THIS IS NOT A REALITY SHOW
The First Amendment of the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Donald Trump, in his first week in office, has treated the job of president as a sort of reality show in which high drama and chaos are vital elements and should be maximized. He either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, that the world stage is not a sound stage, that upsetting the fragile balance of a heavily armed world doesn’t end in a 60 minute time frame with no actual consequences and no real damage. In a little over a week, he has blocked free information from coming out of the EPA, he has attempted to silence scientists from talking about climate change, he has insulted and demeaned the press, including allowing Steve Bannon to state that the press should shut up, and now he has effectively closed America’s borders to refugees and even people who hold green cards if they come from a list of countries that he doesn’t like. Last night, when Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi man who has assisted the United States military and has been vetted for 2 years, was detained at the airport, Mr. Darweesh asked the customs agent who he should talk to. The customs agent said, “Talk to Donald Trump.” That’s what happens in dictatorships — only the dictator can reverse your fate. When, after 14 hours, he was finally released, Mr. Darweesh was far more gracious than America had been to him over that long night.
When I was growing up, my father talked often about the uniqueness of America — our freedoms, our openness to take in those who wish to come here, the exquisite words on the Statue of Liberty. He used to talk about the beauty of America being “a melting pot.” My memories of this go back so far, I recall being quite young when I first heard that phrase and being confused by it. Once my father explained it to me, I understood. I remember his stories about our ancestors coming over from Ireland and the persecution they faced. He didn’t pretend that America was perfect, but he believed in our heart. He believed that our collective humanity would win out in the end. If he’s looking in on us now, he is most certainly weeping. But he is also praying.
When my mother came to visit me at a house I was renting and 2 Hispanic workmen were there, they told her with tears in their eyes that they wouldn’t be in this country if it weren’t for my father. They were 2 of the millions of people who benefitted from his 1986 Immigration Reform Bill. The idea of splitting up families who came here illegally from Mexico was not something he would consider; banning Muslims from this country but letting in Christians would never have occurred to him.
We are on dangerous ground. No country, no government, is so strong that it can’t be destroyed. We are more fragile than we have probably ever realized, but it’s imperative that we realize it now. Our strength, our endurance, and the promise of a future will come from the millions of us who love what the Founding Fathers created, who love the Constitution and who are willing to combine our voices to drown out an administration that has shown disdain for the principles upon which this country was founded.
For those who think they’re safe from persecution or exile because they aren’t Hispanic or Muslim, let me remind you of Pastor Niemoller’s words about the German intellectuals who didn’t have the courage to speak up when the Nazis came to power:
“First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”