This is not my America. Is it yours?
Two scary tweets fell into my feed yesterday. In the first, Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn mom and activist shared, “When ur kids sends u a text w/ a link to a mayor invoking Japanese internment camps. ‘You think they would do that?’ OMG. My heart.” In a reply, Suroor Raziuddin, a local mom (and self professed “Valley Girl” by way of Jersey) shared, “My kids ask me “Will they make us leave?” used 2 think telling them we were born here was enough. Now? I'm not so confident.”
They should be confident. I'm confident. Her rights are my rights. Her children's rights are my children's rights. If you are an American, these rights are your rights too.
The language in response to an immigration “crisis” that is being run up the flagpoles of so many politicians is not merely the instigation and amplification of knee-jerk xenophobia. Worse, it is malicious fear mongering, a conscious attempt at stoking anti-immigrant and Islamophobic feelings into rage, inciting action of a specific voter base while raising support for isolationist policies. This is the politics of fear, plain and simple. I denounce the engendering of fear in the hearts and minds of the American people during this political cycle. This is not my America. Is it yours?
When ur kids sends u a text w/ a link to a mayor invoking Japanese internment camps. “You think they would do that?” OMG. My heart.
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) November 19, 2015
I want my leaders to inspire greatness in every American, and celebrate that our nation has always been a society of immigrants. My America is a welcoming social experiment. A success where all new Americans, born here or naturalized, are granted the same rights to freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and pursuit of happiness.
Thursday’s bill passed by the House of Representatives is a blustery piling on that does not address a real threat. “Not a single refugee has been convicted of an act of terror on U.S. soil… of the one million plus we’ve let in post 9/11,” Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute said on KCRW’s “To The Point” on Nov. 18.
Callbacks to the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s in reference to a current onslaught of xenophobia and bigotry facing Syrian refugees by Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, Va. gives me great pause. The Jewish diaspora and anti-Semitism are not, in and of themselves, unique. Jews were turned away at borders in times of great need. Jews have been rounded up into ghettos, forced into labor and starvation, and marched along our own trail of tears.
@lsarsour my kids ask me “will they make us leave?” I used 2 think telling them we were born here was enough. Now? I'm not so confident
— suroor raziuddin (@suroor_razi) November 19, 2015
Have you ever wondered what the biggest indicator of Islamophobic sentiment is? It is the holding of anti-Semitic beliefs. “In fact, contempt for Jews makes a person “about 32 times as likely to report the same level of prejudice toward Muslims,” James Carroll wrote in The Daily Beast in an article titled, “How to Spot an Islamophobe,” in 2010, quoting a 2010 Gallop World Religion Survey.
Publicly protecting the rights of all Americans, native born, naturalized, and the refugee that we welcome is our duty as Americans, and as Jews. By protecting everyone, we forcefully protect ourselves from once again falling victim to a society’s nationalist zeal. This is Tikkun Olam. This is a way to make our world a better place for all people, and set an example for all societies in our shared global community.
When we are triggered, it is our responsibility to acknowledge and move past our knee-jerk feelings of fear, and then repair the world with the gift of our love, acceptance and work towards a pluralistic society.
Linda, Suroor, you are my fellow Americans, and I welcome your contributions to our great nation. Your children and mine share the same liberté, égalité, and fraternité that all of us hold so dear. We will not allow fear to destroy the ongoing pursuit of social justice.
Dear reader, will you?
Howard Seth Cohen is a local actor, artist, and activist. He created “72 Virgins” a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights xenophobia one mocktail at a time. http://72bebidas.com @HSCactor