When I am still and quiet, I am afraid.
It's not something I want to admit, but it's true.
The list of fears is long and deep. It has run like an electric current with no outlet that starts deep in my gut and bounces to my closed lips and back again, ping-ponging around like the very worst game of pinball.
I have worked hard, and I'm sure not always perfectly, to ensure that my writing on this platform is very careful on sensitive issues like race, politics, and religion. I don't like inflammatory or baseless claims, and I don't want to be yet another sensationalist Internet presence who is screaming into the void.
I want to be staid. I want to be grounded. I want to be reliable, dependable, fair, and kind.
It's for those reasons that I've been so scared to write anything at all on the subject of the new administration. We are all supercharged with emotions and opinions. We are planting our flags and glaring at those in the other camp. We have drawn lines in the sand. It's broken my heart to see statuses and tweets raging against the other side: the "You voted for him, I hope you're happy with what you've done," kind. The "Fellow liberals: If your preacher doesn't denounce Trump, you should leave church," kind. The, "If you want to complain about immigrants, why don't you house and clothe some? No one's stopping you. No? That's what I thought," kind. (Real excerpts from my Facebook feed.) We are tearing each other apart.
I love you. Whoever you are, reading this. Can we just start there? I really mean it. I do.
So through the fear of how this will land, and with a hope that my more conservative readership will assume the best in me, I have to say out loud: what's happening in our country right now is not okay.
PAUSE: This post is not about blaming Trump voters. I find that kind of finger-pointing to be problematic and unproductive. This post is about bringing to light unbiased information that is helpful to understanding our current political climate.
There are a million ways we could go here in terms of the things that twisted my insides into a knot last week, but the tipping point was President Trump's executive order on immigration.
Last night, I sat down and did three hours' worth of research into this executive order and its consequences. I wanted to be as informed as possible before I wrote a single word on this subject, and I'm including links as I go so that you can do you own research.
- For 90 days, this executive order bans anyone (originally including green-card holders, but it's been amended since then to welcome them) from the following countries from entering the United States: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
- For 120 days, it freezes the US Refugee Admissions Program until certain immigrants, who have been vetted and deemed acceptable, are allowed to enter the US.
- Christian immigrants are being prioritized over Muslim immigrants, both because Mr. Trump has explicitly stated that that is his goal and because the countries that are affected by the ban are predominantly Muslim. (Below is a quote from a few days ago.)
There are two pieces of this that I find unsettling and worthy of attention:
- The fact that Trump bypassed normal regulatory procedures in order to set this plan into motion, and
- The widespread stigmatization of people who are Muslim in America and around the world.
1. The fact that Trump bypassed normal regulatory procedures in order to set this plan into motion.
More about the first one. Instead of consulting with teams of experts, namely the members of the federal agencies who would themselves be implementing the effects of the order, he signed it into being first and consulted people later. There was little if any vetting of this order to determine whether it was constitutional, nevermind logistically feasible. The result of this decision was clear: people returning to the United States, including permanent residents and green-card holders, were detained in airports. Even setting aside the obvious moral objections, it was poorly executed and chaotic.
For those who are comparing Obama's executive order in 2011 to Trump's, this is a great piece analyzing the differences; the most important ones being:
- Obama's executive order was in direct response to a threat (two Iraqi refugees had been discovered targeted American troops with homemade bombs), and Trump's was unprompted;
- Obama didn't ban visa applications, and
- Green-card holders were still allowed entrance into the country.
Already, the White House has started walking the plan back by including green-card holders in the group that is allowed into the country.
Opinion: While that was definitely the right move, it's troubling that because of the speedy execution of this order, damage control is already necessary. This, "Ready, fire, aim," form of leadership is dangerous and is something all American citizens should have their ears pricked about. I'm not arguing that Trump is the anti-Christ; I'm arguing that Trump is impulsive. And impulsive is not what you want in the White House.
Also, the quote below is a mis-representation of how things have gone down. America deserves transparency.
2. The widespread stigmatization of people who are Muslim in America and around the world.
The idea that terrorism in the United States in the last few decades has been propagated exclusively or even mostly by Muslims or propagated by immigrants is patently false. And y'all know I wouldn't use language that strong if I wasn't 100% sure. Here are some quick facts, again, with sources cited:
- Though the executive order cites 9/11 as a reason for its existence, the terrorists on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the UAE. None of those countries are included in the ban.
- Since September 11th, more Americans have been killed by American citizens (anti-government, racist, or single-issue homegrown terrorists) than by Islamic jihadists - nearly twice as many, in fact.
- Over 784,000 refugees have settled in The United States since 9/11. Of those 784,000+, zero have carried out terrorist attacks. Only three have been arrested on charges of domestic terrorism.
To behave as though all immigrants or followers of Islam are dangerous, violent criminals whose goal is to take American lives is not only xenophobic - it's factually inaccurate. It's just not true. And it's so easy to be misguided by cable news. I feel like searching for a fair depiction of anything these days is challenging. But that's why doing your own research is so important.
Okay - this next part is exclusively opinion.
There are lots of people who'd love it if America was knocked down a few pegs (lookin' at you, Russia). But to cast out an entire religious group based on the actions of a few is as misguided as assuming that all white people are dangerous because of the existence of the KKK. It's un-American, and, if you are a Christian, particularly problematic.
As a person of faith myself, I know that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all derivative of the same patriarch, Abraham, and his sons, Ishmael (the father of Islam) and Isaac (the father of the Judeo-Christian movement) (Genesis, chapters 12-20). We are all bound up together. Frankly, it doesn't matter if you subscribe to a faith tradition at all - we are still all bound up together by virtue of us being on this planet. But welcoming and loving those who are broken, living in poverty, and vulnerable is at the CORE of the Christian faith. That has to be said.
Here's my bottom line - and if you've stuck with me to this point, God bless you:
We can't let things that run counter to our constitution happen and go unaddressed. I loved a tweet I saw the day before the inauguration:
And it's so true. So many folks I know: Republicans, Democrats, Independents, moderates - people across the spectrum of sexual orientation, of yearly earnings, of housing security, of race, of age; Christians, Muslims, Jews, even John McCain, a Republican leader - these people are unhappy with how immigrants are being treated right now in a country built. by. immigrants.
Democracy, at its core, is an idea we've all agreed on. And though it's a powerful idea, it's still a flame that needs fanning. Democracy isn't a given. It's a privilege, and we must treat it as such. Acting, or not acting, because of fear is just not an option at this point. This isn't Hitler's Germany, and comparing it to that is too much. This is a country fighting its way through an identity crisis, and it needs help discovering who it's turning into.
Moving forward, we're going to have to parse through a lot of garbage-y fake news. It's a sad reality, but it's true. Because we know that, though, we can't allow ourselves to be fooled or misled. And for the record, the pronoun "we" is being used to refer to the American people. Not Clinton voters, Democrats, or progressive people. ALL of us. Because change takes everyone.
What do you care about? When you're still and quiet, are you afraid?
Go to your computer. Research. Talk to your friends. Talk to your parents. Ask questions. And then act.
Mr. Trump said he'll be a president of the people. So, people? Let's tell him what we want in a president.