This Syrian-American Millennial can’t live in Trump’s America


My parents came to the United States from Syria in 1985 in pursuit of the American Dream.

{mosads}Yes, Syria. The same Syria we hear about almost everyday for the past 5 years, specifically Aleppo. Yes, Aleppo. That same Aleppo that’s been unfortunately tokened by the term the “Aleppo Moment” and is at the heart of the revolution in Syria. By the way, by the time you finished reading this column, another Syrian will have died.

For more than 12 years now, my family has served state lawmakers at our restaurant, the Shish Kabob Grill on Capitol Hill.

Over the sizzle of our restaurant’s shawerma’s and our plates of hummus, we are regularly at the center of conversation about politics and issues like the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria or issues concerning Muslim Americans or the discussion of the Caesar Bill H.R. 5732, which is held under siege by both the Obama administration and Islamophobia. This all happens with our state lawmakers and general public who stop in for a bite to eat.

You don’t need me to tell you that this election has reached new lows when it has come to hateful and divisive rhetoric. As a Syrian-American Muslim, my family feel the effects of this personally.

You can’t understand the level of hate, bigotry and threats directed at myself and my family for the simple fact of who we are.

I can’t begin to describe the struggles of the day to day interactions, of dealing with this newfound reason to hate and ridicule people like myself. If that wasn’t enough, the pain of losing four family members in the ongoing crisis in Syria is magnified by the Islamophobia my hard-working family encounters here and now, which has only been amplified by Donald Trump.  

I grew up with you and your children. I’m a millennial — those same millennials who grew up learning to work with one another and about the diversity in our classroom and history that we share together. I’ve never seen a difference between myself and my neighbors or my peers. But on the horrific day of September 11th, somehow, someway that day I became different.

I can’t be the American kid who happens to be Muslim or happens to be Syrian. Instead, I’m looked at as being  different from “us.” You can’t imagine how it feels to suddenly be the outcast of your own group. Now, for some reason I have to convince people there’s nothing to worry about, that I’m a safe person to be around, as if I have some sort of disease.

Trying to deny the constant bombardment of negative news media about Muslims and Syrians and to get people to understand that just because you’re Syrian doesn’t mean you’re a “terrorist.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I think people would ever care that I was Syrian; never did I ever think being Muslim would matter to anyone. But trying to convince people that just because I’m Syrian doesn’t mean I’m a “terrorist” has put me in a place no one should ever be. That is why I’m writing this.

Cynics say your voice doesn’t matter or your vote doesn’t count. I’m here to say otherwise.

This young Coloradan kid, born in L.A., grew up in a state he loves and with fellow Coloradans he considers family. This is the same place that’s kept him and his family safe. I saying this because I’m the minority in a minority but I have a voice, a voice everyone can relate to and understand, working 12 hours days at his family’s shop going to school full time about to graduate. Just like everyone else.

But I’m actually willing to speak up. Do I open myself to criticism? Of course. Do I open my family to potentially more hate and bigotry? It goes without saying. But this matters a lot to me and it should matter to you. Our political climate has been the worse it has ever been. Plain and simple. But in this election it’s not about issues but rather your principles, character, and morals.

The United States is more diverse now than ever before. As an American born and raised, I can’t force my hand to vote for someone who puts down Muslims. I can’t. I can’t vote for someone who disagrees even with his own vice presidential candidate about Syria on the national presidential debate stage only weeks before the election. I can’t vote for someone down the ballot who sides with Trump one day and flips on him another day.

Donald Trump insults Muslims, Mexicans, women, and virtually anyone not like him in the name of “unfiltered politics.” Nice try. This is not what leadership looks like. If you supported Trump this entire time but you are now just now “un-endorsing” him because he got caught on tape you should be ashamed of yourself.

Trump has been preaching hate this whole time! He wants me and my family to register in a “database” as Muslims. Why? To be honest, I couldn’t be more proud to do so. But how dare you undermine the American people particularly Muslim Americans. Do we really want to see another Japanese internment camps, but this time for Muslims? Do you want to vote for those sorts of ideals and morals? I hope not. For the sake of our country and constitution.  

It’s essential that we elect representatives who lead with love and kindness like Morgan Carroll of District 6 in Colorado or Hillary Clinton — who both stand up to forces that aim to divide you and me.

People who campaign with a slogan of fear threaten the very fabric of our nation. Last I checked, we stand for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We stand for home of the brave and land of the free. Don’t forget that.

Kaifo is a first-generation Syrian-American Muslim and a student at Metro State University. He is one of the co-founders of Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado, the Coalition creates and supports community events that protect and respect the rights of those who wish to call Colorado home.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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