[Sometimes it is helpful to look back and see from whence we have come. Now, less than one month from the Presidential election, is one of those times. In researching some previous writings for an unrelated task, I uncovered the following post published on December 8, 2015–almost five years ago--when I was still serving as founding director of Intersections. The issue at the time–the so-called Muslim ban–that prompted these words may be different now, but the derisive, divisive rhetoric from the President is not. At that time, I was chastised by our lawyers that these words might jeopardize our non-profit status. I have no such restraint now. While I join all Americans in offering prayers of sympathy for the first family and other supporters contracting the coronavirus, I am struck by how these words are not only still relevant, but infinitely more urgent than they were when they were originally written. RC]
There are moments in time when each of us must say something. This is such a moment.
Intersections is an organization whose mandate is to bring people together across lines of difference in search of justice, reconciliation and peace. Heinous commentary currently making the rounds in the Republican Presidential primary, as espoused by Donald Trump, about keeping Muslims from entering (or re-entering) the United States, is wholly antithetical to these principles. We create “safe space” for the exchange of stories, ideas and perspectives. This rhetoric is anything but safe. Rather, it breeds suspicion, mistrust and fear. It is incumbent upon Intersections, and upon me as its Director to call this proposal what it is: Unimaginative, unworkable and unAmerican. And, to say in the loudest, clearest voice I can muster that it must STOP.
Insecurity and fear in the wake of terrorist attacks in Colorado and San Bernardino are understandable. But, our society will be measured in how we respond to such emotions. I am encouraged that there is a wide chorus of voices condemning Trump’s remarks. It is the responsibility of each of us to halt such talk when we encounter it. There should be no religious litmus test in this country. These hateful comments hold 1.5 billion Muslims hostage to the actions of a hateful group of thugs who claim Islam as their justification for their murderous barbarity. Trump has said that even those who have put their lives on the line for this country cannot come home. This is both patently absurd and directly contradictory to his claim of “loving our veterans.”
Words matter. To put these statements into the ether feeds an extremist narrative and plays into the hands of the fringe that seeks us harm. Simultaneously, such comments strike fear in the hearts of all peaceful Muslims (and Sikhs and Arab Christians and secular individuals who “look Middle Eastern”and, by extension, any of us who are “different”) that they will be targeted next. If it were not so dangerous, it would be laughable.
It is incumbent upon people who are part of the Trump Empire — executives, board members, shareholders, employees — to say “enough.” Those who have benefitted most from the source of these comments have a special responsibility to challenge the “hub” of this diatribe from which so many destructive spokes have radiated. Step up, folks. It is time. You are in a unique position to stop this madness. Your voice will carry special weight.
Perhaps most important, the Republican Party must condemn these remarks, without equivocation. Explaining them away as “one segment” of the Republican party, or that these comments tap into a frustration in our society, or that this is a result of the current President being “weak” is not sufficient. These statements are wrong. Unimaginative, unworkable, and un-American. Period. They must stop.
My deepest fear is not about Trump getting elected; I still have enough faith that the American people will not put someone who espouses such hatefulness into the White House. My real fear is what happens in this country between now and Election Day. Overnight, the polarization among our citizenry has deepened exponentially. In an election season when our country is closely divided, how do we peacefully resolve the discussions currently underway among family and friends, coworkers and colleagues, even whole communities? How do we return to civil discourse without resorting to violence? How do we thoughtfully quell the passions stoked by insecurity and fear? The tenor of the “conversation” keeps spiraling downward. It is time to say, clearly and categorically that this must STOP.