I’m going to get political for just a minute and don’t worry–it’s a message of real hope. This last week my friend Caren and I interviewed some Iraqi refugees who were friends of friends. I apologized to them for some of the things they had heard from politicians leading our state and leading our nation.
Texas has always, and I mean ALWAYS, welcomed refugees with open arms and in the last six months those of us who love refugees have watched in horror as the political conversation has turned. I don’t need to remind you that Donald Trump wants to make all Muslims register with the government, among the many vile things he has said.
You know how these new Iraqi friends responded? With joy and an almost effusive belief in the system. Here’s what they reminded Caren and me: For all of the ugliness of our political season, for all of the issues with gun control, for all of our economic woes and poverty and divisions, our country is still so remarkably peaceful.
We all agree to abide by civil laws, which means even if we disagree with a political candidate, we still respect his right to say the terrible things he says. My refugee friends can sleep at night, they told us, after years of sleeplessness. There are no walls, no guards, no terrorist gangs controlling various sectors and waiting to massacre people just because they have a different political belief.
Here’s what surprised me: I was not the first, nor will I be the last, to speak out against racism to these Muslim Iraqi friends. They repeated so many times how warm and welcoming their reception has been. Texans know how to take care of refugees, y’all. The governor might be trying to block them from entering the state, but there are so many of us who are actively resisting just by responding with kindness when we hear someone is from Iraq.
Kindness and peace are powerful political tools.
We live in such a peaceful country. We have the freedom to choose whatever we want to be. For heaven’s sake, I have a PhD in poetry–a country that can employ me (and I’ve been gainfully employed my entire adult life) is a country that values art and higher thinking and aesthetic ideals.
We so often forget when we listen to the fearmongering media that there is real good in this country and in our political system.
I went into our conversation last week ashamed of our country and left proud to be an American (and yes, the soundtrack from Lee Greenwood was playing in my mind).
I was proud that my foremothers fought so hard to give me the right to vote.
I was proud that our forefathers thought to give us checks and balances.
I was proud of how many people are speaking out against racism and hatred with kindness.
I was proud that my new friends saw what I couldn’t see–we are people of peace who have everything we need to make a difference by abiding by civil laws.
Today I’m going to vote against Donald Trump by voting for a candidate who has a better track record of supporting immigrants and refugees.
I’m not advocating that you vote for a particular political party. If I’m being totally honest, I can see good things about both. I’m tired of the polarization. I tend to vote Democrat but respect the tar out of several people who vote Republican. They’re thoughtful, kind, loving people who have reached their views from a well-considered position. We should go vote together.
In this country, we can.
All of the refugees I know are people of peace. They appreciate and value what they’ve been given when they receive the chance to start over in a country of peace. I’m thinking of them today when I vote.
I call all Texans to get out and stop the maliciousness and racism and bigotry and hatred espoused by Donald Trump (and sometimes Ted Cruz, frankly). I call on you to vote for someone who is a member of Team Reasonable.
But don’t do it just because you’re angry. And don’t do it just because you’re afraid. Do it with joy.
We are blessed and lucky to live in a land of peace.
Today we can use our vote to change the tide.