“If Trump wins will I have to leave the country?”
The question was asked of me by a Holmes School student when I was leaving the Masjid Al Taqwa mosque on Arch Street on a Sunday evening in August. It didn’t matter that the 5th grader has probably lived in New Britain all his life and that his parents — part of a growing Muslim American community in central CT, vote and pay taxes.
“No,” I said without hesitation to reassure the Holmes student. “Even if Trump wins you won’t have to leave the country.”
My visit to Masjid Al Taqwa came at the invitation of Alicia Hernandez Strong, a Weyleyan student, new officer of the Democratic Town Committee and a convert to the Muslim faith. Evening prayer, a generous ethnic supper and a panel talk on voter registration organized by Strong were part of the evening that ended with that question from the student from Holmes, reflecting his worries and that of his family and religious community in 2016.
Over and over again the Republican presidential nominee, amplified by an easily manipulated media, spread an unfiltered message of exclusion and fear and “change” to make America great again. Campaign rhetoric devoid of policy and ideas was mainly against people of the Muslim faith and millions of others without a path to citizenship whenever Donald Trump took the stage.
In the aftermath of the election and Trump’s “win” concerns are escalating. In some places real acts of hate and violence are directed at those who were the targets of Trump’s dog whistle rants. His appointments, including Steve Bannon, the wife-beating publisher of the ultra right and xenophobic Breitbart News, have done little to allay the concern.
Trump’s appeals to fear and exclusion wrapped in an empty economic populism, however, are producing counter measures. Mayors, police chiefs, civic and religious leaders, in their words and official actions, are pushing back against the campaign xenophobia that should make a President, even a vulgar demagogue of a President, think twice about policies that sanction intolerance and bigotry and are a refutation of what Ellis Island was all about.
The mob portion of Trump’s support and maybe even Trump himself, emboldened by the election, will continue to fan hate and division. But there are millions of Trump voters, bothered by flaws in Hillary Clinton’s establishment candidacy or swayed by the fake news vitriol against her–who will want no part of the hate and incivility that fueled the Trump candidacy. In New Britain and elsewhere too many of their co-workers and the parents of children they see at the school where their kids go are on Trump’s hit list.
Post-election it’s up to me and you to tell that Muslim American Holmes School boy, or the Mexican “dreamer” student at CCSU seeking a fair path to citizenship or a refugee who got here from a strife-torn land:
No. You don’t have to leave the country because of your religion or where you are from no matter who the President is. Your city is the “city for all people” and your neighbors won’t let that happen.