Note: Peace of Thread is a politically neutral organization. The blogger’s views are her own and don’t reflect the views of the leadership, the workers, or the other volunteers.
There were ballcaps and t-shirts. Colorful signs waved in the air. The cheers were loud enough to hurt my ears. The people on my screen were triumphant. Victory was theirs! Their team was proving itself to be the biggest, baddest team on the block.
But this wasn’t a sporting event I was watching. This was a rally being thrown by President Trump in Youngsville, Ohio. The home team was America. The opposing team was all those other countries, the ones stealing our jobs. President Trump wanted everyone to know that America is winning and the other countries are losing. The people and the rally were in complete agreement.
As I listened to the people in Ohio cheer at Trump’s statement that “We are finally, finally, finally putting America first,” I thought about our Peace of Thread seamstresses-who come from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. How can these people only care about themselves- and not about precious women like Anisa*? I wondered. How can our refugee friends be safe and thrive in Trump’s America?
But the truth is, I don’t have much room to judge these people. I remember how I felt when I first met our seamstresses. I remember the fear I felt as I walked into a room full of veiled women. The way I cringed when I realized many of them didn’t speak English or spoke with heavy accents. But their warmth and friendliness won me over. Today, I don’t feel fear when I visit my friends. I enjoy watching them working and their machines and playing with their kids. I see them smile and hear them laugh and know that they’re human just like I am.
It’s natural to want “our team,” the group of people we identify with and who we perceive to be the most like us to succeed. It’s natural to feel nervous or even afraid when we meet someone who’s different for us. But an “us v.s. them” mentality is something better saved for sports. The challenges in our country will be overcome when we start to think of ourselves as an “us”-one people that includes both refugees and people from Ohio. And when we don’t think in terms of “us v.s. them,” we’re free to make new friends.
*name changed for privacy reasons. To read Anisa’s incredible story, see “Peace of Thread: More Than Just Purses” from May 27, 2016.