An Open Letter to a Syrian Refugee,
Please know that this is not America. These words you are hearing from our politicians and on social media are the comments of people who are living in fear. It is the rhetoric of people who are scared about the world they see around them.
I know you know fear. While we fear what we don’t know or what may happen, you have lived fear. It is your heart. In your mind.
You’ve seen your own government kill you. Your family. Friends. Neighbors.
Your house destroyed. Your job taken away from you.
Your future and that of your children stolen from you.
That’s fear. It is real. It isn’t something imaginary or a concern about something that might happen.
Fear has happened to you. It still is.
America once had a President who used these words to still the frightened hearts of his countrymen, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
I am fearful for my country and for my children’s future. My son was a baby on 9/11 and I remember tortured nights with him for days on end every time I heard a siren pass by my home. My family wasn’t in an office building, or a plane or the Pentagon on 9/11.
We were safe in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But, we were scared. Scared of what might happen. Fearful of whether the attacks against our fellow Americans in New York and Washington, D.C. might be replicated in our towns and communities.
Since that day America has lived far too much in fear. We have done some things that needed to be done. Brave American men and women have fought for our freedom, and the freedom of others, in faraway lands and left their lives in them.
For a short while our politicians worked with one another to pass laws that were intended to make our country safer, and give confidence to our nation that we could rise to the challenge that was thrown down by men flying airplanes into buildings and killing innocents.
Since then things have unraveled. Our elected officials have forgotten that fear can either bring us together or drive us apart.
We are being driven apart. It would be easy to blame the politicians but they are a reflection of who we are as a nation today.
Too often divided. Too often bitter. Too often fearful.
So, I know that you are hearing or reading a lot about our elected officials and people of America who are demanding you stay out of our country because of the tragedy inflicted upon the people of Paris.
For the Muslims among you it is likely you’ve heard that some politicians are saying that the Christians among you are welcome, but you are not.
That those who kill in your name and your religion want our fear to rule our actions is lost on far too many Americans.
That fear increases fear and results in more intolerance, more hate and more hatred.
I won’t apologize for America. I love this nation far too much to apologize for the all too human reaction of my fellow Americans.
I would be lying, as well, if I didn’t have concerns that there could be men and women hidden in your midst who may come to America to harm us – our communities – our families – my family.
So here’s what I can do to try to let you know that I want my heart and compassion to win out over the fear in my life. I can invite you to live with my family. To be a member of my family.
We don’t have much to offer but someplace warm from the upcoming Minnesota Winter. A place to lay down your head. Food to eat. And, for your kids, a school to go to with other kids who care more about kid things than they do about fearful things.
Maybe you can teach us the difference between “…nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror…” and terror as a way of life.
Perhaps if we learn about terror as a way of life we can stop the nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror we feel in our hearts and once again come together as nation to make our country safer, more secure and more compassionate.
I love my country. I love it with all of its flaws, faults and failures. There’s no place else in the world I want to live or my children to grow up and become good people and leaders in their community.
I hope to meet you and your family when you are in America. I hope to share with you what I love about this nation.
How proud I am of what we have done to accept the tired, poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, the homeless and the tempest-tost.
America, the land that I love, is better than what you are seeing right now. In time, I believe, it will rise back to the place where you can see “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”