On the evening of Tuesday, November 7, 2016, I flew from Idaho to Washington. In the airport terminal, I stopped at a burrito bar. It was there that I met a man from Iraq.
I made small talk with the man taking my order. He asked where I was from, where I was heading. Friendly and bright-eyed, he asked who I thought was going to win the election. I was confident a racist, xenophobic misogynist would not be taking the presidential oath in January, so we didn’t talk much more about politics.
I asked him how he liked living in Idaho. He said he hadn’t been here long, but it was suiting him fine.
“Oh, where did you move from?” I asked innocently.
He looked at me and said, “I’m from Iraq.”
A woman in a hijab emerged from the kitchen to begin fixing my burrito.
In that moment, I fumbled for words. I wanted to pour my heart out to them, to offer my sincerest apologies for all the hate–so much hate–being spewed in their direction. I wanted to ask them what it was like to live in Iraq, what it was like to listen to the news in America, what it was like to pass through airport security every day. I wanted to know how they came to run a burrito business and what were their hopes and dreams. I wanted to tell them I was sorry for the state of the world.
I wished to reach over the counter and take that man’s hands in mine and tell him I would fight for him. I wanted to look that woman in the eyes and tell her she was beautiful and so was her hijab.
Instead, hoping my enthusiasm would show I didn’t care where they came from, I uttered, “Oh, wow, that’s cool!”
Then I asked the man, “How did you choose Idaho?”
He shrugged and said, “It’s quiet out here in the middle of nowhere.”
I gave the couple a generous tip.
Early in the morning of November 8, 2016, I cried for the man and woman I met at a burrito bar.
I have wished countless times since then that I could rewind the clock and speak my thoughts aloud. Silence and inactivity are a crutch for the weak, confused and insecure. Fear paralyzes us and accomplishes nothing. Hate begets hate begets hate.
I cannot time travel, but I can work for the future. I will not stop fighting, and America, I hope you won’t either.