A month ago, I was in a Bosnia — just as insomniac as every other deeply Muslim place. Every night I stayed up late, turbocharged by coffee and Ramadan prayer, all but overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of the Ottoman old town. I found myself thinking: I don’t want to go back to America. Please, Allah, find me a way to stay.
A few weeks later, I was at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute. I should disclaim: I work there — teaching a course on Islam to North American rabbis. I spent my free time between Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods, challenged and even overwhelmed. I found myself thinking the same, though: I don’t want to go back.
It took me a few very sleepless nights to understand.
My wife was waiting in Brooklyn for me, after all. My father and my brother. Nephews and a niece. Most of my closest friends. It wasn’t because I didn’t miss America. It’s because America itself had gone missing. Or nuts.
Donald Trump had offended nearly every constituency possible, and yet nothing slowed him down. Like the Hulk, he just got stronger with every attack. (Except he’s orange, not green.) How could I continue to identify with a country half of which sees fit to zealously embrace a racist bigot, a know-nothing anti-Semitic and Islamophobic blowhard with fascist tendencies and a predilection for (a) war crimes and (b) running away from actual war?
How could I want to stay in a place so excited about a man who wants to deport millions of people, and ban my co-religionists from the country?