Calling a ban on indifference

Calling a ban on indifference

Anna Gong/Chronicle

When my parents moved to the United States after graduating from high school forever ago, they never expected to not be able to visit their first home.

My mom made the conscious decision to move here at 17, amid the turmoil of the Iran-Iraq war. My dad moved here before the Iranian Revolution to go to school. When the revolution broke out, and then later the war, he became an American citizen and stayed. He was 16, my age, when he last saw his home soil.

And it was at 16, after over a decade of imagining that soil, that my country, our country, with a flick of an unconcerned wrist, dashed those dreams.

This is not an anti-Trump rant. No, this isn’t even an anti-prejudice rant or an anti-hate rant.

This is simply a human being calling out indifference.

Sure, marginalizing Iranians and Iraqis and Yemenis and Libyans and Syrians and Sudanese and Somalis might foster intolerance at home and abroad, but there’s a worse side effect. Banning these citizens is now a reality, one that could normalize this behavior in the future.

In other words, worse than joining in this bigotry, some people will choose to accept and ignore this new norm; they won’t partake in discrimination, but they sure won’t stand up to it.

And this is not the first time, or the last. This ban is nothing close to the internment of Japanese-American citizens or the genocide of Jews, gypsies and the physically and mentally handicapped during World War II, or the Holomodor under the Soviet Union or the Armenian, Greek and Assyrians genocides in 1915 or the Rwanda genocide in 1994, or our own mistreatment of minorities and members of the LBTQ+ community and, let’s not forget, the millions of natives that died in the United States, across the Americas, and all over Africa and Asia every time a colonial power wanted a new shiny piece of land.

This ban is nothing like those atrocities and the hundreds of others I didn’t have enough room to list. But it stems from the same deplorable indifference that convinces someone he’s more human than someone else.

Indifference is worse than war, is worse than bullying, is worse than crime. Indifference is what blinds people to the problems that need to be addressed, deafens hard truths that need to heard, shackles their feet and hands to a sense of self-importance so large it drowns out the voices of compassion and empathy and, dare I say, reason.

This is not a Trump ban. No, this isn’t even a prejudice ban or a hate ban.

This is an indifference ban. An avoiding-the-headlines ban. A well-I-can-just-hide-on-my-phone ban. A caring-is-dumb ban. A well-this-only-applies-to-big-world-problems ban.
Indifference is not limited to foreign policy or cultural issues or diplomacy. It’s something we have to address everyday on an individual basis. Allowing friends to talk behind other friends’ backs is indifference. Laughing at a joke at someone’s expense is indifference. Excluding others and treating them with little consideration or completely no respect is, you guessed it, indifference.

We have the opportunity to be active members of our community. We don’t have to march or go to rallies or protest, but if we try to preserve ethics, if we try to uphold the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” if we are brave enough to go against to status quo, the general opinion, the trendiness of nonchalance, we can make sure indifference won’t prevail.

My parents used to tell me to not be too vocal about my ideas, especially if they would ruffle some feathers. I always wrote it off as a side effect from living under an authoritarian king, a radical revolution and then an oppressive regime where the opposition was picked off one by one.

Rejecting indifference doesn’t seem so great if you get punished for doing the right thing. But when you are part of a larger entity, a nation, a team, a family, one person’s loss is everyone’s loss. And we can be wary and cautious and a little anxious, but we can never forget that we have strength in numbers, strength in justice, strength in ethics, strength in humanity. Our blood and bones and dreams and sorrows unite us more than any flag or faith or party. We can come together and make a difference, but only if we are willing to.

I will not be indifferent.

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