Ilhan Omar, a Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, recently penned a thoughtful and moving op-ed in the New York Times, “It Is Not Enough to Condemn Trump’s Racism.”
Her main thesis is that “the nation’s ideals are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.” Let me begin by stating that her coherent essay and uplifting biography stand in stark contrast to the vile inanities and the “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” bio of our supreme leader. According to Wikipedia, Congresswoman Omar
was born in Mogadishu on October 4, 1982, and spent her early years in Baidoa,
Somalia. … Her father Nur Omar Mohamed … worked as a teacher trainer. Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein … died when Ilhan was two. She was raised by her father and grandfather thereafter. … She and her family fled Somalia to escape the war and spent four years in a Dadaab refugee camp in … Kenya, near the Somali border.
After … arriving in New York in 1992, Omar’s family … secured asylum in the U.S. in 1995 … before moving to … Minneapolis, where her father worked first as a taxi driver and later for the post office. Her father and grandfather emphasized the importance of democracy during her upbringing, and at age 14 she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings, serving as his interpreter. She has spoken about school bullying … She recalls gum being pressed into her hijab, being pushed down stairs, and physical taunts while she was changing for gym class. … Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old.
Omar … graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree, majoring in political science and international studies in 2011. Omar was a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota‘s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Her op-ed begins thus
Throughout history, demagogues have used state power to target minority communities and political enemies, often culminating in state violence. Today, we face that threat in our own country, where the president of the United States is using the influence of our highest office to mount racist attacks on communities across the land …
Last week, as President Trump watched the crowd at one of his rallies chant “Send her back,” aimed at me and my family, I … couldn’t help but remember the horrors of civil war in Somalia that my family and I escaped, the America we expected to find and the one we actually experienced.
The president’s rally will be a defining moment in American history. It reminds us of the grave stakes of the coming presidential election: that this fight is not merely about policy ideas; it is a fight for the soul of our nation. The ideals at the heart of our founding — equal protection under the law, pluralism, religious liberty — are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.
Having survived civil war in my home country as a child, I cherish these values. In Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, I saw grade-school children as young as me holding assault rifles in the streets. I spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, where there was no formal schooling or even running water. But my family and I persevered, fortified by our deep solidarity with one another, the compassion of others and the hope of a better life in the United States.
Congresswoman Omar says that despite the fact that she suffered prejudice as a black, Muslim, immigrant she values that democracy provides a means to make society better. (As an aside, my mother always wore a scarf. That the hijab upsets people reveals the supremacy of the reptilian brain over higher brain function. It’s a damn scarf.)
But of course, the promise of democracy is today under threat through voter suppression, ignoring of subpoenas from Congress, the use of “overtly racist rhetoric,” and more. The reasons for the weaponizing of democracy are obvious. Racism is a classic means of dividing people who should be uniting against the extraordinarily wealthy elite. As Omar puts it:
Every time Mr. Trump attacks refugees is a time that could be spent discussing the president’s unwillingness to raise the federal minimum wage for up to 33 million Americans. Every racist attack on four members of Congress is a moment he doesn’t have to address why his choice for labor secretary has spent his career defending Wall Street banks and Walmart at the expense of workers. When he is launching attacks on the free press, he isn’t talking about why his Environmental Protection Agency just refused to ban a pesticide linked to brain damage in children.
His efforts to pit religious minorities against one another stem from the same playbook. If working Americans are too busy fighting with one another, we will never address the very real and deep problems our country faces — from climate change to soaring inequality to lack of quality affordable health care.
Ms. Omar calls on us to listen to “the better angels of our nature.” As she concludes:
The proudest moments in our history — from the Emancipation Proclamation to the civil rights movement to the struggle against fascism — have come when we fight to protect and expand basic democratic rights. Today, democracy is under attack once again. It’s time to respond with the kind of conviction that has made America great before.
Brief reflections – Of course, this well-written essay won’t change the reptilian minds that follow their cult leader. They are sheep, being led to the slaughter by (almost exclusively) men who don’t care about them at all. They applaud those who want to take their health-care away and dismantle the rest of the very limited social safety net in this country. They support those who want all the wealth and power of society for themselves. They cheer his cruelty to their (perceived) enemies, not realizing they will get nothing from him and his kind. As Bob Dylan wrote they are only “pawns in the game” of the rich and powerful.