You know what the Internet needs? Another Donald Trump think-piece, I said to myself as I thought about what my first *official* blog entry would be about. The media definitely doesn't talk about Donald Trump enough! I know, I know ... trust me, I know. I myself have actively tried to avoid 99.9% of Donald Trump pieces the Internet spits out because honestly, what is there left to say?
A lot. As a Bosnian refugee with Muslim family members and that whole being a woman thing, I have a lot to say about Donald Trump. Before I dive into the Donald however, let me dive a little more into me and my background.
I am very well aware of my whiteness. I am a white woman in America and I understand the privileges that being white in America provides (that's a whole other entry and topic of discussion). But before I was a white woman in America, I was a Bosnian girl in former Yugoslavia. For those who don't know much about Yugoslavia (and trust me, most people in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia where I grew up didn't even know Yugoslavia existed let alone that it was a country) it has a long and complicated history filled with war, turmoil, and hate.
I was born in 1987 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, right on the cusp of what is now known as the Bosnian genocide. The dictator known as Slobodan Milosevic had just come to power and Yugoslavia as we knew it would soon cease to exist. I won't go into the historic details too much and you can read all about Milosevic and the Bosnian war here, but I will speak of what I know and the war's effect on me.
Slobodan Milosevic hated Muslims. Slobodan Milosevic hated Bosnians. Slobodan Milosevic hated anyone who wasn't a "pure" Christian Serb. He used his power as the leader of Yugoslavia to get on TV, radio, in the papers, anywhere you could think of and talk about the horrible effects these people were having on our beloved Yugoslavia. The Bosnians? They're a threat to everything we stand for! The Muslims? They'll ruin us! We must band together against these people before they destroy us - and they will destroy us. We have to strike first! Slobodan Milosevic brought people together against one common enemy. He made them feel like they were part of something. He made them believe that if they followed him and everything he stood for, they would be on their way to a better Yugoslavia. Make Yugoslavia great again.
I remember hearing my first bomb when I was three years old. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom in our high rise apartment eating crepes when it happened. She immediately scooped me into her arms and ran into the hallway, covering my head with her hands, kissing me repeatedly.
"What was that noise?" I asked.
"Oh, they're just testing some stuff," she responded, cradling me back and forth, still kissing me.
No matter how hard I try, that is a moment that I will never forget. That is a memory of Bosnia I will always have. The next few weeks, months, years were mostly a blur to be honest. I was young and my parents tried to shield me from as much of the war, of the genocide, as possible. But they couldn't shield me from everything. I remember peeking through the basement window of our apartment building (we often had to spend nights there in case of bombings), seeing snipers take out people running in every direction one minute, and collapsing to the ground the next. I remember hearing loud noises and seeing buildings go up in smoke just a few miles away while screams filled the air. I plugged my ears. I remember my 11 year-old brother holding my hand and talking to me about WWE wrestling and how much better the Undertaker was than Hulk Hogan (no he wasn't). I remember piling into a car with all my cousins trying to escape the attacks, only to be stopped by Serbian soldiers and forced at gunpoint to spend the night on a gym floor with hundreds of other Bosnian refugees. We were piled in like cattle.
How cool! I thought, as I ran around the gym with my brother. It was like a fun sleepover with my cousins and him. When I was much older I found out that every single one of us in that gym was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp or killed. No one knows why they let us go. Does it even matter?
It took us over two years to finally get to the U.S. You read that right. It took my refugee family and I over two years to finally be admitted into the United States of America. Even at six years old, I saw the amount of work, strain, and dedication it took my mother to get her children to a safe place.
People think the United States is just casually letting refugees into the country at a rapid rate. You wanna come hang out in America? Sure, come on over right now! You need some shelter? No problem, welcome! That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works, but Donald Trump will have you thinking that.
So here is where it all comes full circle (as I'm sure you've been waiting for the connection). I don't know much about Donald Trump's policies or political agenda and I'm not even going to pretend to know. But I do I know enough abut Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Slobodan Milosevic. He is a rich, old, white man in power who uses his money and absurdly large media platform to instill fear, hate, and separation with the promise to fix it. Make America great again.
People think things like war and genocide and concentration camps can't happen in the U.S. We're too evolved. We're too rich. We're too powerful. We're too something. We're too everything. Look around. Look at the wedge this man, this election, has created between people. Look at the things he spews from his mouth, the fear he has instilled. Look at the segregation. Look at the riots. Look at the shootings. Look. I mean really look.
Thoughts turn into words turn into actions turn into how did we get here?
My mother brought my brother and I to America for a better life. Cliche, right? No. It's the truth. She wanted her kids to be raised somewhere they'd be treated like equals. Somewhere they could be themselves. Somewhere they wouldn't have to worry about the religion they choose to practice, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their ethnicity. Somewhere they wouldn't be punished or killed for simply just being. Somewhere they wouldn't be scared.
The Bosnian war ended over 20 years ago. I am 28 years old, living in America now and I am scared.