"... They see us [Americans] as having opportunities. But again, they're thinking of survival. They're not thinking of dreams like the American. You know -- how we think." -- Kenia, speaking about her family in El Salvador, This American Life, episode 608, aired January 20, 2017
"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war." -- President George W. Bush, September 17, 2001
It is astonishing and disheartening to me that, fifteen years after 9/11, we have learned so little about terrorism -- and thought so little of our own values -- that we could elect a President who has called for a "total and complete" ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. It is not surprising to me that President Trump has acted to fulfill that promise. In doing so, he has caused confusion, heartbreak, and outrage.
In my view, the President's rash immigration ban constitutes two major wrongs. First, it is counterproductive. Every analysis I have seen concludes that this action will bolster recruitment to terrorist organizations more than it will prevent domestic terrorism (which is not at all). Second, and more grave, it is un-American. This immigration ban is anathema to American ideals of freedom and liberty and our identity as a nation of immigrants.
The "freedom" that Republicans pined for when Obama was president is awfully hard to identify under the Trump administration. Freedom of the press? The press is the "opposition party" and "should keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Freedom of religion? Not if you are a Muslim refugee. Land of opportunity? If you are lucky enough to work at a company that gets a bespoke $7 million tax break or have an extra $100,000 for your golf club membership.
Fortunately, millions of Americans have loftier ideals and higher expectations than our president. Millions of us still believe that America can be both safe and open -- and that closing our borders, instead of making us stronger, makes us smaller and weaker and alone. We are exercising our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly to protest Trump's policies. Lawyers are volunteering time to defend immigrants. Business leaders are speaking out. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are donating to the ACLU. State Department officials are voicing dissent. The Acting Attorney General is defying Trump's executive order.
I hope that people around the world will see that our liberal democracy can thrive even after electing a president with paranoid thoughts and bigoted ideology.
Update: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by President Trump a few hours after defying him.