This weekend was rough for those of us who believe in the good of immigration. It wasn’t even that the idea of a temporary ban on immigration was so awful–it was that a hastily created and vaguely worded executive order meant that lots of people who had been granted the legal right to visit or reside in the United States saw that right unceremoniously yanked away, upending their lives and the lives of their families, many of whom are American citizens.
I spent the weekend sharing the stories of all these people because it seemed obvious that the best way to win hearts and minds is to tell stories. Like that of a twelve year old Yemeni girl stuck with her U.S. citizen father in Ethiopia. Like the Iranian woman who resides legally in South Carolina who finds herself unable to return to her home and her dog. Like the Iraqi man who is the father of a two year old U.S. citizen and the husband of a pregnant U.S. citizen and now cannot get back to them. The baby who was kept away from her mother. The five year old detained and handcuffed. The baby who needs open heart surgery who may not get it now. Even if you believe in the underlying goal of this order, I defy you to suggest that any of the above stories reflect well on us as Americans.
Since the furor and initial crisis of the weekend has died down (though many of these people are still stuck in their precarious positions will have had their lives irreparably altered), I’ve been thinking about the power of stories. As humans, stories have unique power over us. I cry every single time I read The Velveteen Rabbit. I will always be a little bit in love with Captain Wentworth from Persuasion. I remain terrified by the mere thought of the old man in the rocking chair in Heart-Shaped Box. Stories move us and they stay with us in a way that simple facts never will.
Which, in the age of authoritarianism and rising white nationalism (how is this possible in 2017?), makes those who write powerful. It’s easy to feel like you’re screaming into a void when the world seems to have careened off course and people you know and love demonize the poor and the needy. But if you write, you have an inordinate amount of power to change hearts and minds, to win others to your side with empathy. It’s incumbent upon us all to use that power to the fullest extent.
So if you’re feeling dismayed and on the verge of despair, take heart. You have the power to write your resistance. And you must. We all must. This fight will be won as much on the page and screen as in the streets. You have a superpower. Now go use it for good.