I woke up this morning to read that a number of immigrants traveling to this country are now being held in detention here or are forbidden to travel. The news that these earnest, hard-working Muslims from Iraq, Iran, and Syria will not be able to enter the U.S. feels like one of my worst visions come true. Yes, that man (don’t want to name him) ranted and raved on the campaign trail about closing our borders and keeping out the foreigners, especially the Muslims and the Mexicans whom he claimed were fiercely and inherently dangerous. But, I didn’t/I couldn’t believe that as the president he would go through with such a bigoted and cruel decision. Since he became president he has been acting like an absolute monarch, signing proclamation after proclamation, and I assumed that most of those wouldn’t come about without the help of the congress. Guess I was wrong. Our democratic system does allows for a president to make sweeping decisions in dire times, but I’m sure the Founding Fathers could not have had a clue what that would mean in the hands of an unstable, mean spirited person.
It breaks my heart to think of people who have fled their country, having endured countless cruelties and injustices, coming to seek refuge in America and being told they can’t come in. I have always believed that this country stood up for justice and humanitarian action. And this nation has harbored immigrants since the very beginning of its history, some with white skin, some with black or brown skin… Over time we would become a multi-colored population. On the Statue of Liberty travelers see these words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …. ” We are a country built on and enhanced by immigrant energy, we are a vast ethnic quilt of humankind. But then, the man in the White House doesn’t read, doesn’t know history, and has lived his whole life in a bubble. He is tragically ignorant. And he is loaded with fear that he wants our citizens to share. When I think of the vast power of fear over living beings, I become terrified myself. It is primal, irrational, and brings us deep into our primitive mammalian selves, where there is no reasoning and no heart.
Build a wall! Close the door! Keep the bad guys out! …. especially those with darker skin and strange customs … Mexicans who trade in drugs but also come here to work harder for their families than the white folks. And those dark eyed folks from Muslim countries who look so different, have complicated names and wear burkas, and who are deeply spiritual, praying daily to Mohammed. Without discrimination or thought of any kind, our government now chooses to exclude those who are deemed alien, and a threat. Tragic, because there is no coherent thought process happening here. Just raw fear. And the unstable monarch…
These are really complicated times. It is true that we have been harmed by people proclaiming their allegiance to Islam. We are despised by many in that part of the world, and that historical contempt is also complicated. It is also painful to contemplate. It is essential that rational good minds prevail and sort out how we serve grave humanitarian needs while still protecting our country from terrorism. There are good minds out there who have been on that mission, I know there are. Many of those minds were hard at work in Washington during Barack Obama’s tenure. At this moment, however, it feels as though the good and sane minds are not in control, and we are careening through time and space, yanked this way and that by a man who is driven by racism and ill-will.
I want to say those who had the door slammed in their face in New York and elsewhere (I must name them: Hameed Khalid Darweesh, unnamed family of 6 from Syria, Seyed Soheil, Saeedi Saravi, Haider Sameer Abdulkhalek Alshawi, Ali Abdi, 6 unnamed Iraqis coming from Egypt) that this is NOT the true America. This is not the America built on the principles of all men deserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the America where there are laws which forbid discrimination based on race, religion, and gender. Our government was founded on humane and righteous principles, but today a vast number of our citizens who voted in the man in White House have no clue about just how sacred these principles are. They are driven by fear of all that is different. Those of us who cherish these principles now weep and grieve for the shameful acts of our government. I want you who tried to enter the country to know that there are millions of us in the United States who want to welcome you to this amazing place where opportunities are bountiful, the diversity of culture is rich, and the power of community can still get things done. I believe there will be consequences here and now for this horrible decision. I marched in peaceful protest with 500,000 women in Washington a week ago and got a taste of the power of our democracy, our solidarity and our shared values. It brought tears to my eyes to realize that we can be a government OF the people, FOR the people, BY the people — even if at this moment that seems to be a sham. I promise my determination to speak out in all ways about this hateful exclusion of our fellow beings, and I know there are many, many thousands who are behind me in this. I humbly offer my apologies for this government, I promise never to forget you and your families’ inalienable right to come here and join this amazing experiment in democracy.