I think what makes me angriest about President Donald Trump are his racism, his conscious and consistent cruelty and his anti-immigrant crusades. I take his attacks very personally, and they fill me with rage. I have a bi-racial granddaughter, a bi-racial grand-niece and three bi-racial couples in my immediate family and many more in my extended families. So when he attacks African Americans and Hispanics and many others, he attacks those closest and nearest and dearest to my heart. When I bathe my granddaughter or change her diapers or take her to the playground, I cannot fathom the attitudes of those who hate because of the color of another’s skin. We are one human race with such a variety of gorgeous skin tones. Why can’t and shouldn’t we love and appreciate and value them all?
ITUP (Insure the Uninsured Project), which I founded and ran for over 20 years was a success, because of the immigrants who poured their heart and soul into the organization from its founding ‘til I retired. ITUP was my second family, and I loved the dedicated staff who worked there; they were my second family of the heart. We had staff with origins from India, Iran, Pakistan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, China, Eritrea, South Africa, Kenya, and Mexico. They brought rich personal stories and a wealth of differing insights to our work. We had devout and practicing Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and Christians who worked closely with each other and those with no religious affiliation. When Donald Trump attacks immigrants, when he cages children, when he separates parents from their children, he is attacking me and all those I hold dear. When he attacks Muslims and calls Jews traitors to their nation, he is attacking a large piece of my soul.
When I think of how unsafe he has made this wonderful nation for those of different religions and different skin colors, how they are accosted and cursed at on the streets, shot in bars, in temples, in shopping centers, in mosques and in synagogues, I am filled with rage and repulsion for the President of the United States. He is enabling and cheerleading the spread of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. As President he is their role model and even more sadly a role model for younger and impressionable generations to come.
I never thought much if at all about my family’s immigrant origins before Trump. My families of origin came to this country some fleeing religious persecution, some fleeing death and all seeking a new opportunity in America. They came from Haiti and Germany and England and France and elsewhere at particular historical times when they were persecuted for their religion and being killed. They fought in this nation’s wars, and they strived for economic opportunity. How are they so very different from those fleeing Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala today?
I have travelled light, sleeping under the stars, and cooking in the open in much of Mexico and been treated with utmost kindness and openness and welcoming and educating and generosity. I have enjoyed the open-air markets, the music, the rituals, the churches, the opportunity for conversation and learning about different cultures and peoples. I cannot fathom the hatred and ill treatment, the lack of genuine human compassion or even the slightest empathy for the human condition they encounter from our President.
But he is not our President by happenstance. Otherwise, he’d be an angry crackpot golfer sharing his bizarre opinions in the gilded cage of his golf resorts with the like-minded. Instead he is President of the United States. So we need to look much more deeply inside ourselves and our nation’s history.
Rodgers and Hammerstein said it best in South Pacific in 1949.
“You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!”
Our nation was founded on wonderful ideas as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution that “all men are created equal”. It was also founded on genocide of millions of the Native Americans and slavery of millions of African Americans. It has grown and prospered on wars to take Texas, California and much of the West from Mexico. Transportation, mining and agriculture in the American West were built by immigrants from China, who were in turn excluded from immigrating under the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Japanese immigrants were similarly excluded from citizenship, landholding and other legal rights during the nation’s Yellow Peril hysteria, initially generated and based in California. These discriminatory practices were not just mobs and isolated racism; they were enshrined in the politics and laws of our nation and its states.
Our country was built by immigrants seeking to peacefully practice their religions, which were at odds with the state sanctioned religions of Europe; they sought religious tolerance and freedom from persecution in the US. It was built by Catholics and different sects of Christians, by Jews and Muslims, and by Buddhists and Mormons and many other religious adherents who were subjected to religious intolerance and persecution despite the Freedom of Religion protections of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Irish and German Catholic immigrants were targets of religious hostility, and discrimination beginning with the Know Nothings continuing with the Ku Klux Klan for a century until the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1960. It was built by Jews fleeing persecution and death in Europe who were subjected to widespread exclusion and discrimination and even death in this country.
Our nation was founded by people seeking political freedoms, who enshrined it in the First Amendment, then their descendants sought to suppress it in others who had differing opinions. The killings of trade unionists, and civil rights activists, of socialists, anarchists and communists, of Democrats and Republicans because of political differences are as much a part of our history as are the glories of the 1st, 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to our Constitution.
We fought two great wars in Europe and one in the Pacific to preserve democracy. We fought a great Civil War to extend democracy. Yet we also fought wars in Vietnam and Iraq based on our own government’s lies to our very own people.
Donald Trump is the dark nightmare side of the American dream, yet a key and oft-unacknowledged part of our nation’s past. He is the product of the Koch and McConnell led backlash against the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama. He is the product of our poor stewardship to the nation’s black, white and brown low income impoverished, hard working, and despairing Americans, to impoverished regions from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta. He is a reflection of our inability to combine economic growth particularly in Midwestern manufacturing with sound environmental protections and a concerted attack on climate change. He is a reflection of rapidly growing economic disparities that are becoming hard-baked into our politics and jurisprudence. The powers and influences of the largest corporations and richest Americans are outstripping our democracy. The democratic visions of one man one vote are succumbing to the 24 hour, 365 day perpetual lobbying and influence machines of the elites.
The election of 2020 is the opportunity to re-start the process of change, and we must begin to wholeheartedly cleanse the stables of this filth. Trump is the symbol of our rot, not its cause. We are so much better than this, let’s start showing it.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin