When real estate magnate Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, Kareem Rahma, CEO of video content platform Nameless Network, felt his world turned upside down. The Egyptian-American tech entrepreneur, who was raised in St. Paul, Minn. but has since settled in Brooklyn, had always considered himself a positive person and was certain that the future of not only America was bright — but that of the larger populace as well. Trump's controversial ascension to the presidency, however, seemed to change that outlook.
"It felt like everyone had the same idea of what success felt like," Rahma told In The Know. "It felt like we were united, you know, and then, when the reality hit that Donald Trump won the election and that it wasn't a joke and it was something nobody saw coming, it was an instantaneous change that occurred literally overnight for the entire world."
As a person of color, Rahma said he initially found it difficult to accept that Trump — who has repeatedly been accused of promoting racism and bigotry — was now leader of the United States, a country that has long proclaimed righteousness and welcomed immigrants.
"Waking up the next day in a new world with new rules and with new kind of acceptable social boundaries and constraints was jarring," he recalled. "It was jarring for everyone. My reaction was like, 'Holy sh*t.' I, all of a sudden, feel like I have no idea where we're going, like I don't feel comfortable anymore."
In February 2018, while still processing Trump's presidency, Rahma traveled to Beirut to speak at a panel. One night, he woke up and, without thinking, wrote on a piece of paper "We were promised flying cars, 100 haikus from the future."
"I jotted it down and when I woke up and looked at the piece of paper, I knew exactly what it meant," he recalled. "It was like I had an assignment to do, and this was the assignment. It was really kind of like a serendipitous discovery."
Rahma spent the remainder of the year writing haikus — he estimates that he came up with about approximately 160 of them before paring down that number to 127 the following year. The final product, unsurprisingly titled "We Were Promised Flying Cars," is a collection of poems that describe a somewhat dystopian future that marries elements of tragedy and comedy.
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"There's truth in comedy, and, for me, I was interested in looking at this in not only a realistic manner but in a stirred manner," Rahma said. "And many of the things that happened today are absurd and are funny in their own way, like the fact that President Trump Photoshopped his body onto an image of a boxer in a ring is just something that you can't make up, right? It is something that's still absurd."
Some of Rahma's published haikus, however, also force readers to reflect on today's pressing issues, including immigration and plastic waste, such as the one below:
The plastic we used
created new continents
for the refugees
WE SOLVED THE MIGRANT CRISIS
Others touch on how social media has shaped societal behavior:
Your upward mobility
Your low-self esteem
INSTANT GRATIFICATION GRAMS
Ultimately, Rahma said he wants his audience to be able to relate to his haikus.
"I want this to be a hopeful prayer for change," he said. "I want readers to feel all of the emotions that I felt while while writing it, which was anxiety and stress and depression and humor most importantly."