A White Guy Living in One of Cruz’s Muslim Neighborhoods

I’m a white professional and I split my time between living in a small town in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and making a living in Washington, DC. Three nights a week, I live in what I suppose Ted Cruz would consider a “Muslim neighborhood”. My wife also comes in from our home, about 100 miles from DC, about once a week for a couple of nights. Our apartment complex in the southern part of suburban Northern Virginia is owned and managed by a nonprofit development company whose mission it is to produce and preserve affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. We have one of the 84 units whose occupants pay a market-rate rent. The other 194 are affordable/workforce housing — partially financed with public and private sector funds to help make those rents affordable to working families with household incomes less (in some cases, far less) than the area median income. The population of our apartment complex — as well as the surrounding neighborhood of apartments, duplexes and single-family homes — is overwhelmingly Latino, Middle Eastern, African and Asian, with a very large Muslim contingent.

Our neighbors are working folks — hospitality, retail and other service-sector workers, cab drivers, painters, landscapers and other contractors, health care workers, school system and other public employees. It’s a lively, vibrant, colorful world we’re lucky enough to be a part of for a few days of the work week. The food is different. The music is different. How people dress, speak and live is very diverse and frankly quite wonderful.

And yet the commonality our neighbors share with the generations of Americans who came before them is striking. They’re simply working, raising their daughters and sons, enjoying a little downtime when they can and building a better future for their families. There are lots of first-generation children, being walked to the bus by their parents, playing after school and acting like the red-blooded American kids they are.

If there is a 21st century Levittown, well then, our apartment complex is it. Levittowns were, in fact, a highly subsidized housing concept for post-World War II working-class white families — most of varied European immigrant origins.

Many of our immediate neighbors are Muslim. Most of the families on our floor are. We say “good morning” and “good evening” to one another every day. We hold the elevator doors for each other and we smile together at babies in strollers and we pick up and toss back errant soccer balls.

I’m not naïve. I have to assume that there are people nearby who, to varying degrees, are sympathetic to Islamic extremism. It’s a sure bet that sleeper cells and lone wolves are in Northern Virginia, very possibly within sight of our balcony. And then there must be thousands more who have no affiliation whatsoever with Muslim terrorists — — and are in total opposition of the violent jihad being carried out in the name of their religion.

When I was young in the 1950s and early 60s, my family lived in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, the Deep South’s Ground Zero for the KKK — a white supremacist, self-proclaimed Christian terrorist organization. There were also many in our community who, while they wouldn’t openly condone the Klan’s violent acts, had certain cultural sympathies for the desire to preserve the oppression of black Americans. And then there were many others who stood against the vicious hatred that the Klan and other racist organizations perpetrated.

By and large, those evil forces were defeated. It was an ideological fight that had to be waged. That kind of bigotry and prejudice most certainly still exists in the South and throughout the U.S. — and will never be stamped out completely. But the forces of fairness, equality and freedom triumphed and continue to dominate.

So now, what is Mr. Cruz’s plan? Patrol the halls of our apartments? Surveille the property? Photograph and record residents? Ask for identification in the parking lot? Increase a militarized police presence? Create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation? Encourage violence? The last time that kind of thing happened, millions, including many of my own distant Polish and European Jewish cousins, paid a horrific price. The world paid a price in war and shame. Are we ready for an American version of Kristallnacht five miles from the White House?

I love my country. I fly the flag and I pledge allegiance to it with the deepest pride. I want to stop people intent in killing my fellow Americans and attacking our liberty. We as Americans must fight tyranny and genocide, at home and abroad, with force when necessary and always with a commitment to the human right of economic democracy. All of us, I believe, in our hearts stand for the “Four Freedoms” articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt — — four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world deserve: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. A commitment to those freedoms should guide our every step in our war against terrorism.

Mr. Cruz, there has got to be a better way than inciting hysteria, hatred and demagoguery, which never, ever ends well.