Donald Trump has Made America Great Again. And it’s taken him not a hundred days, just ten. This morning I am proud of my country – not because of the actions of the new administration, with which I deeply disagree, or because of the hyper-partisan legislative branch of the government, which has been all but paralyzed in the face of the greatest executive overreach I’ve seen in my lifetime.
No, I am proud of my country because of the outpouring of response of my countrymen to the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, hateful, fear-mongering rhetoric and actions of Mr. Trump.
On Inauguration Day protests broke out in every state in the country, with tens of thousands of people participating. The next day over three and a half million people from a broad range of cultures, ethnicities, and gender identities turned out for the Women’s March in Washington, DC and 652 sister marches in cities across the country, the largest demonstration in US history, to protest Trump’s policies against women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and the environment.
The American people have responded almost daily since the inauguration with protest and healthy civil disobedience. The demonstrations themselves have largely been peaceful; they have been simply voices raised and people gathered together to say with our physical presence “this is not our America, this is not who we are.”
But what’s made me proud this morning is the spontaneous uprising of resistance in airports and major cities this past weekend following the president’s executive order halting intake of Syrian refugees indefinitely and all other refugees for 120 days (despite the United States’ signature on the Geneva Convention on Refugees which commits to our acceptance of refugees).
The order also imposed a ninety-day ban on entry of citizens of the Muslim-predominant countries of Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq—this despite the fact that there has been not a single terrorist action on our soil by anyone from these countries. Notably absent from the order were the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, the nationalities of 15 of the 19 who carried out the 9/11 attacks― but then again, these are countries with which Mr. Trump does business. But I digress.
In response to the executive order, spontaneous outraged outpourings of people descended upon JFK, LAX, Logan International, Chicago O’Hare, SFO, Washington-Dulles and other airports across the country to protest this religious discrimination – for it is clearly a Muslim ban. Hundreds of lawyers made their way to airports across the country to offer assistance to detainees. Veterans rushed to airports to help. Protest rallies with tens of thousands of people arose in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and other cities.
Mr. Trump and many of his supporters profess to be Christians; they call themselves conservative Christians, or religious conservatives, and wrap their religious mantle around a platform of unapologetic nationalism, selfishness and greed. I am a Christian but I see little in their “religion” that coincides with mine. Jesus’s commands are fundamentally progressive ones—love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy, care for the hungry, the thirsty, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner residing among us.
In fact, commands to care for the alien or refugee are more frequent in the Bible than almost any other, especially in the Old Testament, a part of the Bible conservative Christians are especially fond of quoting. A sampling:
Deuteronomy 10:18-19: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Lev. 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Lev. 24:22: “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”
These are just a few. Nancy Hightower elaborates on the compelling theme running through the Bible commanding Christians to take care of the poor and the refugee in this excellent Huffington Post article.
Not all conservative Christians fall into this peculiarly American twisted version of Christianity; this recent article by Jason Foster makes it clear there are some who understand what we’ve been charged with as Jesus’ followers, and the cost for not obeying. For Jesus was speaking to religious people like the ones supporting Trump’s xenophobic policies in Matthew 25 when he said that on the day of judgment there would be those who professed to be faithful would be surprised to find themselves goats, condemned to hell because when they had seen someone hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in prison, they had not helped them, when they had seen a stranger they had not welcomed them. By the same token, Jesus said, on that day many who did not profess to be religious would be sorted with the sheep and welcomed into heaven because they, in contrast, had helped those they saw in need. This past weekend, Christian or not, the outpouring of compassion I saw was worthy of the sheep line.
The Economist Intelligence Unit announced in January that the United States has been demoted from a full democracy to a flawed democracy this year for the first time, as a result of declining trust in government, causing trends such as low voter participation. The EIU noted that the downgrade was not a result of Mr. Trump’s actions or election since many of the factors upon which the scoring is made were present prior to his election. Trump may, however, be the impetus for our subsequent restoration to full democracy status. In his first two weeks in office he has energized the American people and united them in resisting this presidency.