If I had one wish for Christmas this year, we would all come together as one. At the risk of sounding cliche, I say this with a burning desire for the United States to make a full 360.
This year has divided our nation so terribly that unification seems out of sight. This year alone, I have borne witness to a resurgence of some of this nation’s darkest weaknesses. I have seen immigrants being tear gassed while seeking asylum. I have seen women stand up to their sexual abusers, just to be shamed and debased. I have seen the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world give permission to racists, homophobes, xenophobes and misogynists of this nation to say and do whatever they want.
Almost every day this year, I’ve found myself thinking just let them in already. America, a nation founded by refugees fleeing persecution, hates refugees. This is ironic, but somehow still doesn’t surprise me. Considering that last year the president signed an executive order banning immigrants from nine majority-Muslim countries, I was not necessarily surprised when I heard him talk about our fellow humans in Mexico seeking asylum in our nation. I was not necessarily surprised when I learned of him separating children from their parents at the border. Even though I was not surprised, this does not mean that I was desensitized by the occurrences. Every time I see a photo of parents’ reconciliation with their children, anger arises knowing that for no other reason than being Mexican, they were put through intense suffering. My heart breaks when reading stories about families being separated because of deportation. My heart breaks the most and my anger arises the fastest when I watch and listen to my fellow Americans and my nation’s leader say “send them back to where they came from.”
We elect our government officials to lead by example, to create and pass laws to benefit us and not hinder us. As I witnessed this year’s midterm elections, I saw the hate that has been brewing in the core of many Americans. The hate has always been there, like an inactive volcano waiting to erupt. This year, that volcano erupted with its ashes of racism and its flowing molten lava of white supremacy. For example, Cindy Hyde-Smith, the newly-elected, Mississippi Senator who endorsed public hangings. Of course she apologized, saying that her words were an “exaggerated expression of regard,” but for her to be comfortable saying these remarks astonishes me. “
I remember the days when the nation’s “scandal” was Barack Obama wearing his tan suit to a press conference. But now when I turn on the news, I see a white teacher telling her Latino students to stop speaking Spanish. Her rationale: our military men and women are not fighting for their right to speak Spanish , but “American.” What hurts and angers me the most is seeing the people who lead my country call people of color “monkeys” or Mexicans rapists and murderers.
But regardless of who is in office — black, white, male, or female — we as Americans must be considerate of what we are saying. Believe it or not, our nation becomes more ethnically, culturally and socially diverse every single day: Each day an immigrant becomes a citizen, a Muslim woman walks the street wearing her hijab proudly, an LGBTQ+ couple gets married and starts a family.
My United States is not a place filled with hatred and exclusion. It is not a place where if you are different you get pushed to the back of the line. My United States, the one I know and love, is a place where inclusivity and acceptance sits at its core, where liberty and justice prevail for all who inhabit its 50 states. A place that opens its arms to those who have the desire for a better future.
I am aware that unification does not come from everyone agreeing to the unacceptability of prejudice, violence, injustice, and disrespect. But, change is ignited by a single spark. Whether that spark comes from the man living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or a 15-year-old girl writing an article for her school newspaper, the spark has to start somewhere. I hope to see that spark shine bright in 2019, and bring the United States of America that I call home back to the limelight.