I woke up to the gurgles of my newborn this morning. He kicked his chubby legs and looked over at me with a smile that could melt the glaciers of Antarctica. I held him close to me, raindrops dripping against our windows, and then, I heard a vibration on the nightstand. My phone. A text. And there it was, the goings on over the course of a night I spent blissfully unaware now greeting me like a cold splash of water. As I made my way downstairs, newborn nestled on my hip, one of my friends called, urging me to turn on the news. So I did. And I sat and I watched what unfolded, and I heard the reporter as she said these words:
They didn’t come here a month ago or a year ago. They lived among us. . . That’s what’s so frightening. That this is the world we live in now. One in which we don’t know that there might be a terrorist right next door, right here, in our community.
Yes, these two individuals lived among us. So did Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, James Holmes and every evil person who has ever existed. This is the world we live in. Evil people and psychopaths do not live on a remote island off the coast of an imaginary land. They are someone’s neighbor, employee, relative. They have been from the beginning of time. Who knows how many child molesters, rapists, and abusers we pass by at the grocery store, who may live down the street from us. They don’t live in a hermit-camp for the evil. They live amongst us. It’s why we don’t let our kids roam the streets alone. It’s why we lock our doors at night. This isn’t the world we live in now, this is the world we’ve always lived in.
Today as I watched the armed officers, the tanks, and the terror of those caught in the midst, I wept. I wept for Martin, Lu Lingzi, Krystal, and the hundreds injured so many, too many, losing limbs and the life they once knew. I wept for the MIT officer. I wept for Salah Tarhoum, the teenager circled in red as suspect #1 on the front page of the news who is now afraid to leave his house. I wept for Dr. Abolaban assaulted for being Muslim, and for the Saudi Marathon Man who is now forgotten but who will never forget his twice-over victimization. I wept for Sunil, whose parents are beside themselves with worry for their missing son, and then had to fear the backlash and death-threats for their wrongly-suspected son.
And I wept for myself. I am an ordinary Pakistani-American-Muslim living in a lovely neighborhood with people whose politics lean quite conservative but who have welcomed us with open arms- will this change now? Will they see us now through the lens of suspicion? Will my sons grow up in a world where they will be feared or hated for the color of their skin or for their names, so unquestionably Muslim?
Waleed just tapped me on the shoulder, as I type this. Elmo time? He implored. Elmo and cheerios? We will watch Elmo. We will eat cheerios. And we’ll cover the plants to keep them from drowning in the forecasted rain. We will make playdough sculptures, and lego towers– and I will pray. I will pray for the affected in Boston and I will also pray that the actions of a few do not lead to the hardening of hearts of many towards ordinary people, Muslims, who like me condemn these actions, and who live ordinary, peaceful, regular lives, who watch Breaking Bad, and debate over fantasy football picks, and coach their kid’s soccer teams. Who live normal, humdrum lives, in communities everywhere. My blog is normally about the small things in life that add up to make it the beautiful thing it is. But right now, I feel a great deal of darkness. Right now, as I hear the us versus them language, I put on a smile for my kids, I hope for the best from my fellow Americans, but beneath the surface, I am afraid.