How to Make America Great Again

Yesterday, I got an urgent email from immigration lawyers telling me to finish my green card paperwork by EOD. I left work at 3pm to go home and get the paperwork done, which I just finished at 8:21pm. This loss in productivity is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the countless hours I have obsessively looked up news reports since the elections, anxious about where things are going, whether I should sell my guitar (most expensive belonging) and move somewhere else, whether I should liquidate the little assets I have in case things go south. It is ridiculous how much time I have spent being aggravated by the latest Trump folly. The bigotry, the rash decisions, the casual offensive comments without thinking about diplomatic implications all have me gaping in disbelief. One could not be less presidential.

If you voted for Trump and you are reading this, please don’t take it personally. I’m not judging you, I’m judging him and the people who are letting him do what he’s doing the way he is doing it. I know that may people voted for him thinking that he wouldn’t really do all that crazy stuff, that it was just a campaign strategy. Or maybe you really think that immigrants are criminals because that’s what Trump told you. The unfortunate truth is that his election is normalizing, institutionalizing these abhorrent behaviours and beliefs. If you feel like clicking away right now, please at least read the last paragraph.

I think it’s important to note that many immigrants are like me. Middle class or upper middle class, studied hard, got a job. They don’t own or want to own any weapons, don’t do drugs, don’t have any anti-american agenda, don’t want to do anything but have a normal, peaceful life in “the land of the free”, contributing to the economy and to their community. If that’s the type of people America wants to send back home, go on and #MAGA. Just remind yourself that more people are killed in the US by toddlers playing with guns than by immigrants (which Trump seems to equate to terrorists).

Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most of them are actually very nice people if you’d only get to know them. Some of my best friends are Muslim and they have always been very welcoming and very respectful of my own culture and beliefs.

Similarly, Mexicans aren’t drug dealers, job stealers or rapists. Most of them are very hard working, sometimes with multiple jobs, just trying to make ends meet and providing a better future for their family.

Refugees aren’t trying to convert anybody to Islam. All they want is to escape war, have the chance of maybe someday finding enough peace to go to sleep without worrying about whether their family will be alive and well the next morning. They don’t want to steal our jobs. They probably want to take any job, do anything they can except being in a war zone. Can you blame them?

You might be thinking, that’s all sweet but what about all the crimes that are reported in the news? Here’s sociology 101 for you in a nutshell: crime levels are related to poverty. Poorer neighborhoods tend to have higher crime rates, regardless of ethnicity. Also, overall crime rates are lower than they have been in 20 years. Only in pockets of vulnerable neighborhoods has it gone up.

Where do you think new struggling immigrants would find housing they can afford? You guessed it, in the poorer neighborhoods with high crime rates. If they become more prone to committing crimes, it is because of their environment. Not because of where they came from. If you take any “true American” and put them in the same situation, they would have the same odds of success.

The solution is not to ban immigrants, but to provide better support systems so that poor people in general have a chance of rising above the poverty line and becoming self sufficient. While there may be a very tiny percentage of people who would like to loaf around on unemployment benefits, most people actually want to be productive, earn their own money, be in charge of their own financial destiny, and be able to provide for themselves and their families. Most of them want to have a job where they can afford a healthcare plan. The solution is to help new immigrants (and poor peole in general) succeed. Successful immigrants will create wealth, tax money, jobs for other Americans, and be forever grateful to the country that helped them thrive. What do you think shunning immigrants accomplishes?

These people left everything behind: their house, their cars, their degrees, their jobs. They left it all behind to come to “the land of the free” where they might not even know the language, to have a shot at “The American Dream”. They will sacrifice everything for a brighter future for their kids, just like you would for yours. It is the liberties engraved in the American constitution and culture that attracts immigrants. If you start stripping America of these values, nobody will want to come here. Not even you.

We are only afraid of what we don’t know. Get to know a few immigrants better and maybe you’ll realize that we’re not that different. There’s always a few rotten apples, but that applies to “true Americans” too.

I come from a land where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists all live in peace and harmony. They each respect and celebrate each other’s religious holidays. They know how to cook each other’s cuisines, they know about each other’s Gods and saints and the values that they hold sacred. You might wonder how this was achieved? Simply education and encouraged exposure. The education process starts young, when we are about 5–7 years old. In school, we learned about all the religions and all the religious holidays. Then we would go home and tell our parents about it and they would learn too. Whenever there is a holiday, we bring something for the class to share (cakes, sweets, whatever the custom is). We invite others to participate in our Chinese New Year parties, or our Maha Shivaratri pilgrimage, our Christmas events. We would wish our Muslim friends Eid Mubarak, and they would invite us to break the fast with them, even though we’ve been eating all day. With this promoted understanding of our different cultures, it is easy to see how much they are actually similar. I don’t know if America is ready to embrace this level of understanding, but this is how you Make America Great Again.