In Defense of Discomfort

The weeks leading up the U.S. election and following have been … uncomfortable. There is fear, distrust and hate all around. My readers know that I am a Muslim-immigrant South Asian woman married to a Caucasian man with two brown daughters and two white, working as a therapist in small community mental health facility in rural Indiana with clients who are mostly Caucasian Medicare/Medicaid/Disability recipients. I do this work because of my faith and because of my “bleeding heart liberalism.” A few clients, engaged over the phone, do not know what I look like and have not asked. The same clients may treat me differently outside the therapy office. Everyday I learn how the combination of trauma, abuse and poverty fuel fear and self-hate. It is uncomfortable to be in service and sometimes exposed to distrust.

I did three things since the day after President Donald Trump was elected. Never posted a single personal word (hair, weight, posture, clothing) against him. I did do the following:

  1. Read 5 newspapers everyday to get a broad perspective. BBC, CNN, FOX, Huffington Post and our local paper.
  2. In an effort to understand and alleviate the fear, hurt, anger, feelings of dismissal, being left behind, I worked to get a Masters in social work (I already have a PhD in philosophy) and started working in community mental health. I focus on grief/loss, trauma and anxiety.
  3. I vowed to support women as a reaction to Trump’s comments “grab her by the pussy,” “blood coming out of everywhere,” “nasty woman” etc. This I owe to my daughters.

So given all my effort to change in liberal recognition that my fellow citizens are deeply fearful of me and people like me, I was hurt, angry, resentful when I saw Facebook posts such these below. Both images were published the same day. Let me walk you through my thought process and my defense of discomfort.

This one is straight forward fear of the other cloaked in a Bible verse, divinely sanctioned hate. This to my experience does not represent Christianity. I was educated in Catholic schools for 5 years. I know better. It got more interesting when I considered the following image and quote.

The design professor in me, asks myself, to consider the pairing of these images, one white: who looks away dressed in black, a paragon of feminine virtue, while the brown one: looking forward, dressed in purple, in front of the capital steps, is an abomination. The quote that accompanied the dark dressed lady, reinforces the aesthetic.

The images above are united by divine imperative, making one the fornicator and other the lioness. These narratives are not accidental. I want all four of my daughters to have the choice to be the “first” or not, but never be denied the opportunity. This is why I worked to become an American citizen. No… I did not get my green card by marriage…but through work as a professor after proving that I’m not taking an American’s job away. It was a long, expensive, painful process. I’ve been here since age 2.

Four years ago, I would’ve simply stewed in my resentment and anger. Today I see the abject fear of dismissal, not feeling good enough, disguised as biblical righteousness.. “do not mistake meekness for weakness.” In the past weeks as a therapist I have met with clients with swelling anxiety and oozing fears of WWIII, loss of benefits, conspiracies of harm and dismissal. One therapeutic CBT technique, works to challenge negative thoughts,”how does the election affect you personally, what has changed from before to after the election?,” another, involves processing grief and loss, “This is a loss for you, what expectations did you have invested in Trump’s reelection?”, another, trauma focused therapy technique aims to increase a sense of safety and self worth, yet another technique (DBT), focuses on circle of control, communicating disappointment, boundaries with others etc. As a philosopher I was taught the art of dialogue. This is not the place for dialogue. This is trauma intervention before words. The words posted with images above are belated. They speak to the fear that being a woman who does not break glass ceilings is not enough, that a woman of color dressed in purple is enough to warrant biblical damnation, that diversity threatens a lack of control and safety.

We are all scared of each other. What we do with that fear sets us apart. This is what I want my daughters to know: have courage to reach out anyway, my beloved ones. The choice to react in anger just repeats and mirrors the rejection. Confront the discomfort, not other people. Notice and honor the discomfort so it may show you a path beyond the simplicity of unfriending, liking, disliking, or one sentence responding. This is not yet dialogue, this is a discomfort to be shared and felt as fuel.

For those who have posted these images, I hear you. I tried to avoid any names, as to avoid blame or shame. The remaining three names serve to identify copyright and authorship. No disrespect. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and challenging me in mine.

I will continue to serve, heal and support people I both agree with and disagree with. May you never know the difference.

With warmth,

hungryphil

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