The Price of Silence

I’ve started posts about the new political regime a dozen times and stopped. Partly because I didn’t have much to say others haven’t said far more eloquently already, partly because once I get going I’ll just rant until I can’t stop. Partly because I’m afraid.

The day after the inauguration, America saw its single largest political demonstration since the civil war. Millions of women across all seven continents went out and they marched. It was an incredibly moving, powerful, and unifying sight.

I wanted to be a part of it, but I wasn’t. Not because there wasn’t a march near me—St Louis did itself proud, with crowd estimates ranging from 13,000-20,000—but because I was afraid to join it. My green card was issued just under a year ago on a conditional basis, and in almost exactly a year’s time I’ll have to apply to the federal government to have those conditions lifted.

My remaining in America is very much dependent upon me keeping my nose clean, and given the propensity for demonstrations in America to end in violence, and for innocent people to get caught up in arrests and prosecution just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I didn’t think I could afford to take that risk.

(Before we start crowing about the peaceful nature of the Women’s March, it’s worth considering the part the lack of militarised police response played in keeping it peaceful, and ask why they find demonstrators so much more threatening when they’re predominantly black or native.)

photo credit: vpickering Immigration rally via photopin (license)

In Trump’s first week we’ve had a slew of executive orders that make Delores Umbridge look like she was sleeping on the job, provoking a string of crises and backlash from the most unexpected places  as the White House tries to govern by chaos. Yesterday that chaos peaked in more demonstrations across the country as Trump declared the borders closed to anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen—even green card holders. There are people currently being held in detention at airports around the States who have a lawful right to live here.

That one, for obvious reasons, hits especially close to home. No, I’m not from a Muslim-majority country. I’m white and English and female and all the things that plenty of Americans love. I don’t go a day here without someone saying they love my accent and asking where I’m from. There’s interest a-plenty about other countries when it’s the “right” countries we’re talking about.

It used to be people followed up those questions by asking how I like America. They don’t ask that so much anymore.

One of the many disturbing details to emerge from yesterday’s news was the fact immigration officials were looking into the social media accounts of detainees and grilling them on their opinion on the Trump regime.

I have not been quiet on social media.

I don’t think we’re at the point (yet) where law enforcement are going to be checking the Twitter feeds of every Tom, Dick, and Harry to see if they like the president or not. It’d be a bit rich considering they made Obama’s biggest Twitter troll his replacement. But I do worry that if you happen to come to the attention of the authorities anyway, they’ll use that as an opportunity to see what you’re saying. Given it’s the FBI who vets and approves or vetoes every green card applicant, that puts me right in the firing line.

Last night, AJ asked me to “be more careful” about what I post. It’s a thought that had crossed my mind already. She has kids and a custody agreement, which means if I get booted she has to choose between them and me. Honestly if it wasn’t for them I’d have already made the case for us to pack our things, because while a big part of me says it’s my moral duty as a human being to stand up to tyranny, another part just wants to go home to a country where I don’t have to fall asleep each night wondering if I’ll wake up to find my residency has been revoked or my marriage dissolved while I slept.

Ultimately, that’s why this post is here; why I’m not being quiet. I’m under no illusions: the GOP would tear up my marriage in a heartbeat if they thought there was even half a chance of getting away with it. If I don’t speak up, it won’t stop them coming for me. They’re coming anyway, it’s just a matter of time. All we can do to prevent it is resist as hard and loud and early as possible. Bog them down in as many battles as we can. Snarl every new order with so much red tape they’re constantly fighting, constantly losing ground. We will win this battle by inches if that’s what it takes.

Silence won’t buy my freedom, but it will cost my self-respect. #Resist

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Overnight, America has turned into a country I don’t recognize, thanks to Agent Orange. I applaud your bravery for posting this. Your circumstances are indeed precarious. Just know I’m on your side–yours, AJ’s, and the kids.


Thank you for this post. My situation is different, but I am also worried. A few days ago, my youngest child asked me not to publicly resist Trump because she fears he’ll kick me out of the country. I’m an American citizen, but I understand her fears. We’re a Muslim-American family, and everything Donald Trump says scares us. He’s a threat to everyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Theo linked me to your post this morning. All we can do is stick together <3

Yes, we are in this together!

Sharon Simpson

I responded on AJs post but I have to keep speaking. Many years ago this was my family making speak up or be silent decisions for similar reasons. On top of it all there were once moves to send everyone who “looked” like my mother “back to Africa”. Trouble was so many generations had passed, where were they going to send them? Moreover, what were they going to do with the children? Leave us with the parent who wasn’t “negro”? People spoke up, marched, defied the wrong. Change happened. It can happen again. Silence only breeds consent to tyranny. We have your back. I wish I could say change comes fast. It doesn’t but it does come. The descendant of a people who were once considered chattel in this country with no rights whatsoever, became president of this country. So change can happen.

“Silence only breeds consent to tyranny.” That, so much.