US vote is a bitter lesson
2016-11-15 13:26:25 -
Human Rights
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Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

When a fellow train passenger broke the news to me on who won the race for the presidency of the United States, I nearly called for an emergency stop so I could go straight home and bury myself under a duvet all day. I felt like closing my eyes and ears to the world as it became unbearable to imagine what things might be like from now.

I’ve made the decision to hide from media hype until the tumult has settled down. I am probably feeling this way because I am almost all the things that the US president-elect, whose name I even dread to say, stands against – as a woman, an African, a Muslim, someone from a working class background, a migrant worker who identifies a lot with low-paid work and domestic work.

I am also concerned that the man has links with Ireland. Who can forget when we literally rolled out the red carpet for his arrival after his purchase of a golf resort in Co Clare? I was surprised at the time at how important he must regard himself that he would organise such a welcome. 

I don’t know what his links with Ireland will mean going forward. I don’t know if among all undocumented migrants in the US, he’ll ship the Irish too, as Bono asked during a recent concert. I don’t know if our Taoiseach will continue to lobby on behalf of the undocumented Irish every St Patrick’s Day.

Then I start to worry about all the migrants who are in precarious work, and all the people who experience exploitation, forced labour and modern-day slavery as well as those who advocate on their behalf, and what this means for them. 

Moreover, what will all this mean to the rest of the world? Will other nations follow the US president-elect’s lead in relation to migrants, or the way he has spoken about women, or how he publicly mocked a disabled person? He often speaks about ‘the good old days’, but I am not sure everyone understands what was ‘good’ about those days in the same way.

Contrary to this, I think that maybe this fear is just everyone’s immediate reaction and that things aren’t going to be so bad. Hope is what keeps us alive. Who knows? Maybe the world has advanced so much that it won’t sit back and watch this man continue to do all he has promised, or rather warned he will do.

It is maybe an opportunity for many different groups to keep guard and participate in local, national and global debates that shape policies affecting their lives. This is the only way to ensure that they know what is being said about them, what will happen and how it will happen. It is also an opportunity for us all to participate effectively in politics. 

Politics is part of our lives, whether we like it or not. It is a lesson that I am sure everyone who didn’t vote in the US elections, but could have, has learnt bitterly. It is also a lesson to us all for the future that we should take part in politics and in voting – something migrants tend to shy away from, although sometimes with understandable reasons.

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

TAGS : Mariam Bhatti Tales of a Domestic Worker US vote Bitter Lesson
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