“So, has your group been talking about CAB/NRC?”
My tone is mild. My ears, however, are alert, straining to hear nuance amidst the words. It is a letdown, however. Saathi deflects and turns the spotlight on me for wanting to talk about things divisive and ugly.
I turn away, the warmth of the hot stove matching how I feel inside. I tell myself there is no point in outrage. There really is none. Armchair activism feels good but does nothing. Unless I am out there in the streets making my voice heard, there is little that I can do to effect change. Even that, possibly an exercise in assuaging the self that we are indeed making some noise.
Since 2014, I have seen a steady stream of people I count as friends lean farther and farther right. The few I know who are progressive are shouting hoarse where they can. I follow both. I tell myself to be objective. I try visiting conservative news portals.
I realize I am biased. I truly hate sexism. I hate bullies. I might call myself fiscally conservative but in all things that matter to me at this point in my life, I am a raging liberal. After weeks and months of pontification, I realized the only thing I can ever do that is meaningful is to vote. Exercise my franchise and make sure that my voice is one of the many that is heard and counted. I have been trying to follow local issues, read up on candidates who stand for each board and township. I have shown up each election day with my children to ensure they see that voting matters.
I see my home country burn. I ache in a way that goes beyond nostalgia. I gave up my right to vote willingly. I tell myself my opinion on what is happening there does not count as there is little I can do about it. I meticulously unfollow voices that trigger me. These are people I have known since my childhood. I flinch when I see forwards on Hindutva on my Whatsapp groups. I leave groups. I isolate myself.
I have learned engaging with people who are convinced about their right-wing politics is just as pointless as trying to make me see good on the other side. I ignore politics and engage with people instead, compartmentalizing the personal and the political.
As the world around me burns, I am conflicted. Politics is personal. In one country, my ilk makes others out of neighbors. In the country I am in, I am othered. Reconciling what is happening worldwide seems impossible. I have chosen to stay silent. I have chosen to speak only with my vote. I have also chosen to state on record:
I am against hate.
I am against homophobia.
I am against gendered violence.
I am against misogyny.
I am against organized religion.
I am against unregulated gun rights.
I am for equality.
I am for humanity.
I am for love.
I am for women’s rights over their bodies.
Most of all, I want an inclusive, peace-loving society. To those speaking up, I am with you. To those marching for justice, I am with you.