Today, I found myself surprised by actually crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s remark about so-called “shithole nations.” I feel compelled to tell my readers–especially those living in other countries– that I speak for many Americans when I say I’m sorry. Many, many Americans feel embarrassed, heartbroken, and outraged by our president’s willful ignorance.
I’ll even admit that I have become wearily accustomed to hearing about his latest outrageous tweets and rants. It’s reached the point where many of us feel quite desensitized. I feel myself becoming hardened in response to the daily onslaught of almost unbelievable disinformation and propaganda coming from the White House. But recognize this: that’s part of the plan for governing under Trump–to keep us off balance, shocked, anxious, and passive.
But something about the ugliness of this particular remark really got to me. And so I found myself in tears, thinking about all the people I know personally, especially transracial and international adoptees, who would be classed with those that the president was rejecting as inferior and unwanted.
Maybe I found myself in tears, too, because I’m still coming down from the high of celebrating the Christmas season. I mean, I was feeling so energized after the holidays. Enjoying quality time with my multiracial family and friends, attending lovely candlelight church services, feeling moved by the inspiring seasonal concerts I went to, hearing again the wondrous tale of the rejected babe lying in a manger because there was no room at the inn–all these recent experiences recalled the idealistic message behind the Christmas holiday, a message freely available to all who choose to take heed.
Naturally, I’ve been thinking about the nativity of that holy child who grew up to teach his followers to love our enemies and care for strangers. He would have us bestow mercy on the poor, heal the sick, and even visit prisoners. If we follow his example, we’re supposed to welcome into our midst all those who have been rejected by society. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I find his message particularly comforting as a transracial adoptee, and all the more so as a father whose children have, unfortunately, spent time behind bars.
This image created by J. Raible © 2017
And so, in the warm post-Christmas glow, I was feeling hopeful and rejuvenated. Then along comes Trump’s latest hateful reminder of how far we have fallen from the moral heights that so many of have been working towards for generation upon generation.
Another cause for my tears, I suppose, is because lately I have been rethinking my identity. I have come to recognize the way that being raised by a parent from another country has profoundly influenced me, for instance, shaping my values. I appreciate how being an adopted son of immigrants clearly has impacted the way I see the world, and the way I have come to understand social justice issues. For that experience, I am grateful.
I wept also because I share this “child of immigrant parents” status with friends whose own families come from Haiti, Africa, and Central America. I cried because I’ve had the privilege of teaching students whose homelands are on Trump’s list of “shithole nations,” yet he discounts their value. I cried because apparently this president admires only the immigrants who have risked and sacrificed so much after departing from European nations, but not black and brown immigrants from respective motherlands on his despicable list of “shithole” sending nations.
Not that I have anything but respect for Norway, mind you. For starters, my white birth mother was partially of Norwegian descent, so I have a personal investment in my Norwegian heritage. I have long admired the heroic Norwegian resistance to the Nazi regime during World War Two. And after I was invited to present at a recent conference in Norway, I came home impressed by that nation’s social democracy, including its free college education and health care, the generally optimistic outlook among its citizens, and the generous welcome that they extend to refugees. The Norwegian government even has a position called the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, which is something I can only imagine having here in the United States as an actual cabinet position, on equal footing with, say, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State.
When my president makes his ignorant and mean-spirited comments, praising Norwegian immigrants while vilifying those from the Caribbean and Africa, I cringe. As the head of our national government, Trump supposedly speaks on behalf of the American people.
I am ashamed and mortified to think that people around the world conclude that most of us here agree with Trump’s narrow-minded worldview. I want to state here and now that I, for one, do not. Donald Trump does not speak for me.
Many of us are continually outraged and appalled by what this sad, confused man says, and more importantly, by what his supporters and apologists do that undermines the push for equality, social justice, mutual aid, cooperation, and goodwill around the globe.
I found myself crying because I have worked too long and too hard for a meaningful approach to anti-racist multiculturalism that is rooted in “right relations,” and yet Trump is setting our movement and our progress back decades.
I fear for the damage to my grandchildren and their friends, who must somehow grow to adulthood under this “new normal.” I lament that we elders have not provided adequate education and guidance, and that our basic legacy to the young is a woefully polluted planet on the brink of destruction, fractured through and through with hatred, violence, and environmental degradation.
My heart also goes out to my Native friends, students, and colleagues, who have their own unique migration stories, not to mention their problematic encounters with immigrants and settlers. The ignorance and miseducation spouting from our so-called leader makes it even harder for me, as an activist and educator, to help develop and advance a more nuanced, sophisticated analysis of the interplay between immigration, migration, and Indigeneity. Those of us who seek to call attention to the related and sometimes competing narratives and concerns of immigrant and Indigenous communities have so much work to do, especially if we reject the divide-and-conquer goals of those who would govern us, and instead, seek to promote unity and collaboration.
Lastly, I guess I cried because I find myself once more deeply disappointed in the behavior of powerful adults who ought to know better, and who should serve as positive role models for the younger generations. It is sickening to witness our elected officials misusing their privilege and power to influence the national and global conversations in such a negative fashion, moving them backward rather than forward toward greater understanding, harmony, and equality.
It is tempting to feel helpless to protect that which is sacred, as powerful elites render life on earth ever more dangerous. At the same time, it’s hard to sit idly by and watch passively while they sow their seeds of discord and selfishness, when what we need is more compassion and more empathy. I hope it’s not too late to realize the power of our love by putting it into action.
In short, I apologize for my president’s remarks. I pledge to do more in 2018 to make amends for my past inaction and for the harm caused by my nation. May 2018 be the year of our renewed resistance. May we usher in the triumph over evil of righteousness, solidarity, and peace.