I originally intended to steer clear of politics and religion in this blog and my posts since both of these are very divisive and I didn’t want that to interfere with some of the other messages I was hoping to share. However, a friend recently posed the question, “what would our government have to do *to me* in order for you to act?” He was asking for some introspection on where my line is and what I would do if it was crossed. It got me thinking that in many ways we are already way past my line and I’ve still done very little. While I can’t boil the ocean, it’s still time for me to speak up and say something. After all, as John Stuart Mill once said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
I was deeply disturbed by the executive order on Friday. As someone who had relatives and ancestors in the Japanese interment camps, I can’t help but feel like we’re starting to rehash history. We’re lashing out irrationally with our fear and distrust aimed at a particular group. I’m struck by the similarities between the ban and events we’ve previously seen around yellow peril and the immigration exclusion act of 1924. Yesterday, google recognized Fred Korematsu for his brave stand against the Japanese internment and I hope it serves as a reminder that sometimes it’s the acts by ordinary citizens that make a difference.
I can’t help but believe that a lot of what triggered the ban was a fear of Muslims. I’ve found myself especially pondering this as I just got home from spending the weekend with my close Muslim friend and her family. Except for the lower level of English spoken in the home, her family is very similar to mine. Everyone was overly hospitable and eager to welcome me. Her adorable grandmother, in her broken English, did what my grandmother would have done — complimented me and urged me over and over to eat more. Why should these people be feared?
I was also struck by the fact that while the family at several points discussed politics, they focused on other people, not themselves. They worried about how additional taxes would affect businesses; they discussed how the ban would affect the many green card holders at their places of employment. They even discussed how the cutting of planned parenthood funding would hurt many lower income women. They never mentioned how the ban might affect them directly or how the fear fueling all of this will likely affect them. How can these selfless people be a threat?
Just as my people were put into camps despite being loyal US citizens and legal residents, Trump’s ban is blocking refugees, students, relatives and valuable employees from entering our country legally. Just like nearly everyone else in this country, I’m a descendant of immigrants who came here seeking a better life. How can we deny the same to the next group of hopefuls?
I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t know that I have any good suggestions beyond what everyone has already been suggesting. Call your congressperson, donate to ACLU, participate in the protests, make your voice heard. For me, the government finally reached my breaking point. How about you? Where do you draw the line?