Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Shining City Upon a Hill

"I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
On election night, many Americans were overjoyed to see Donald Trump shock the world with his upset of Hillary Clinton. I was not one of them. As someone who believes in treating all people with respect and loving my neighbor as myself, I could not vote for someone who has mocked and denigrated women, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled, especially when he would double down and not apologize for any of it.

Despite his repulsive behavior, I believe that most of his voters are not racist or sexist. Unlike me, they could hold their noses and vote for someone despite his bigoted comments and actions. Trump reached them and moved them in ways that Clinton did not. Republican politicians and pundits have tried to assure those of us who care about combating bigotry that Trump's words are just that, words, and that they will somehow be able to control him and prevent him from violating the Constitution.

In the two weeks since the election, we have Nazis hailing Trump, kids chanting "Build the Wall" at a middle school close to my home, and people painting swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti at a playground dedicated to Adam "MCA" Yauch in New York, and these are only a few of the hateful and racist incidents polluting our great nation.

While our fellow Americans are being terrorized by racist thugs, our president-elect is selecting a questionable cast of characters for important positions in his administration. Sure, Trump said, "Stop it" on 60 Minutes and disavowed one "alt-right" group when pressed by the New York Times, but, instead of making a real effort to denounce pathetic racists terrorizing people in his name, he has spent his limited grasp of the English language using Twitter to attack Saturday Night Live or the cast of Hamilton for asking Mike Pence to work on behalf of all Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." It does not matter that I do not think Donald Trump is a good person. Even if he were a good person, his silence has been appalling. But even more appalling is the silence of the Trump voters who voted for him despite his racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements.

If you think racism, sexism, xenophobia, and prejudice are wrong but voted for Trump because you believed in his business acumen, his support of the Second Amendment, his trade policies, his concern for the working class, or his promise to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, then let him know when you are disgusted by his actions and words. Call out people committing hate crimes in his name as the Nazi white supremacists that they are.

These thugs are not the real Americans. Real Americans died on the beaches of Normandy to defend democracy and destroy fascism. Real Americans marched from Selma to Montgomery to secure rights that were supposed to be inalienable. Real Americans left their native lands around the world guided by Lady Liberty's torch and her plea to give her "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be breathe free." Real Americans were arrested for casting a vote merely because they were women. Real Americans speak Polish, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic as their native tongues. Real Americans built the railroads, the interstate highways, and the space program. Real Americans consecrated the hallowed ground at Gettysburg so that a "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

President Reagan often described the United States as a "shining city upon a hill." In his Farewell Address, he described this city: "[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

The shining city will continue to stand if real, decent, honest, and empathetic Americans raise their voices in opposition to hatred. If you held your nose when voting for Trump, stand up to him now by letting him know that he needs to foster an America "teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace." If we are silent, the rising tide of fear and hatred will flood the city, sweeping away democracy and extinguishing freedom's flame. But if we speak up, we will be that city radiating the light of freedom to the rest of the world.

Normandy