I knew that the shit was gonna get real, but today was the first time that I actually jumped back from my mailbox in alarm.
While I was getting the mail this afternoon, I found an envelope with an unfamiliar return address on it. It felt a little heavier than expected and I turned it over and saw the flap was open. I could see a sticky note attached to a card inside and I started to pull it out. I suddenly realized that there was a gritty powder all over it and that more of it was falling out and onto my hands.
Holy crap. Is there some anthrax in here? Did the crazies find me that fast?
I threw the envelope onto the ground. It landed face up. I spent a few moments frantically wiping my hands on my pants and stared at the return address.
Who the hell is this? Okay, an Islamophobic redneck probably isn’t going to put his return address on his envelope of doom. Get it together here, Lor. It’s not poison. I don’t know what this fuckery is here, but it’s probably not going to kill me.
I stood next to my mailbox, staring at the ground, waiting for the envelope to start answering my questions. I stared at the sky for a long moment and said my usual prayer. Okay. *Sigh* What the fuck. Help a sister out, please.
I looked back at the envelope on the ground and everything clicked into place. I looked back towards the sky and side-eyed, We need to have a good long talk about the goddamn1 patriarchy. Lemme know when You’re free.
The envelope was from a friend from college, Chelsea, who had used a return address label with her husband’s first and last name. She was sending me a sample of a product called Spark. (Spark is a powder that contains caffeine, vitamins, minerals; when added to water, it is supposed to give a nice boost to your day.2) Related to this, my mailman has never seemed super committed to his job - I recently received a envelope from my son’s high school that was mailed in September - and I’m guessing that Chelsea’s envelope was manhandled and the Spark packet inside burst open.
So there I was, standing in front of my mailbox, freaking out because my hands were all Spark-y, and Chelsea and the other married chicas had different last names and address labels, and it was all the fault of the goddamn patriarchy. And did I mention that lots of good white *Christians* wanted to kick my ass this week? Right. Yeah. There was that.
1 Okay, I know: using goddamn in my prayers is probably poor form.
2 After my initial speculation that maybe Spark was anthrax, sure, I was thinking maybe I ought to plug it a bit here. I felt bad for Chelsea when I finally realized the envelope was from her and my initial thought was, “That’s enough crazy for today! Into the garbage you go!” I appreciated her effort to send me the sample and nice note. She’s good people.
I’ve been wearing hijab now for about six weeks and it’s been a humbling journey. I’m the girl who likes to know how to do stuff. I’m the girl who looks at a challenge and says, “Yep, I’m coming for you.”
But with my commitment to hijab, it’s been all about humbling and fumbling instead. I still do not have my hijab game down yet. I try to wear it and focus on the gesture of solidarity that I’m trying to emulate, but the fact is that I’m sometimes overwhelmed by it.
Is it slipping? Did the underscarf shift backwards? Is that guy looking at me weird? Crap, is he going to walk behind me now? Why is he walking behind me? I know that lady from Glen Oaks. Did she recognize me and do that whole ‘oops, don’t want to talk to Lori’ thing and let her eyes slide over me? Or did she really not recognize me in this thing? Is the back of my neck showing? How can I check without looking like a weirdo? Why do I sometimes get a headache from wearing hijab, but other times I don’t? What did Mary think of this thing? Did Jesus ever try on her scarf? Do little kids try them on? Why is that guy still walking behind me? Fuck. Okay, I’m going to stop and let him pass by. Bad feeling. It’s probably nothing, but still. I think the underscarf is foreal slipping back. Fuck. Okay. I’m okay. This is okay. I can do this. I’m doing this. I’m doing this. Yes. I’m doing this. Yes.
And then, out of the clear blue sky, Junaid Ahmed from the BBC fell into my inbox. I knew Junaid from way back at Illinois Wesleyan. We were part of the same circle of friends and I remembered him as being super cool and friendly. We hadn’t spoken in over twenty years, but he must have seen my hijabi adventures via FB and my sporadic blog posts.
Junaid and James Foreman interviewed me and my mom on the phone and spliced together a lovely piece for the BBC Newshour program. We shared how Trump’s campaign rhetoric had sparked a resurgence of Islamophobia and the impact it was having on our culturally diverse community. I tried to explain that my choice to wear hijab was not truly political, but instead was a gesture of religious solidarity. In short, the BBC piece was a lovely little high-brow Valentine. Nice American lady from charmingly-named Chicago suburb is wearing hijab and is hoping to inspire other Christians to stand in support of their Muslim neighbors. I talked about some of the more negative aspects of my experience, but most of those talking points were not included in the interview.
I posted the interview on FB and it took off. The positive comments poured in and it appeared to be shared widely. Such fun.
CBS contacted me the next day and pretty much ran through the same interview topics with me. Again, I talked about the focus on religious solidarity, the general support from my circle, and some of the problems I had experienced from folks in the community.
As part of my discourse on the negative experiences, I shared with CBS a disquieting issue that had developed with my sons’ Boy Scout troop. While on a hike, I was told by a trusted friend that some folks in the Troop wanted for me to stop wearing hijab to the meetings because it was viewed as too political. Disruptive. Something that indicated an error in judgment on my part. Something that could be blamed on my not thinking clearly during what has been a hard year. Apparently, a handful of folks had been making phone calls and whispering behind my back about my choice to wear hijab. It was infuriating. And I knew full well that if I were a “real” Muslim, and not a sassy-mouthed Christian Democrat, none of this foolishness would be happening.
After I talked about this in the woods with my friend and, just barely, refrained from stabbing him (the messenger) in the neck with my hiking pole, I went home and went to bed. I was exhausted by the treachery.
My room is painted a simple pale green and, when I’m lying down, I can only see tree branches and clouds out the window. It is a place of peace. I lay in bed that afternoon and watched the clouds skid by. I thought about some of my so-called friends in Scouts. I thought about my dad and had a good cry. I knew that if I were able to call him, he would be roaring into the phone, “That’s ridiculous. You go ahead and keep fighting those fascists. You focus on what Mike, Joe, and Billy need to be seeing you do. If you believe in this, then keep doing it. And, hell, why do they care if you’re wearing a stupid scarf on your head? Too much time on their hands. Mary, come take the phone! Ridiculous.”
The simple fact was that I had a good idea of the identity of the phone call whisperers, but I still needed to address the situation head on. I spoke with the woman who had received these calls and we had an uncomfortable conversation that ended fairly amicably. I also circled back and spoke to my hiking friend and made sure he knew that I didn’t really want to stab him in the neck. Much.
And, among other topics, I told this story to Steve Miller from WBBM of CBS Chicago.
It is my understanding that a more balanced account of my experience was on WBBM's audio played earlier this week. However, the article online only focused on my conflict with the Scout troop. It was unfortunate that they only presented my challenges with the troop, when I had described plenty of other anti-solidarity incidents from various sources. However, I should have seen this coming when the reporter asked me repeatedly for the troop’s location and identifying number. I finally said, “You know, I have an eight-year-old at home and ten more years of Scouting ahead. I’m not giving you the troop’s identifying number. I’m not burning that bridge for you.”
I saw the story the next day and knew that it would cause more trouble. Pure clickbait. I posted it anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound.
When the Scout story hit social media, the local crazies emerged with a vengeance. Apparently, the BBC was not on their radar, but CBS and WBBM definitely were. Just within the past five days, I have received hundreds of messages. Most of them have been incredibly kind. But, oh, the crazy and uneducated have been hitting it hard and heavy.
And even though the hateful messages have been pouring in, I will not back down. The hijab is staying on. I may be getting the heebie-jeebies over flavored powder spilling out of an envelope, but I'm not giving in.
And so here I am.
These are crazy days.
I had plenty more Help a sister out, please moments with the trolls’ horrendous spelling and grammar. I would look at the hateful messages and think to myself, “How the fuck did this dummy manage to even log onto his computer? Who was his English teacher? FFS!”
I’m not sure what Jesus’ position is on being a grammar nazi – okay... yes, I do...I think He and I are going to agree to disagree on this one – but I find myself so contemptuous of folks who hope I’m raped and/or murdered and can’t spell the word “cunt.”
Here's the Highlights Reel from just the past two days:
- “You are reversing the women’s movement with your moronic wearing of that rag on your head. When your children and you are raped or murdered by a group of muslim terrorists you will not be very happy you waist of oxygen!”
- “Yea and she should rename her book “that idiotic women project, taking the wurld back in time to the middle ages.
- “You are NOT a Christain! YOU ARE a HARLOT of Satan!” (I l-o-v-e this one. Chri-stain. Harlot of Satan. Pure gold.)
- "Your no Christian, your an idiot."
- "I want to hand you your teeth." (I received this one early this morning and my first thought was, "Dude, go ahead and take them. They’re all yours.” My teeth are the bane of my existence. They hurt all. the. fucking. time.)
- "Something is wrong with you. Who will miss you when we kill you and your family?"
- "When the Muslim ISIS come for you you will die."
- "You are fuckedd up ugly cunt. ;("
- "Your not American cuunt." (This one wins Best in Show. Oh, that extra “u” opens a whole new door. Is the extra “u” available for use? Like “cuunt” is code for “hey u cunt?” Or “I c u u cunt.” Welcome to my brain. I am delighted by the options afforded by such spelling and dumbassery.)
I would like to close here with something I posted on FB a couple of days ago:
“Unfortunately, the most important element of my interviews was omitted. I spoke to the media because I’m looking for the next step in this gesture of solidarity. Who are my people out there? Who is equally concerned with the Islamophobia? Are there projects / endeavors / activist movements already occurring that are targeting Islamophobia? My voice is loud and my courage is boundless, but I want to do more. Please message me if you have a lead on this line of inquiry. I am here to serve."
Thanks for reading, friends.