I’m American. And I, like hundreds of millions of other descendants of immigrants in the United States, do not plan on leaving anytime soon. “Go back to Israel, we don’t want you in America.” I remember the shock I felt when first reading those words in a message uniquely addressed to me, one of tens of thousands of pieces of unrelenting hate speech I began receiving in 2016. Privileged to hold citizenship from this great country, I pride myself on being a lifelong active, participatory member of our thriving albeit imperfect democracy, built by and for incredibly diverse immigrant populations from all corners of the globe, faiths, races, nationalities, backgrounds. I’m not going “back” to Israel; grateful as I am for its existence and strength, my Jewish family never returned to our ancestral homeland after being forced to leave, choosing instead to live and raise many generations in the diaspora.
Nor am I going “back” to Russia, where my great great grandparents fled pogroms at the turn of the century, or to Ireland or Germany, countries my great (and great great great) grandparents on the other side of my family left for the promise of America well over a century back. I refuse to be told to “go back” anywhere and will continue to exercise my rights to live, work, pray, speak, think, fight, exist physically, legally, politically, spiritually, culturally, all the ways, here in the place I cherish as my home.
It’s viscously cruel, wholly inexcusable, undeniably offensive and acutely dangerous for anyone to tell a fellow American to “go back” anywhere — let alone the President of the United States in addressing elected public officials, high level lawmakers, federal congresswomen, members of the House of Representatives. Of the four “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” that President Trump attacked in his Twitter racist (yes, racist) rant, three were born in Ohio, Michigan and New York and one arrived as a refugee, becoming a US citizen at the age of 17 in 2000 and living here for decades already. Two are black, two are Muslim, one is Latina, one is foreign-born and ALL are beautifully, proudly, unmistakably American (like my Jewish mut self!). I/you/we do not have to agree with all (or even some) of the policies or stances of Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib or Ayanna Pressley to denounce Trumps’s vile, indefensible, prejudiced comments.
The toxic, bigoted, heinous rhetoric of the current President — and a startling number who seem to offer blind, blanket support both in his administration and communities nationwide either with words, nods, actions or appalling silence — continues to exist in confounding direct opposition to what I have always seen as fundamental values not only of the United States of America, but also of humanity as a whole — with pernicious effects that poison society, fuel hatred, incite racism, deepen divides and prove perilous by directly or indirectly stoking and provoking violence within this country and overseas. We deserve and need better, never ceasing to condemn horrors large and small, online and off, left and right; pressure leaders to use their moral compass to hold power to account; organize intentionally and inclusively to fight tirelessly for equality, for liberty, for justice.
I reaffirm that I belong. And so do you.