Walking Past the White House: March comes in January

by Maniza Naqvi

MarchA very decent, elegant, graceful and intelligent man, the kind who opens doors for his wife, and wins a Nobel prize for Peace just by being has for eight years occupied the White House, furthering and expanding the indecency of war. And Mr. Trump may slam doors on everyone and not win a prize but will do the same.

Because in this system, it doesn't matter who is elected, they become part and parcel of, let me coin a term the: war industrial complex kitkaboodles endless dreadfulness (WICKED).

Let me locate myself. If you draw a straight line from here, Karachi, to there—DC, both points are home. Most days of the year walking past it I stop and gaze at the White House—at its glory—with appreciation as well as with many grievances in my heart for the policies unleashed across the globe.

Grievances against the kind of endless war policies which have now brought us inevitably, shamefully, tragically, criminally up to year sixteen of relentless erosion of public space, privacy, discourse and the increase of war and the propaganda necessary for it—books have disappeared—we rely on google and social media for all our information.

In the vicinity of where I live in Washington DC and where I work there used to be many bookshops and now there are next to none. Yes, Politics and Prose and Kramers— one or two keep chugging on—but more as coffee shops, bars and restaurants then bookstores. With the erosion and disappearance of books and with the rise of IPhones and social media—we are getting more and more connected with nothing—and informed about nothing. Perhaps the march across the USA on January 21, 2017 has finally woken up America, thanks to the over the top fascistic rhetoric of Donald J. Trump. Perhaps Trump has managed to build that wall—after all—but of people rising against injustice and fascism. Perhaps against war and the killing of people and genocide and not just for the sake of protection of our women's right to birth control.

On January 20, 2009 I stood freezing on the Mall with beloved friends most from the Midwest and Spain and England watching with millions as Mr. Barack Hussain Obama took the oath and became President Barack H. Obama. A dear friend turned to me flag in hand, tears flowing down his cheeks, snot accumulating, sobbing with happiness and relief—hugging me. It was this incredible moment in American's history—it was not just a personal journey for Mr. Obama but for all Americans. But for this cynical bitch—it was just a packaging change in an ongoing and still unfolding unjustifiable war in a whole huge half continent which was also beginning to pivot to Africa—and due to the accusations of racism and crusades—the country had with relief voted for the product put forward by its deep state—an absolutely beautiful couple and a man who was the product of a white and black parentage. The product of slavery—and of Kenya and of a beautiful single mother a development specialist for God's sake was becoming President. It was so lovely so beautiful. And that dear close friend turned to me—his eyes saying it all—the pain and happiness he felt and —I detected in them an insistence that I banish my cynicisms and my heart aches of grievances and rebukes and anger and rage and accept this as the dawning of a new day—and that I stop, that I stop insisting that there wasn't hope, or change and that I agree that yes there would be change—that I stop repeating like a broken record the fearful warnings that fascism was on its way….

And here we are. This time none of us will be on the Mall on January 20th. None of us—will be treating the week before the inauguration like a new day coming—like a long Thanksgiving feast for which we were preparing. I will not go searching for the perfect ball gown—I had worn a peacock blue with shots of brown—taffeta—with matching silk beaded shoes to an official ball in 2009…..And had danced the night away at a lovely similar ball in 2012…..Same friends—same joy…..But by 2012 I had danced for the chance to simply dance and nothing more.

This time I watched the inauguration in my town from far away from home—at home in Karachi—Like geese from Siberia I too fly here every January or February in search of warmer climes. I'm doing my own marching here—trying my best to save a bookshop: The Pioneer Book House—A Law Books Shop-the oldest Book Store in Karachi. Perhaps I will not succeed—I'm rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic I feel. But I must keep trying, resist, resist, resist. I dust and wipe book after book on laws, and regulations and acts and amendments and poetry and some fiction. And even a book on General Zia-ul-Haq that awful fascist General supported fully and totally by the United States of America and Saudi Arabia in that then war that has gone on endlessly in Afghanistan since 1979. That endless war that has murdered millions and that became the epicenter of murder of so many in the world and in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in Karachi. My urge is to throw the book in the trash bag—but I resist that urge. All opinions are valid. And after all he has been the muse for most of my fiction.

Telecommuting by night, moonlighting by day. Phoning, skyping, webexing with DC by night—talking Safety Nets, Poverty, Fragility, and so on by night—and dusting off books—law books in the Pioneer Book House for Law books and hoping for more poetry and fiction by day……sweeping floors. Hoping, hoping—-hoping that somehow that this will make an iota of a difference.

On the TV screen, my town and the Mall, at 2.30 a.m. in Karachi, appeared as though Spring had come to DC in January—March in January, the entire Mall from the aerial view was an ocean of pink —as if the blossoms that appear in Spring have already arrived. Pink hats and banners. An estimated 2.2 to 2.5 million women and men marched in DC. Another five hundred thousand in New York. And five million worldwide. Finally a protest against racism and war? This is a beautiful thing. The muse for this? I guess we have Mr. Trump to thank.