“Estoy de acuerdo con el. ¿Te gusta el cordero?”
In a single breath, my host father expressed his support for Donald Trump’s ban on immigration to the United States from seven Muslim countries while diminishing the gravity of the statement to something as quotidian as, “How do you like the lamb?”
I told him I liked it a lot.
Overall, I haven’t had a lot of trouble adjusting to Madrid. I kept a similarly late schedule in New York, I understand the language and I have friends here from my classes and WSN. What irks me, however, is that I am a Jewish woman living in a country from which Jews and Muslims were expelled 500 years ago, under the roof of people who supported Francisco Franco’s vision of a Catholic Spain and who are not opposed to religious-based immigration restrictions.
I’ve always felt a — perhaps exaggerated — obligation to standing up for my political beliefs. In high school, I joined a nonpartisan debate club that allowed me to skip track practice so that my best friend and I could argue with a group of boys about politics and feminism — though it wasn’t much, I felt like I was doing something. I calmed down a little bit in college because, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by similarly liberal individuals, but I protested after Donald Trump’s election and marched after his inauguration.
Now that I’m 3,000 miles away from New York, I feel helpless to combat the injustices occurring in the United States. I’m originally from Massachusetts, so I don’t feel the need to write to my overwhelmingly Democratic congressmen. Furthermore, donations to Planned Parenthood or the American Civil Liberties Union are essential, but they don’t provide the catharsis of organized protest. I never thought I would say that the place I would most like to have been last weekend was John F. Kennedy International Airport.
This perceived helplessness is compounded by my inability to speak up for my opinions in my current residence. One thing I pride myself on is my ability to verbally express exactly how I’m feeling, to say exactly what I want to say. Now, I’m practicing circumlocutions and simplifying my sentences to communicate with people who don’t speak English.
I would be lying to myself, though, if I pretended that the language barrier was the only reason I am keeping quiet. I could stumble my way through explaining anything in Spanish. But when I watch the news with my host family and they mock the socialists in Catalonia, I can’t tell them I personally agree with the separatist movement. How can I tell the people who feed me that my liberal arts education in the United States has taught me that Spain has not been, nor will ever be, a homogenous entity? That Franco had it all wrong? That the Muslims they erroneously accused of terrorism are just like you and me?
I’m supposed to be having the time of my life — and I am — but my perverse addiction to checking the news follows me wherever there’s a WiFi connection. If anything, this is an opportunity to observe the presidency from a distance — to practice non-participation, conformity, silence. Surely there is something to be learned from keeping one’s thoughts to herself: I just haven’t yet found out what it is.
Email Abigail Weinberg at [email protected]