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Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Race for Gold

My daughter's English assignment is to write two paragraphs about her identity. She turned the question to my husband and myself. We answered her lightly, turned the whole thing into a joke, but the truth is that these days, each time, I turn on CBC radio, or read my favourite newspapers, I am confronted by a world I struggle to understand and in its reflection, I see an image of myself, which I find unrecognizable.
      I was born in Pakistan. I recognize Donald Trump's features in the revolving faces of corruption in my country of birth. Mr.Trump is not here to serve anyone, but himself. He will use his country to further his personal wealth while pretending to serve the people. In Pakistan, people can be bought cheaply; a few grains of rice and a chicken drumstick. Stateside, a few tweets and the pageantry of a rich man pretending to be a man of the people, but not just any man. No, he's the strong man. The man who will rescue everyone. He will deliver manufacturing jobs and revive coal production. Both ideas well past their expiry date. He will, singlehandedly, fight terrorism. His plan: ban entry to refugees fleeing from the very thing he says he will fight. And no one thinks to ask, Mr. President, but aren't these the very people who you should be fighting for?
       No one will ask that question. Why? Because Muslims look different. Act different. Banning a bunch of strange looking people is so much easier than actually fighting terrorism. Fighting actual terrorism might require thought. Perhaps, decent plans. And heck, who has the time for that, when one has to wake at three in the morning to tweet?
       I watch the drama across the border with dismay. I follow the news from Pakistan with a rock on my heart. Politicians should be the ones getting the Oscars. Brad Pitt, step aside. Your time is done. Enter: The Donald. Meryl Streep, please make way for Nawaz Sharif. Martin Scorsece consider pleading with Asif Ali Zardari for a few tips on how to pull puppet strings.
       While, we may all enjoy blaming our politicians, the truth is that it is our job to check our politicians, to make sure that they do not stray from the course, and it is only when all of us don't do our job, that people at the top are able to get away with behaving badly. We must all be political, because we can't afford, not to be.
         And where do I feature in all this? How does any of this tie in with who I am? I am a woman. A wife. A mother. A sister. A daughter. I was born to a Muslim household. My circle of family and friends are all practising Muslims. I am not. I am agnostic. I have had Muslim women tell me that I have no right to call myself a Muslim because I don't dress "properly." (In warmer months, I wear skirts and shorts.) I have had other women tell me that I should take more care with my appearance. Keep in mind that I am a person who is fanatically clean and tidy in all matters, so when they talk about appearance, they mean make-up. I should wear make up because apparently no woman is "properly" dressed without it. I have had women who work outside home for a salary make me feel bad for quitting my job to raise kids. And I have had to defend other women's right to work for a salary, post-kids, to stay-at-home mothers. I am a feminist who feels that the fight is for equality, freedom of choice, and above all, respect for the choices that different women make. I am a mother who hopes that her children will value others, based not on appearances, but the substance of their personalities. I am a citizen of Canada and Pakistan. I worry for both places. Pakistan, for the failure of its institutions, while its people sit home watching political dramas played out on their screens and fight with each other over who is more corrupt. Canada, for failing to care for and respect its native population, and now, for the rising Islamophobia. It seems this may not be a good place to be brown.
        Across the border lies the greatest source of my worry. America leads the world in everything, including thought. The rise of Trump is the rise of greed. Unchecked, Unhindered. Naked greed. How soon before the whole world falls into a tango line behind Mr.Trump? How much time do we have before everyone realizes that it is now alright to just watch out for yourself? It is now okay to lie and lie again. Selfishness is easy. Selflessness is hard. Very few realize that in the long run, caring for others, actually helps you. And yet, we all see men like Asif Ali Zardari and Donald Trump, succeeding, gathering their riches, and living golden lives, but perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and reconsider our own definitions of success. "Not all that glitters is gold" but also, perhaps, gold itself is not anything worth striving for?