloating of those who supported him (my favorite one was someone saying that freedom was going to be reinstated … when that person is a straight, white male), telling us that we should accept his upcoming presidency and that we are complaining “libtards” or “snowflakes” (P.S., thanks Tomi Lahren for that term, whose name I will purposefully misspell because she would definitely misspell mine). The main problem with simply accepting his presidency was that there were many people who were in undeniable fear that something discriminatory would happen to them. Some Muslim women were scared that they would be attacked for wearing a hijab. People in the LGBTQ+ community were frightened of their rights going unnoticed. I could absolutely keep going with many different groups, but that is not the point of this. There was absolutely no empathy from the other side about these real, immediate fears, even though these fears were perfectly reasonable and justified.

Fast forward two and a half months later, and today we are in the middle of probably one of the biggest injustices this country has ever seen in recent years. Amidst at least 17 different executive actions over the course of a week, the Muslim ban stands out. This executive order effectively stops any Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and prevents anyone immigrating from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya from entering the country for 90 days. Permanent residents are not outright banned, but they will still be subject to increased screenings, although they have already been previously vetted during the green card process. Now, in the past 20 years, not one immigrant to the U.S. from any of these countries has attacked or killed an American citizen. So, he did not pick the right ones? I am shocked. So. Shocked.

The bigger issue is that none of this was necessary. Refugees and immigrants from these seven countries and other Muslim-majority countries already have to go through an intensive screening process to come to America. You or your family may not be directly affected by the current ban, but channel some inner empathy and imagine this.

Every year, your family files for immigration visas for your extended family in Iran, so they can have the opportunity to come and visit. After many years, your grandmother’s visa is finally approved, and she is able to come to the U.S. after a very long time! However, while she is in the air, an executive order is signed, and in a layover in Qatar, she is sent back to Iran because of the regulations that were put in place literally hours ago. How would that feel? Terrible, right? Your family would be aching like crazy. Sadly, this has been the reality for many people and is only the tip of the iceberg of all that has happened.

The lack of empathy that I have seen for people in these situations from his supporters has been absolutely astounding. There has been nasty rhetoric like “go back to where you came from,” “America doesn’t want your kind,” or “this is not your country” directed at innocent people. This is unfair; they did not choose where they came from, in the way that people do not have control of their sexual identity or the color of their skin. It is just how their cards were dealt.

Now, I would be a total hypocrite if I did not try to look at the other side and see where they are coming from. Quite a few supporters are operating out of fear and think that this form of religious discrimination is okay because then the country that they love will be safe. For example, this weekend I had a former elementary school music teacher, who supports this ban, tell me on Facebook that while she is sorry about some of the things that are happening to these communities, she is afraid that people from these countries will bomb our country and harm her daughter. Her fear and other people’s fears are misplaced and misguided. Immigrants, persecuted or otherwise, who want to come to this country do it because they want to better their lives in some way, whether that be to start their lives anew, seek out opportunities, or even just visit parts of their family that they never get to see. They do not do so with the intent of destroying other’s lives.

Immigration is a beautiful thing which I am so thankful for. If it weren’t for my parents emigrating from Iran to the U.S. in the late 1970s, I may never have existed. The same situation applies to so many people across the country and especially at Georgia Tech. The fact that there is an order banning immigrants of these Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States is completely un-American, and does the total opposite of making America great again.