I thought I had said all I could on the topic of the Muslim ban. There’s only so many ways you can tell people you think this whole thing is ridiculous before you tire of hearing your own voice (something politicians bank on). But then I had a conversation with a friend.
I work with a woman who lives in the USA on a green card. We’ve been working side by side for the past six years and outside of my wife there is nobody I talk to more on a day to day basis. As fate would have it, she’s scheduled to visit her home country later this week to take care of some family business. Her country of birth isn’t one of the seven countries contained within the banned list nor is she Muslim, but when I stopped by to ask her what she’s thinking in regards to her upcoming travel she confessed to being quite nervous. So much so that she said she was finding it difficult to concentrate on work. Sure, she’s not a person hailing from one of the banned countries but how long before the list expands? The whole thing was instituted with very little forethought so who is to say with any certainty that the list of banned countries never goes beyond the initial seven? And what happens if her country is named while she’s in the middle of her travels? What happens to her and her husband’s jobs? Their home? Their two kids who were born in the USA and are citizens. That’s a lot to put on someone. As much as this whole thing has been weighing me down, I can’t imagine the uncertainty of not knowing if I were actually going to be welcomed back upon my return.
I felt embarrassed to sit with her talking about this ban mess. Yes, I’m 100% against the ban and told her as much. I’ve done whatever little I can to stand up against it but I’m still an American and it’s my countries policies that are making her feel unsure of her place in the country that she has called home for the last decade. We agreed that ultimately we thought she’d be okay and that everything would work out, but nobody really knows. Nobody can predict anything these days.
I asked her if she would ever consider leaving America if the current situation stays the same or escalates even further. My heart sank when I saw her take a deep breath while collecting her thoughts before responding that “yes”, she would consider leaving if things continued on the current path because “it’s not worth it”. And I agree with her. I’m not going anywhere. This is my home and I’ll do whatever I can to make it an inviting country. But I told her that if I were in her shoes as a green cold holder and my home country didn’t have the opportunities I was looking for I’d be very tempted to start looking north towards Canada. Vancouver and Toronto, I’m sure, would be happy to have talented and caring individuals of her families ilk calling their city home.
And you can say this is all much ado about nothing. She’s not from one of the 7 countries banned and she’s worrying unnecessarily about something that will never happen. But this goes way beyond a list of seven countries and a large group of American’s looking for some generic sense of safety. There’s a message our President is sending through his decisions. It’s the words he’s repeatedly used ever since he began his presidential run. It’s the boorish actions he’s taken upon stepping into office. It’s the walls he wants to build. It’s the people he’s surrounded himself with inside his administration. And it’s the sycophantic support from a large part of this country cheering him on. Add all of that together and you tell me how you’d feel to be in this country as someone who speaks English with an accent.
This is only one family and I realize my story is one minuscule piece of anecdotal evidence. But in ten years they found a way to be more successful than the vast majority of American families who have been here for generations. They work hard and are raising their children just like you’d raise yours. She’s tired at the end of the day because she’s working a 40 hour work week and still trying to find time to cook, help her kids study, and get them to karate class on time. I promise you this isn’t the only family under these circumstances wondering if America is the best place for them to realize their dreams and it’d be a damn shame if they ultimately decided that their best option was to leave. These are the type of people I want to raise my own (future) kids around, but I wonder if I’ll have that opportunity.
Don’t be fooled. I’m not against all bans so I’d like to propose one of my own. Let’s ban decision making that stands on a bedstone of cowardice. I get it. American’s need to feel and actually be safe. But that safety needs to be grounded in a thoughtful and well considered reality. We can’t let fear be our sole motivation. Because while we’re busy enforcing a ban to keep the ineptly defined bad ones out, we’re simultaneously sending out invitations for the good ones to leave. Make America Great Again? Okay, then show people you actually know what it means to be from the land of the free and home of the brave and step up to be a friend when people need it.