Dear fellow Americans,
The next two years will test the fortitude of our democracy. It will be a worldwide lesson in how America functions as a nation and how its founding principles ensure tyranny never goes unchecked. Donald Trump’s executive order to ban certain populations from entering the United States goes against the grain of humanity like nails on a chalkboard. It disrespects America’s immigrant legacy and dishonors its centuries-old public policy to broaden the scope of human liberties rather than be exclusive. Isolationism isn’t an American trait; it is a quality of cowards. Though, it has shown its ugly face over and over again. I’ll briefly regurgitate the horrors of slavery, misogyny and general bigotry because responsible citizens must actively fight these demons of ignorance to restore liberty for all.
Two centuries after African slaves built the White House we had the fortune of an African-American First Lady tending to the Nation’s gardens. It took us two centuries to begin righting that wrong. Work remains – in our inner cities and county jails where a disproportionate number of African-Americans remain chained in one way or another. Not because ‘white’ people owe them anything, but because America promises them so. As it does to its daughters.
Less than a hundred years after the Nineteenth Amendment ensured women the right to vote, we popularly elected Madam Clinton as President of the United States. Here too, work remains; in election-reform, media coverage and information technology management, to ensure corporations and foreign governments do not influence the purity of our right to vote with misinformation and faulty-logic now called alternative facts. More importantly, work remains in uprooting misogyny. Through education and by example; through strong role-models who range from pantsuit politicians to highly underrated actresses to gender-equal pioneers. Because nowhere in ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America’ do our Founders mention gender or any other discriminative quality. This unifying American spirit has been reaffirmed in every walk of American strife, best seen in the resilience of its People.
In disenfranchised Chinese immigrants after they built American railroads, whom no one hired in San Francisco; desperate, these immigrants started businesses in laundry and food services, performing social functions then traditionally performed by housewives. And though speculative, I’d say that very act of self-preservation not only freed up time for American women but also, by working to support their families in China, laid the foundations for today’s China. Most American minorities have similar stories of strife and triumph, where they now dance down the streets where they were once shunned. This happens naturally in America, where our innate good constantly debates our ignorant fears. While bigotry runs its course, our Constitution ensures legal due process and equal protection under constitutionally sound rule-of-law.
Every executive order Donald Trump has thus far issued rebukes this legacy; they isolate, target and discriminate against one sub-population or another. From encumbering women’s health to perpetuating the lethal legacy of fossil fuels to the most recent and controversial immigration ban, his directives narrow the scope of American generosity while unconstitutionally broadening the power of the Presidency with vague veneers of social shock-and-awe. Soon his administration will order similar facially unconstitutional restrictions on other minority populations. They will distort facts and create smokescreens to evade climate and social welfare agendas at the heart of America’s next Reconstruction, and even disrupt and question journalistic integrity. Although, none of his orders will amount to much if blocked as unanimously throughout federal courts as the immigration ban; except, it will disrupt countless lives and rob them of their peace of mind. It will misinform the world about America’s promise to humanity; to its tired, poor and huddled masses – a welcoming place exists, where equality is the standard and hopes aren’t just daydreams. So while our representative-in-chief recklessly squanders American good will, it falls upon its citizens to practice and preach our Nation’s true identity.
Support organizations that perform vital social functions whether in the arts or in women’s health; be diversely informed about the State of Our Union and dispel misinformation. Protect the weak and weary; be vocal about America’s true nature. Do not be afraid. Educate oneself and each other to leapfrog everyone past their wildest dreams. Wear safety-pins and hang pride-flags. Watch over your neighbors’ gardens without hope that they may do the same, but with a sense of common duty and responsibility. Learn American History; understand the true meaning of history as the archive of our collective identity – find yourself and your place in this grand story.
The 21st century will be nothing like the last. The Information Age and its digital gateways have virtually connected humanity. The world has shrunk and circumstances have become far more visible. We must use the power of the internet to understand both others and ourselves. To protest abuses on liberty and protect our fundamental rights of speech and expression. To prevent religious intrusion into our secular government and preserve our legacy of broadening and evolving standards of justice and equality. We can do all this with our fingertips as I am doing now – our times make it possible and require active citizenship unlike any time since the Civil War. The enemy isn’t at our door; it’s within selfish interests and ignorant fears now embedded within our government. History shows that Americans have proven Americanism as a democratic way of life rather than a Nation of malice and cowardice. Entrepreneurship, solidarity, service and labor in the face of surmounting difficulties define us far more than border walls and immigration bans. I used to be proud to be an American until I realized being proud wasn’t enough. I had to live it. And in doing so I no longer take pride but each day am humbled by America’s majesty. We cannot let it tarnish. Please join me in reading, listening, watching, writing, painting, singing and dancing the message of America – One People out of many, for all.
Oeishik is a former Chicago resident and author of “Tribute to Sam Steward.” This was originally posted on Tribute to Sam.