Last week I hopped into a cab in Toronto, heading to the airport after a weekend speaking engagement.
My driver’s name was Mohammed; a middle-aged man born in Afghanistan, who earned his PhD, and moved here in his twenties.
We talked about the weather, about my work; about our children, about family car trips to Disney World.
Then we got to talking about America.
As we got closer to the airport, I joked with him, that given my open critiques of the current Administration, I was unsure whether they’d let me back in, and with my feelings about the current state of thing—I wasn’t all that excited to go back anyway.
Mohammed quickly grew animated.
“I just don’t understand this!” he said, his voice booming, his arms forming a shrug, and his face reflecting incredulity.
“How can the worst person in the world, be given the greatest country in the world to lead?” he remarked. “It’s disgusting.”
Before I could respond, he went on.
“The whole world is laughing at America. It’s a global joke, what he’s doing. It makes me so angry.”
As Mohammed shared his heart with me, I was simultaneously encouraged, ashamed, and pissed off.
It was a comfort to hear a voice outside of my country express solidarity with me and the millions in America who feel like prisoners of this predatory, fraudulent Administration.
It was embarrassing to realize that for the first time in my life, I have trepidation to claim America as my own, because of all it now represents.
It angered me, that a middle-aged man from Afghanistan could be more perceptive and wise than 62 million of my countrymen—and women who’ve spent their lives here and have much more at stake.
It was a cab ride that I was sorry to see end.
I’m sure this President isn’t technically the worst person in the world—but let’s just say he’s making a really strong showing in the competition.
But their was sad truth beneath his hyperbole. My new friend, Mohammed gets it all: the bigotry he’s unleashed here, the hypocrisy of religious people who support him, the ineptitude that the entire world is talking about, the fractures to our national image.
He sees that the differences and the fear and the isolation that this President brokers in, are dangerous things.
Most of all he sees that this nation is being led by someone far beneath it, not at all worthy of it, and irreparably detrimental to it.
I’m hopeful enough people in America see such things; that regardless of political affiliation, religious worldview, or nation of origin, a vast majority is as stupefied and outraged as Mohammed is these days—and ready to vote and rescue themselves.
I hope that more people in this country can see what so much of the world sees about us:
That we are a great nation.
That we are a place filled with beautiful diversity.
That we do deserve far better than this.
I said goodbye to my new friend and headed into the terminal, but the whole way home his words bounced around repeatedly in my head:
“How can the worst person in the world, be given the greatest country in the world to lead? It’s disgusting.”
It really is, Mohammed.
It really is.