I Am More Than Just an American and I Frighten You

I drafted this with the horror of the election season in mind, but then came #PulseOrlando. I want to expand my thoughts to cover my love of the LGBTQIA community and my intersectionality with the Arab and Muslim communities. I can’t find the energy. I don’t know how. So I am leaving this note to say those inclusions should be here in a much larger way, but for now, this is what I’m capable of sharing. This and love. Love is love is love.

love tee

Image via tee design at Threadless

I believe hate comes from fear, from the desire to be angry and place blame on others in place of challenging assumptions we make–the stories we tell ourselves–based on clothing, class, ability, dialect, and culture. I believe the terrorism practiced by white Americans comes from radical hate in the packaging of racism. Generalizations are easy, but every human life is complicated, and looking past the outer trappings is a muscle that requires exercise. You have to choose to see the person, not the stereotype you are prepared for. Often, that means having conversations.

Donald Trump doesn’t want to have conversations. He doesn’t want our country to be strong. He wants us to stagnate, let our muscles atrophy and empathy decay. And he is packaging his sales pitch with “Make America Great Again.”

America, this is the worst I have ever seen you.

I am not running for President, and I don’t have much money or following or platform, but I am willing to have the conversations.

I can understand why individuals ally themselves with Donald Trump. He’s saying America is a club and offering membership. He is saying only the elite can join, and when they do, they will be raising America up from victimized to survivor. And they will be doing it the American way, using American bootstraps gripped in American fists that just so happen to be white all over.

America is a pledge we take at birth. Our first breath when we land on American soil is an oath. If we are white. If we are not Black or Brown or Arab or Muslim or any other Other.


Donald Trump’s great America is an elitist, whites only club. Like the KKK. and people are signing up in droves for the same reason they join gangs and the military: to protect the people they love and to have their efforts recognized as important. Or, as is quite often the case for gangs and military, they have no other choice. In fact, many are born into these groups just as they are born into a religion or a language. Tribal culture is the far-flung antecedent of gang and military culture. These are more than clubs. These groups are communities. Families.

Just like I was born into the check boxes of American and Arab and Muslim and English and Arabic.


I was born and raised Arab and Muslim, the daughter of an immigrant/refugee, but I in no way fit the violent, succubus stereotype that fills your news feeds. I hate weapons because they were used on me. Not by Muslims or Arabs. By white, American, male (and because the media wants religion to play a role) Christian.

I don’t trust the self-labeled righteous because they are always the first to grow violent in response to their own vitriolic assertions of their higher purpose and everyone else’s lower standing. I experienced this at the hands of white, American (again, because the public wants religion to be at fault) Christians.

It astonishes me that Americans who buy into white American culture as superior or “civilized” or righteous fail to notice that they are breeding terror because they are terror. How is this not obvious? White culture flag-fliers are the “protective” hate machines that keep those they identify as “other” on edge to the point of paranoia. What happens to these “others” when they are stripped of safety and respect based on their origin, color, religion or status? They come to believe the world is a hateful and dangerous place full of monsters. We are taught to overcome our demons by fighting them.

The night is dark and full of terrors.

When we fight monsters we become monsters who create monsters who fight monsters who become monsters who create monsters.

Substitute monster for terrorist, because terrorism is the purposeful perpetuation of fear through tactics of physical or psychological violence.

Now ask yourself this question: Which came first, the monster or the terrorist?

Trump in hat - Make America White Again

As I see it, as I have experienced it, terrorists exist on both sides of any fight. And when that question is broken down, those waving their flags and shouting the loudest want to say it’s about God and country when really it’s about color and property.

I won’t be a cog in this hate machine.

This goes beyond being anti-war. I am an American of Arab, Muslim, immigrant, refugee descent. I am a literal embodiment of the current political conversation. I contribute to my country with love and loyalty, just as I loyally love non-White, non-American, non-Christian inhabitants of this world. I am the American dream, in a sense; I am more than just this country. And I want to know why that is so frightening to my country.

I am willing to have the conversations, but it seems Donald Trump’s America won’t have me unless it’s over for dinner and I am the main course.

Or, as happened most recently, it’s to talk over and tell me that Trump wants to protect family. Thank you, Trump’s America for your monologue. I’ve heard it many times in many forms throughout my life. Let me sum it up for you because you fail to get the gist of what you are saying: Trump is for your family. Your white family.

Read more of my experience growing up brown in my white country in Medium’s The Archipelago.

Being of Arab and Muslim descent in Trump’s America.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

2 Discussion to this post

  1. Rica says:

    Every part of this essay is amazing, and I did not get very far on the page before I began nodding “yes mam” and raising my hands in agreement. This is so damn quote worthy, it should be printed on T-shirts and painted on billboards: Generalizations are easy, but every human life is complicated. So many virtual high fives for this, my dear. Thank you.

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    • Shawna Ayoub Ainslie says:

      Rica, I can’t figure out if my response disappeared or I’m just not seeing it. Thank you so much for this comment. I have come back to read it multiple times. I’ve published several difficult pieces here recently but I think this one took the most for me to get comfortable with. I appreciate you being here.

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