Last week, the Islamic center in our city received an anonymous letter in the mail. It said that Trump should do to Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews in the 20th century. The fact this has happened, let alone that it happened here, and in 2016, is nothing short of jaw droopingly disgusting.
Just a few weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine chastised (honestly, she very nearly mocked) me for expressing concern about anti-semitism in California because, after all, we are a blue state. We live in a deeply “blue” area in a deeply “blue” state, and yet, our Islamic center received that piece of hate mail. It turns out that invisible veil of blue doesn’t really do much to keep hate out.
Our mayor wrote a letter proclaiming support and the community has been amazing. There didn’t seem to be a lot we could do and then a few days ago, a friend of mine coordinated a trip for us and our kids to visit the Islamic center (two trips actually, more of them are going tomorrow). And that happened today.
Prior to the trip, Elijah and I sat down and drew a few cards for the kids there. Just little notes about how we were happy to have them in our neighborhood and that we hoped our cards would make them happy. And with cards in hand, we went today for a visit. We met with several of the people there and then they brought us over to the pre-k class.
We opened the door and found a class of 12 adorable 4 year old boys, all just like my son. They were doing an art project with their teacher, just like my children do each day at school. The teacher, who did not know we were coming (the leader of the Islamic center did), warmly welcomed us in, included our kids in their project and before we could even take a breath, my boys and our friends kids were blending, seamlessly, in with the boys in the Islamic preschool. Because, here’s a news flash, they’re just kids. Their names might be a little different, they pray a little differently than my kids, but they all like trains and trucks and Lego and books. Because they are all kids.
I want to belabor this point because it seems like not everyone understands this fully. The families at our Islamic center are totally normal people. They’re literally us, just a few blocks down the road with a different religious symbol on their front door.
That’s the thing that seems to be getting lost among conservatives, these are just people.
They’re not scary.
They’re not devious.
They’re just people.
They’re just Americans.
They’re just families like mine who are trying to raise their kids to be good people. They’re just families who happen to be born into or chose a different religion than we did. And unfortunately, a terrorist group across the globe bastardized their religion, in very much the same way the KKK has bastardized Christianity. It doesn’t make all Christians racists and it doesn’t make all Muslims terrorists.
While I was in the classroom a little boy built an airplane out of Lego and when I told him I thought it was a cool airplane, he, a little frustrated, corrected me that it was a “jet airplane.” This probably sounds silly, but it struck me because it is an exact conversation I have had with Elijah numerous times.
These boys were just like my boys and it made me feel even worse for their parents. The fear they must feel for their safety and the safety of their children, even in a “blue” state, even in two thousand freaking sixteen, even in a country with a first amendment right to freedom of religion, must be tremendous.
Our visit today didn’t change anything. We don’t need pats on the back for going because it was literally the least any person could do in this situation. But we do need to continue to tell people, especially those who want to sign Muslims up for a registry, those who believe we should refuse to accept Muslim refugees who are dying by the THOUSANDS, running from the very terrorist group we ourselves are fearful of, that these children are just like theirs. That hating them, that ostracizing them, that marginalizing them, is wrong in every way. And if we allow this to happen, if we throw away the first amendment out of unfounded fear drummed up by a neo-fascist president-elect and a conservative media that is so untrustworthy with the truth it cannot be aired as “news” in other countries, we are destroying the very fabric of this country.
If we can’t see that those 12 boys and their families are more like us than they are different, and if we can’t teach our children that, then it doesn’t matter who is president. Because we have set ourselves on a course to repeat the mistakes of fallen republics the world over and no single president can stop us from our own self-destruction.