Such a Great Country, Such Nasty Bigotry

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Such a Great Country, Such Nasty Bigotry

On my chance encounter with Sean Spicer

Shree Chauhan, a 33-year-old American of Indian decent, challenged President Trump's Press secretary Sean Spicer as he was shopping at an Apple store over the weekend, asking: "How does it feel to work for a fascist?" A video of the interaction shows Mr. Spicer resonding to Ms. Chauhan by saying: "It's such a great country that allows you to be here." (Screenshot: Video/@shreec)

The night of the election, my iPhone screen shattered. The joke I like to make is that there was glass shattering on November 8th but not the kind we wanted.

There’s something symbolic about the shattered glass on my phone and it serves as a constant reminder of what could have been and, how abnormal our current circumstances are.

Very early on, I knew that Donald J. Trump was dangerous for America and had fascist tendencies. His views on people of color, immigrants and Muslims are abhorrent. His actions against women are despicable. His willful disregard for our Constitutional rights is well, fascist.

I was devastated by the election but I have channeled my anxiety, sadness, and anger into action. I tell anybody who will listen, ways in which they can resist. I have explained how dire the situation is to my closest friends and family, and I also organized that Betsy DeVos blockade at a local D.C. school with families and community partners.

I did all of that with a very shattered phone. I thought it was high time I get my screen fixed and after booking an appointment, I looked up to see Sean Spicer. I Googled him to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me.

I realized what an enormous opportunity it was to get answers without the protections normally given to Mr. Spicer. I was honestly quite nervous and wanted to come up with more cogent questions but did not have time to do so.

As someone that has lived in Washington, D.C. for nearly a decade, it is customary to give public figures their space. I’ve left Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor alone at a grocery store and have done the same for Senator Chuck Grassley on a train.

However, given what Mr. Spicer and his boss are doing to this country, I do not believe they are entitled to these norms and customs. Donald Trump and his Klan are openly trampling on the rule of law, our Constitution and our democracy.

When I confronted Mr. Spicer, I wanted to speak truth to power. It wasn’t until hours later that it was revealed to me that Mr. Spicer had said, “such a great country that allows you to be here,” to me.

Unlike this administration, I do not believe in “alternative facts”. I believe in facts. I do not believe in accusing someone of this level of racism, if in fact it was not.

So I watched the video over and over again. I had other people watch it. I watched it with the sound off so I could watch Mr. Spicer’s lips and make sure words match up with the consonants I thought I heard. I watched it with the volume all the way up with my eyes closed.

And his words were clear.

“Such a great country that allows you to be here.”

That is racism and it is an implied threat. Think about the sheer audacity of Mr. Spicer to say that to my face with a smile, knowing that he that he is being recorded on video and the position of power he holds in our government.

“Such a great country that allows you to be here.”

I am still stunned by the boldness of having my citizenship threatened on camera.

I was not polite. But when does being impolite mean that I should be thrown out of the United States of America? The country I was born in, the country I was raised in, the country I love despite its flaws.

I have spent enough time with online to encounter rabid Trump supporters. Many of these folks see my brown skin and question my citizenship. They question whether I am here legally. They tell me to leave the country. They have told me to go back to where I came from. To which my snarky reply is often, “Go back where? New York?”

“Such a great country that allows you to be here.”

It’s one thing to have a Twitter egg tell say you do not belong in America, it is quite another to have the Press Secretary of the United States of America do so. I am still astounded. And while I am fearless, I wonder how this administration will use its power to silence ordinary people like me.

Will they come after my family? Will they prevent me from traveling like they did with Khizr Khan? Will they make sure that I am constantly under surveillance by the NSA?

I am not going to dwell on fear. We have still not lost our country and the values that are most important to us. America stands for liberty, justice and equality. We have not always lived up to our values, but we work regularly to bend the arc towards a more perfect union.

I hope my resistance allows others to gain the courage to resist too. If folks are already resisting, I hope it will give them energy to resist harder. If folks have not resisted, I hope it inspires them to get involved.

These days I am constantly reminding others of their power. Every person in America has power. And together our collective power can end this illegitimate presidency.

I believe that not only will we be able to oust Donald Trump, his advisors and every member of the Republican party that colluded in Mr. Trump’s treason, we also have an opportunity to dismantle centuries long oppression in the form of white supremacy, the patriarchy and capitalism.

In a Letter From a Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that the ugliness of oppression must be put out in the open to be cured.

“Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

My actions are to uncover the systems of oppression as the boils that they are, and use civic engagement to cure our nation of these diseases.

That work will never be successful as an independent venture. More people must rise up against the Trump regime before it is too late. I hope that people see this one-minute video and think about how they can get more civically engaged.

There are many ways you can get involved here are few ways to get started with your advocacy.

1) Put the Congressional Switchboard line in your phone book 202–224–3121. You can call the switchboard any time the Trump administration does something to curtail our rights. Be sure to speak to both your Senators and your Representative.

2) Learn your state and local district elected officials. Put their numbers in your phone book as well. Be sure to call them to make your voice heard on your state and local issues.

3) Join an organization so you don’t have to do your advocacy alone. Below are a few suggestions.

· Indivisible: Teaches you how to speak to elected officials and has chapters you can join all around the country. Their guide is fantastic.

· 5 Calls: Gives you scripts and what to call your Members of Congress about if you are feeling overwhelmed with all the information.

· 2 Hours A Week: Tangible actions you can take each week.

· The Women’s March: Taking the energy after the record-breaking protests the day after the election. The Women’s March has launched 10 Actions in the first 100 Days.

· My Advice: Resources and tips if you would like to start your own advocacy organization in a Twitter thread.

We can win if we resist together for liberty, justice and equality. This is our shared America.

Shree Chauhan

Shree Chauhan is a Washington, D.C.-based education advocate and citizen activist. Follow her on Twitter: @shreec

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