We’ve been hearing over and over about a Certain Presidential Candidate’s plan to block People of a Certain Faith from entering the country, and we’re all tired of it. If not all of us, most of us, and not necessarily along party lines, either; this doesn’t have much to do any longer with Republican vs. Democrat. This is the Real America vs. the Fake America. And only the Fake America would reject an entire category of people based on their religion.
In the Real America, which I and all those other fed-up people I know actually live in, Muslims get married and have kids that play in Little League. They’re employed at businesses that value them, even cherish them, for their decency, warmth and attention to detail. They teach, advise, struggle, laugh, dream, help patients, slog to work, schlep their children, pray for peace. They do everything we do. They’re everything we are. They’re US. The U.S. This place. Our place. Your land, my land, theirs.
This is what Americans do: Live with each other. Talk to each other. Walk out the door every day into a sea of faces splashed with the colors of every nation, every tradition, every faith. Send our kids to schools filled with a chattering chorus of languages. Remember that our own ancestors once tumbled on these shores with hope and fear, practicing traditions and speaking tongues that classed them as foreign and strange.
This is the Real America. Not the Fake America occupied by billionaire demagogues far removed from the everyday mash of average people leading average lives, pressing up against each other’s differences and realizing we’re not so different. The Real America accepts those differences, deals with them, maybe even loves them — at least the idea of them. The Real America knows that those very differences distinguish us as a nation.
In my America, each of us is judged by our own actions, not lumped and discarded as a group for our beliefs. In my America, love of country means a love of its ideals. It means not hating a large mass of citizens, aspiring citizens and visitors for the color of their skin, the language of their parents or the name they call God in prayer. It means accepting that hundreds of millions of people live in this country, and not all of them look or talk or dress or worship like me. It means not merely freedom of religion, or freedom of speech, but the freedom to picture a better life and citizenry and government and world. We’re dreamers, after all. We drank that Kool-Aid long ago. We’ve never envisioned ourselves as a country that rejects the huddled masses. Or any masses, huddled or not.
Individual bigotry will remain, just as individual minds and hearts will bend toward evil, radicalization, violence. But this America, my America, the real one, the ideal one that lifts flags and hearts: It stays true to the dream. That sounds corny. It is corny. Really corny. I’m really corny. But how else can I be, expressing my love for this colorful, hopeful, noisy goulash of a nation, its airy ideals and beautiful spectrum of people? Despite all of its problems, all of its history, all of the failures in realizing those ideals, I believe in them. It’s a faith we share as Americans — and it has nothing to do with religion.