Guest columnist Farah Ameen: Vote like your life depends on it

  • A Biden-Harris sign in the Amherst yard of Farah Ameen’s neighbor. The sign was painted by Ameen’s daughter. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I love my South Amherst neighborhood. We moved here 10 years ago from New York, and have been surrounded by warmth and friendship and the general knowledge that our now-preteen is safe and protected when she walks or bikes on her own.

But I was shocked, actually terrified, when I spotted a Trump sign on our street last week. This is a middle-class neighborhood of educators, students, retirees and young families, where we have Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter signs in our yards, where beautiful overgrown gardens are havens for kids and neighbors watch over your child and stop to chat when you walk by.

To me, that sign spells intolerance, and yes, hatred, toward immigrant/Muslim/gay/trans/Black/native/Jewish/Asian people. It says open carry laws are fine. It says close the borders, cage the children, COVID is a “Chinese virus” and not a real threat. That climate science is a hoax. It says kill Black people in their homes, in front of their kids, on the streets. It says gay marriage is a sin.

Yes, that one small sign speaks volumes. It tells my immigrant daughter and me that we weren’t welcome — or safe — in our home. I can imagine moderate Republicans taking umbrage at my characterization of this Trump sign. Please remember that we have all heard the messaging from the White House and at the Republican National Convention.

How naïve of me to think the world is full of people like us, people who believe that Black lives matter, that gay marriage should be a right, that hardworking immigrants like us deserve to live without fear alongside white families. Or that just because we are cocooned in this liberal college town, it doesn’t mean Trump supporters don’t exist here. In fact, a few months ago, I saw a white van with a huge red “Trump 2020” on the side drive through my street.

Why am I so shocked by this yard sign? It’s because the general election is just two months away. Because of the president-sanctioned hate rallies, police violence and deportations in our country. Because an insane man thinks he’s going to get reelected and continue to wreak havoc on our communities and in the world.

I’m angry because our kids are losing their childhood, not being able to run around mask-free, hug their friends, go to school, have sleepovers, ride horses and splash in pools because Trump and his enablers in Congress and on Fox News didn’t take this pandemic seriously, except when exploiting it politically. It’s because mothers are afraid to send their Black boys and girls to the corner store, or sleep at night in the safety of their own homes. (RIP Breonna Taylor.)

I have friends who are still wishing the Democratic ticket had Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or AOC on it. But we have Joe Biden, who may not evoke the kind of inspiration President Obama did, but is a decent man, who will bring this country back to some semblance of normalcy, decency and stability. When he picked Kamala Harris, a black/Indian-American woman, as his running mate I felt hopeful. Millions of brown and Black girls walked taller the day after the nomination was announced.

Yes, there are those who still aren’t convinced and passionate about the elections. But remember how we got into this mess in the first place when folks stayed home or voted third party in 2016. If survival doesn’t inspire you, I’m not sure what to say.

Back to my Orchard Valley neighborhood. After my daughter gave me a lecture on free speech and democracy, I realized I couldn’t remove that “God & Country” Trump sign from a neighbor’s yard. Instead, I decided my street needs to be plastered with Biden-Harris signs. A bunch of us got together and bought Biden-Harris signs to put in our yards, and I’m hoping others will be inspired to do the same. My daughter made a beautiful sign for a friend down the street and she’s going to paint one for our yard.

This is a turning point for our country, for everyone who rejects “white supremacy.” No matter how you feel about your favorite candidate not being on that ballot, please vote Biden-Harris in this election. Do it for yourself, for your kids, for your Black/brown/trans/gay/Muslim/Jewish/immigrant/Asian friends and neighbors. I, for one, would love to feel safe about my little brown girl, and millions of children like her, running around fearless. Wouldn’t you?

Farah Ameen is a Bangladeshi-American writer/editor.