When we look back, we question how America could have been so fearful that “Lady Liberty” could exclude by law Chinese immigrants, turn away boats of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, or intern her own citizens of Japanese decent. And yet here we are again.
And specifically to my Asian, Irish, Italian, and Jewish friends, we were one treated by this country the way Muslim/Middle Eastern/Arab people are now. We know the struggle our ancestors endured to make it here and how deeply American our families are. It’s up to us to hold open–or pry open again–the doors of liberty and welcome.
The statue of liberty is just that: a statue. It’s up to us to pick up her beacon of freedom.
Refugees detained at U.S. airports challenge Trump’s executive order
The Civil Rights movement was so divisive some Americans beat and sometimes killed other Americans. It was also so important that thousands of Americans faced that risk to advance the cause of liberty.
We may also live in deeply divided times. I hope we march forward with the moral clarity and commitment to nonviolence of the Freedom Riders and so many others.
Read four perspectives from Freedom Riders on their roles and the new national monument to their efforts:
As I reflect on my journey this past year, I am drawn again to something I heard four years ago:
“You are inspired by that which you already are.”
One way to center and grow is to think about who is inspiring and why, and then to realize those aspects are already a part of us.
That doesn’t mean we’re ready to use it, but it’s there. In the wisdom of Maya Angelou, courage is the one trait we need to exercise all other traits. But courage is like a muscle–you build it. You don’t start with a 100 lb weight; you start with a 5 lb weight. You start with small acts of courage.
As we build our courage, we can start to more consistently demonstrate those other “inspiring” qualities already within us.
“Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.
HIstory will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law.
When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation’s capital, I shudder in horror…
We are a great nation. We have survived deep challenges in our past. We can and will do so again. But we cannot be afraid to speak and act to ensure the future we want for our children and grandchildren.”
-Dan Rather, on Facebook regarding the recent neo-Nazi convention in D.C.
“Let us all be clear: “National security” must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections. If it is freedom and our way of life that we fight for, our first obligation is to ensure that our own government adheres to those principles. Without that, we are no better than our enemies.”
-George Takei, in the Washington Post on historical internment of Japanese Americans and the treatment of American Muslims today
A brief highlight from “Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry” from The Southern Poverty Law Center.
Honor the past. If such behavior wasn’t accepted in your growing-up years, remind your sibling of your shared past: “I remember when we were kids, Mom went out of her way to make sure we embraced differences. I’m not sure when or why that changed for you, but it hasn’t changed for me.”
Change the present. If bigoted behavior was accepted in your childhood home, explain to your siblings that you’ve changed: “I know when we were growing up that we all used to tell ‘jokes’ about Jews. As an adult, though, I advocate respect for others.”
Appeal to family ties. “I value our relationship so much, and we’ve always been so close. Those anti-Semitic remarks are putting a lot of distance between us, and I don’t want to feel distanced from you.”
As I prepare to talk with and listen to loved ones over the holidays, I found this guide helpful in discussing Trump’s presidency.
A general summary of “How to talk to your loved ones about a Donald Trump presidency”
- Take care of yourself first.
- Take the long view of your relationship.
- Meet them where they are and listen.
- “Engage their interests, not their positions. Interests are things like “health care is important.” Positions are things like “Obamacare is [good/bad].” If your positions aren’t aligned (and they probably aren’t!) you end at “well I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” If you can engage on the level of interests, you can build a frame to talk about positions in the future.”
- “Feelings and stories, not facts. You’re probably operating from a different set of facts than your loved one. Fighting them about the details of what they’re wrong about is unlikely to actually change their minds. Talk about how you feel (“I’m scared of losing my health care because I have a chronic condition”) and stories from your friends (“My Muslim friends have seen a huge uptick in hate speech since the election”) instead of getting into an academic discourse.”
- Give them space.