Despite not being an eligible voter here, I realized that there is a stark irony happening to American students in Umich right now, midterms during midterm elections. I joked about it with my friend Ammar, who is minoring in Political Science, about it and he laughed at the irony.
I feel rather grateful towards my advisor back at home, who suggested that I take American Government in prep college. I didn’t know much about the American political system and taking American Government had helped me by giving me a small gleam into how voting, check and balances and etc works. I entered Umich just as America faced the 2016 presidential election and was able to understand whenever the word ‘electoral college’ was thrown around in overheard conversations or in between pages of the Michigan Daily. I remembered some of my White classmates telling me, “I’ll vote for your safety”, reassuring me that things will be okay. I was deeply touched by the gesture of affirmation.
The day after elections spelled a dark contrast to the burning hope of “as long as its not him” that many on campus desired. The weather itself matched the campus mood, somber, sad, gray and drab. My manager at East Quad spat out some swear words. My co-worker turned to me and said, “Sarah, when I last saw you the world was very different”. The diag seemed different, with heads down, students dragging their feet to classes they most definitely did not feel like going. My Israel-Palestine lecturer gave a short speech before beginning lecture. It was clear he was deeply upset. I sensed the gray mood, as if it was soaking me slowly. I myself did not know what to feel, or if I had a right to feel. After all, I wasn’t American.
Here we are again, same battle(s), different people. I am still wondering, “Will America disappoint me, a foreigner?”. Whatever it is, I have a choice, to leave this space, to isolate myself from the slow poison coming from Washington. I can return home, my safety net, all that resembles me, my safe space. But my co-workers cannot. My Muslim American friends cannot. My Jewish American friends cannot. My White American friends cannot. What will be of them? This is home.
In the end, we all want the same things, security for ourselves, for our family. We all want to be healthy, to feed our families and to have the freedom to choose what we want in our lives. We can disagree as much as we want but see ; we still have to live together in this shared bit of Earth. We have to make things work. We cannot afford to not talk to each other.
As everyone is scrambling to vote, I hope you remember us, the forgotten resident ‘aliens’ who also exist on campus. We’ve been watching, absorbing everything about this country in our journey to graduate. Our version of America is what we tell to our families back home. I hope America leaves a mostly positive imprint on me once I graduate. I really do.