A Thousand Starfish

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Watching the news of Trump has been overwhelming, alarming, and frankly exhausting. One of the biggest stories has been of Trump’s Muslim ban. People who had legitimate visas and green cards were held in detention or deported. Families were separated, people were refused their rights to see lawyers, despite direct court orders. It was a nightmare.

That’s why I was so surprised by the perspective of a young student from Iran I know (I’ll call her Zahra). When I told Zahra I was glad to see her here, she replied with a huge grin, “Thank you, and thank you to America!”

I realized that for Zahra, America is not defined by what Trump or the White House does. It’s not CBP or ICE. She sees America in all the people who protested in airports across the country. She sees the thousands and thousands of people who took a stand for her and others like her. That’s the America Zahra sees.

It’s so easy for me to let the deluge of news stories define what America is. It’s easy to feel like my single voice is powerless. That’s why I want to remember Zahra’s perspective. I need it to sustain me through what will likely be a long resistance.

I’m reminded of the story of a beach covered with dying starfish. A man sees a boy, throwing the starfish back into the water one at a time, and says to him cynically, “There are thousands and thousands of starfish. What does it matter?” The boy throws another starfish into the water, and answers, “It mattered to him.”

It mattered to Zahra.

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