The more I watch the news, the more I read remarks on social media, the more conversations I have with friends and neighbors, strangers and associates the more I am saddened at what it seems we have become. Many have ended friendships and have cut off contact with other family members that they love. All because of what it seems we have become.
Fun family gatherings at holidays in many cases have turned into divided camps of those who still believe in morality and honesty, honor and service to humanity, lifting up those less fortunate and those who now find it safe to express their outrage with the state of our society today, believing that “others,” who they have never met, have cheated them out of what they felt they were due from society. Who now feel free to discriminate against those they perceive as being lesser beings than them. Who now openly display the long hidden racist mindsets that they now feel free to express without their hoods and sheets.
The battle lines have been there for a long time but the civility we were taught kept us from the outright warfare that it seems we have disintegrated into. I have been told to either support this president or leave the country. To quote Teddy Roosevelt’s editorial in the newspaper the Kansas City Star in rebuttal to hateful remarks he received for his criticism of President Woodrow Wilson;
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else. — The Kansas City Star, 7 May 1918
The reason that people now feel so free to spew hatred for those different than themselves comes right from the president daily. He tweets statements that have no basis in truth or fact. He lies daily and denigrates those he considers inferior to himself. He attacks those of a different skin color than he and his followers, not even hiding the racist rhetoric. He denigrates entire minority cities, demeaning all those who work every day to make life better for themselves. He considers all those who are brown or black of being rapists, murderers, criminals, drug dealers and so on. He has locked children in cages and denied them the basic necessities until ordered to by the courts. He has psychologically damaged young children with the inhumane conditions and treatment, the scars they will have forever of being ripped from their mothers’ arms just because their parents want to give their children a life better than what they have had, as do we all for our children.
More have died in the two years under this administration’s confinement than have died in the last 10 years combined. The communities of color and differing religions have been attacked not just verbally but also physically, slaughtered, due to the veiled permission they have received from the president, themselves echoing his hateful rhetoric. Yet many people I speak with and comments I read are OK with this. If fact, many even revel in it.
The Statue of Liberty has been standing as a symbol of our country’s acceptance of those looking for freedom and a better life since 1885. The poem by Emma Lazarus has been the standard this country set many years ago. The last bit of the poem is:
“With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Yet today we are facing a group of powerful people who want to change that welcoming message. Their message is simple, we don’t want you unless you can put money in my pocket. We don’t want you if you are desperate for freedom and hope. We don’t want you unless you look like us. We don’t want you unless you have a big bank account. And we especially don’t want you if you are brown or black. And if you are here now, leave.
The next election is a pivotal moment for this country. Do we continue to be a country of open arms and sharing or do we just totally decline into a country of hate and greed? Do we show the world that we are the standard for the world to emulate or do we just become a dictatorship that is on par with Putin and Kim?
Do we lift our lamp beside the golden door or do we just extinguish the flame, lock the door and become a nation lost?
Steve Creed is a local resident and the Community Action Commission of Fayette County self-help housing director.