On Jan. 20, our country will have a new president who was elected by fewer than half the voters in the U.S. general election. He was elected in great part via his anger pointed at the “other,” including first and foremost Muslims and immigrants. If left unchecked, this politics of anger and hate will not end with just one or two groups.
University professors, journalists, elites (whatever that means), people of color, LGBT, women who want to make their own choices, progressives are all in the crosshairs. Really, it seems anyone who did not vote for our new president will be, in time, considered the other. These are dangerous times.
Every democracy is fragile and really only exists because people believe in its checks and balances. Once those checks and balances are abandoned, it will be very hard to bring them back. The United States is still the global bastion of freedom. If that freedom goes away, then a great darkness will fall not only over our own country but also across the world, and who will be left to demand that it be restored?
If we allow ourselves to be swallowed by gloom and despair, the battle is over, and the mongers of hate will win. So what do we do?
First step is to use the teaching and examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., all of whom were the other. They prevailed by using the politics of love over the politics of hate in situations much worse than what we have today. But we must act now.
Foremost, we must remember that a majority of Americans didn’t buy into the politics of hate. Many people in elected office, Democrats and Republicans, worry about where we are headed. They are the first line of defense. They can use their legal positions to enforce checks and balances to prevent strongman tactics. They can prevent any appointments that carry the stench of hatred. Those protections are there especially for times like these. Of course, the politicians will only do so if they know we the people have their backs. We must reach out to them now.
We at Youth Today would like more progressive policies, which we believe are most likely to ensure all youth are treated fairly and equally. However, we can live with a conservative agenda because political pendulums swing back and forth. We do not accept having undocumented immigrants, living peaceful and productive lives, being herded into metaphorical boxcars and shipped off to faraway places. If our government builds mechanisms to round up any people, it will not end there.
Yes, go after the terrorists no matter what their ethnicity, religion or ideology. However, we will not tolerate the forced registering of Muslims just because they are Muslims. It is antithetical to the concept of brotherly and sisterly love which we teach our children. Plus, the registration will not stop with Muslims. We know that from history. First it was the yellow Star of David that Jewish people in Eastern Europe were made to wear by the Nazi regime; criminals had to wear green inverted triangles; political prisoners, red; Roma, nonconformists, vagrants and other groups black; homosexuals pink and Jehovah's Witnesses purple. What color will the purveyors of hate deem right for you and your children?
We must act immediately, as if we all are Muslims and undocumented immigrants, because tomorrow de facto we will be. Identify those around you, right and left, also dedicated to a caring democracy. Form alliances with the aggrieved. Reach out to groups built to provide advice, including the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and groups like the American Friends Service Committee who have confronted haters the world over. We can make a difference.