Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, George W. Bush appears a tempered moderate in hindsight; even my dad thinks wistfully of the days when our president was from Texas and Trump’s influence was confined to The Celebrity Apprentice. My younger brothers, sometimes uninterested in American politics have taken to yelling at Trump’s image during our nightly news watching ritual. Even here in Amman, Trump haunts my host family’s television, causing my host brother to joke that maybe we see more of him here in Jordan than we did back in the United States. Only my mother is able to control her temper in the face of such politics.
Despite all I have written about the men in my life, it is my mother I think most about now. The perfect complement to my father, where he offers to edit my resume and encourages me to apply for the internship I am sure I will not get, her hallmarks are warm tea and kind hugs. My mother has practiced radical empathy for as long as I can remember. She is often moved to tears by life’s injustices, both large and small: another school shooting, a family friend undergoing another round of chemotherapy, a squirrel dead on the side of the road. She modeled by example what it means to show unconditional love and care, and she continues to do so in the face of Donald Trump’s daily intrusion into our living room.
Can the subaltern speak? My father would attempt to answer the question with logic. “How do you define ‘speaking’”, he might ask. “Based on that definition, it seems to me they are speaking”. My mother’s approach would be simple, and yet perhaps more sophisticated in implementation. “Have you been listening?”, I picture her asking me. I am my father’s daughter and my mother’s child in equal parts. In the rural region of Nepal, our group met with women who laughed at their difficulties in talking to our group of students. "We may not know what to say but we are strong in our hearts", they tell us. In Jordan, we met with a Palestinian refugee family, living in Amman for generations but unable to obtain a passport or citizenship. In countries all over the world, we have been asked to carry messages, of struggle, fear, and triumph, back to the United States. I have done my best to listen, but I worry I will not be able to carry the stories I have heard in any meaningful way.
Throughout my reflections from my time in Jordan, it is clear that I knew very little when my plane touched down in Amman. When a second plane lands in Dallas and I am reunited with my parents, I will do my best to convey what I have learned here. The subaltern speaks, of course, and it has been the privilege of a lifetime to hear the stories I have heard this semester. At the beginning of our program, our fellow pointed out that by the end, we would have all traveled more during the semester than the majority of the world will travel in their entire lives. Thanksgiving has come and gone in the United States, and this year I am thankful for the privilege to travel and learn. I am committing to using what I have learned to fight for a more just world. At least for now, that means listening and speaking with a mind as open as my father’s and heart as open as my mother’s.