If Populism Persists – America Perishes
It is utterly upsetting to uncover the ugly side of today’s reality: the fact that many people fall for the divisive rhetoric of the right-wing media and presidential campaign. The North Carolina crowd chanting “Send her back” referring to an immigrant Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made my hair stand on end, vividly reminding of the old Nazi videos, all hateful and racist. The slogans that propelled Hitler to power were “Germany above all!” and “Germany for the Germans” – and a few years later the Jews, Gypsies, gays, and the critics of ruler all marched to the gas chambers. Let’s keep it in mind.
It isn’t that I take this chanting too personally: I am not a woman of color, or Muslim, or of Somalian descent, or a “left-wing extremist.” No way. But the quote from Martin Niemoller, an anti-fascist German pastor, stands bright in my mind:
they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
This broadly means that each of us, Americans, needs to stand up for those publicly hounded and humiliated, i.e., for the American values of freedom, fairness, and equality. The quote is also a warning about the dangers of compliance with the Divide and Conquer policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates/electorate by pitting one group against the other, thereby preventing them from uniting in opposition. A winning formula of all populists and dictators in the world, Divide and Conquer is now enacted in the United States. I know it but too well because this is exactly what President Putin of Russia is now successfully implementing in my native Ukraine.
One of the currently hounded women is an immigrant, three others belong to minorities—but as sure as the day is bright, the list will build up swiftly because the intolerance disease is highly contagious.
It looks like not too many people are willing to speak in defense of the four attacked and demised Congresswomen. The Democratic politicians voted to condemn Trump’s “racist comments”, of course, but the GOP – by staying silent – are largely accepting this hatefulness—although some pundits say that they “panic about the ‘send her back’ chant,” but not too much. Well, there is nothing new about this situation: the lack of integrity and decency, the willingness to dismiss today the very idea they were advocating for yesterday, from the top of their lungs, is what makes up a typical politician: from the right, from the left, from anywhere. But we, the people, are not politicians, aren’t we? We care about our country and the values of freedom and equality that we’ve been brought up with. As far as I see it, if we allow such kind of populism persist, America-as-we-know-it perishes.
I do not share the views of the four Reps of the “squad,” moreover, I believe they are wrong on quite a few issues. However, the very idea of someone being hounded/demised for speaking up her/his mind sounds very troublesome to me.
We need to stand up and speak up for those harassed and hounded. Or else.
Speaking Up for Inclusion and Tolerance
A former Fulbright Scholar who authored “How They Made It in America” book earlier this year, I met critical acclaim at Voice America, Straight Talk Show, as well as other outstanding media and newspaper interviews. They appreciated the fact that for this book, I researched and interviewed over 100 prominent women immigrants who “made it,” including some celebrities, like Isabel Allende, Alfa Demmellash, Josie Natori, Ivana Trump, etc., painting a picture of successful women who became Americans by choice. The success stories and strategies of eighteen profiled immigrant women of the first generation reveal their significant contributions to America’s well-being and culture – as well as their deep integration into the all-American cultural values. They became the role models for immigrants and native-born alike.
An immigrant myself, I felt that writing about prominent immigrant women to elevate this whole subset of contributing Americans is my thing and my duty. Why? Because I understand them in-depth; because we are social twins wearing different cultural make-ups but possessing one common denominator – the need to integrate and prove our worth. And now I am their voice too, especially of those not yet in the celebrity ranks. I am willing to speak up for them, for including them, and for raising tolerance level towards them. I know these women richly deserve it.
Incidentally, the fact that President Trump harasses immigrants while marrying two women immigrants (Ivana Trump, his first wife, has been profiled in my book) speaks volumes of his essence.
In fact, my major motivation for writing How They Made It in America was to help educate the masses who sometimes fall too easily to the anti-immigrant catchphrases. You can learn more about me in the brief video where two of the prominent book subjects, Josie Natori, Alfa Demmellash and myself discuss the hot-hot immigrant issues of today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJJRETOoBEk
As you will see in the book, the interviews with the book subjects illuminated their American Dreams, their values, what they love in America – and why – and what they advise to other women who seek success in the US. Another thing you will be able to learn from the book is how overwhelmingly all immigrant women appreciate and love America, consider it their true home, feel gratitude to the American people who accepted and helped them on the way. Their talents are serving America 100% of the time. And we need more talented individuals like them to arrive, we are all richer for that. Please, read the book and share it with those you love!
Immigration and women are the hottest topics of today’s discourse, in both politics-oriented and private conversations. They are becoming hotter and hotter, and there’s nothing wrong about it, provided we keep our cool and display more Tolerance for the opinions that differ from our own.
Indeed, if I could start a movement, I’d love it to be an inclusive-leadership-oriented #AmericansForTolerance. Why?
Tolerance is a great but neglected value, although it’s one of the pillars for the American democracy. There is visible deficit of Tolerance in our country and beyond, and as a result, democracies are starting to limp. Clearly, our media is not doing its job with respect to Tolerance as an integral part of democracy. For certain politicians Tolerance became a no-no option, they rather prefer to fly high on more profitable divisiveness. Let’s realize it—and move on, starting #AmericansForTolerance movement, now!
The Point of #AmericansForTolerance
We badly need to deal with the hot topics of immigration and women in more effective and civilized ways. How? We need to school people in Tolerance, roll-out multi-level Tolerance education country-wide—as prevention of hate crimes, mass shootings, prejudice against different cultures and/or opinions, and such. It is a good question whether we need to tolerate intolerance ? Let’s think about it. Meanwhile, I hope that How They Made It in America – describing immigrant women’s great contributions to the United States – will encourage greater Tolerance, inclusivity, and unity of our diverse nation.