My Parents May Not Be American Born, But News Flash, I Am An American

My Parents May Not Be American-Born, But News Flash, I Am An American

I am just as American as all of you.

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I am an American. I am just as American as all of you.

I was born on July 8th, 1996 in New York City, to a mother and father of Pakistani origins. From an early age, I was immersed in the culture of what it meant to be a citizen of the U.S. My parents, both witness to the atrocities committed during the 1971 war between Pakistan and Bangladesh, moved to the United States in 1994 to pursue a better life as practicing physicians (mom as a pediatrician and eventual neonatologist at North Shore- LIJ Medical Center, dad as an Anesthesiologist at Stony Brook University Hospital). When they first arrived here, they struggled to learn the nuances of English and navigate the cultural landscape that was New York. As time wore on, however, they secured their places as respected doctors who served a higher purpose, and I looked to them (and still do) as the role models I aspired to surpass in my future.

I was happy enough to grow under the care of a wonderful family and played with children from a multitude of backgrounds without regard for where they came from. In our naivete, we believed that we were all equal as any other Americans and that nothing could change that. I learned about the values of Islam at the behest of my mother and father and revealed in the kindness and respect for all humanity that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) preached to all people, which I thought was exemplified by the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. I loved (and still do love) the idea of a nation of immigrants coming together to pursue a better life for themselves and their families, and I took great pride in being a citizen of a country that was founded upon the basis of religious freedom and liberty for all, regardless of race, class or creed.

That fanciful vision came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. I was 5 years old when the Twin Towers fell, on a day that would forever alter the lives of Muslim Americans throughout the country. Suddenly I was scrutinized as a potential threat, subtly watched as if to ascertain whether or not I was one of the "good ones"–a euphemism reeking with disrespect towards my culture and heritage as a Pakistani American, as if my background was considered undesirable by American society. I still remember my parents sitting me down one day and telling me to be careful when walking down the street, to make sure that my phone had decent battery life at all times so that I could call when necessary, to come home as soon as possible before dark. I didn't know back then that these were warnings of a time to come; I had no concept of being anything less than an authentic American. Why then, I wondered, were my parents so concerned for me?

It didn't take long for me notice the changes-- where parents of kids I played with once opened me with open arms and made conversation with me as much as any other adolescent, they now picked up their kids from the park without deigning to acknowledge me, and even kids I used to play with originally now avoided me. As I grew older, I learned to accept this loneliness with indifference-- I had to learn how to be comfortable with myself. So many times throughout my teenage years, I felt torn between two worlds, between my identity as the son of Pakistani immigrants and my American citizenship. As images of Muslims and Islam pervaded Fox News and CNN as nothing but harbingers of death and destruction, I felt the tension in my chest tightening as I struggled with what I was and who I was meant to be–was I truly a Muslim-American, or an entity without an identity?

Could such a thing exist?

I was fortunate enough to have those thoughts quelled when I moved to Suffolk County on Long Island, NY, and interact with other Muslim kids at the famed Selden Masjid, the site of my spiritual reawakening. Interacting with others who knew my story and felt my pain as we worked together to bring good to our local community through acts of charity helped me to remember that Islam and America were intertwined in value–that the same love and compassion that my faith preached to all peoples was the same right guaranteed to all under the U.S. flag.

I learned to love my identity as a Muslim-American again, and my experiences at Stony Brook University as a member (and eventual E-Board member as Co-Head of Community Service) of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) showed me how important diversity within a body of people was-- the efforts consistently being made by interfaith leaders throughout campus to support the Seawolf community (inclusive of all backgrounds and faiths) and the wider Long Island/NY area through community service such as the MSA's annual Midnight Run demonstrated the power of working together for a common cause for all people.

As I consider the present era, with a President who now feels that the concept of birthright citizenship should not apply to all Americans, I cannot help but feel anger coursing through my veins that a man whose responsibility it is to stand for the rights for Americans worldwide would deem it prudent to strip citizens of his own country from their birthright. I cannot help but feel rage that an American administration led by a would-be tyrant could even begin to consider the idea that some of us are not as American as we seem, based on the color of our skin, the faith we practice, or the background that we possess. This is not what I stand for-- this is not what the Founding Fathers of this great nation fought and died for, and this is an insult to the memory of every man, woman, and child who gave their lives efforts in the service of this country, no matter their origins.

This is a clarion call to the down-trodden, to minorities of all distinctions, to those who have had their identities questioned in the spirit of this country–I stand alongside you. I stand for you. I stand for all citizens of this country.

I am an American. We are all Americans. And we will not let you take that from us.

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An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.
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Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.

Sincerely,

A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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