Appeasing the crocodile

To the approximately 30 percent of American Jews who supported, voted for and have celebrated Donald Trump’s win; and to the approximately 75 percent of my fellow Iranian-American Jews who are part of the 30 percent: 

Congratulations. Your guy won. I respect the election results as I respect your right to your opinion and your vote. I also understand your past frustration with a president you did not like, and current excitement about having your candidate win. I experienced similar sentiments throughout the Bush years and in the aftermath. For the record, I don’t believe, as some on the left have said, that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot or a misogynist or worse. I understand that some people on the left and right are what the media call one-issue voters — lower taxes, disgust with Washington, the candidate’s business savvy, the environment and so on. I also understand that just because you voted for a candidate does not mean you agree with or approve of everything about him or all of his policies. I, for example, was not at all pleased with Hillary Clinton’s cozy relationship with the Goldman Sachses of the world. But for me, that wasn’t a deal breaker. I voted for her despite that flaw.  

But there’s one question I haven’t been able to find an answer to, and so I’m going to pose it here, respectfully and earnestly, out of sheer curiosity and in hopes of receiving answers. Here it is: 

As members of one of the most persecuted, reviled, rejected and misunderstood minorities in history, are you at all bothered by the idea of building a wall to keep some people out, or stopping immigration from certain countries, or judging an entire people by the sins of a few among them? 

As children of the proverbial wandering Jew, offspring of innocents who died in gas chambers and later in displaced persons camps because no country would permit them entry, do you ever think about the importance of offering safe haven to the displaced? 

You, American Jews who, as late as 1950s, lived with signs such as “No Jews or Dogs” in Florida hotels, you, Iranian-American Jews who, only 40 years ago, were saved by this country’s generous immigration policies, do you wonder what would have become of you had you not been allowed in? 

Yes, some of the immigrants from Muslim countries are terrorists. But I remember a day not so long ago, when every day, Americans thought that all of us Iranians were terrorists. I remember being yelled at and called names and told to go back where I came from. Do you ever think of those times and imagine what it must be like now for Latinos and Muslims? 

Yes, the men and women who clean our houses, work in our restaurants, on our construction sites, in our kosher grocery stores are poor and, some, undocumented. But do you ever think about how poor we Jews were in Iran up until the mid-20th century, how we went to bed hungry, put our children to work in factories at age 6, went blind or died of lung disease in our 30s because we had spent a lifetime weaving rugs in badly lit hovels? If you do think about those times, do you still agree that undocumented workers should be deported in droves? 

Yes, Donald Trump has a Jewish son-in-law and a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren. That could mean he doesn’t have a low opinion of Jews. Or it could mean he had to accept his daughter’s decision to marry a Jew. Either way, it’s safe to assume that he doesn’t plan to deport or keep out any Jews. But you and I both know that you wouldn’t be cheering him on today had he targeted any of us in his speeches. In fact, I suspect — and hope — that you’d be screaming against him from the rooftops. Do you ever wonder about the moral correctness of turning a blind eye or even condoning a treatment of others as long as it doesn’t apply to you and yours? 

Finally, as you side with a president-elect who has promised to keep out economic immigrants and political refugees, do you worry at all that you may be creating an atmosphere of intolerance of minorities that can, some day, include Jews? That you may, in Winston Churchill’s words, be “feeding a crocodile” only to end up being “eaten last”?

I’m not asking why you voted for Trump or what you think of him as a person or even as a president. I’m not interested in discussing one candidate’s qualities versus the other’s. I’m not attempting to make a point here. I know better than to try to change anyone’s mind, on the right or the left, about their politics. I’m asking because I honestly would like a calm and reasoned response, to this one question, on this one issue. 

I’m listening with an open mind.

GINA NAHAI’s most recent novel is “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.”

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