by Lee Carter
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
These words are set in bronze on the Statue of Liberty, perhaps the most iconic image of our nation that there is. For generations, these words are what greeted millions of immigrants arriving in this nation in search of a better life.
Those words ring hollow today. The President has signed an executive order barring entry into this country for people coming here from seven nations, based solely on the predominant religion in those nations. These are people coming here in search of a better life, in search of a place to raise their families, in search of the American dream.
This has left many people stranded in our airports, detained in a state of limbo between the life they’ve left behind, and a once-welcoming nation that now turns its back to them.
That’s not the America I grew up in. It’s not the America that I gave five years of my life to the United States Marine Corps to defend.
That’s the America of generations past. That’s the America of “No Irish Need Apply.” It’s the America that interned tens of thousands of German-Americans and Italian-Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans based solely on fear of where they came from, with no regard given to the content of their hearts and minds.
It’s an ugly reminder of our past, playing out on the front page of every newspaper and on our Facebook feeds in real time.
We must not allow our ugly past to be our future.
We must not allow the politics of fear to divide us.
We are, and must remain a nation of immigrants, creating tomorrow’s strength from today’s compassion and acceptance.
And so we must fight this administration’s policies of hate. We must be our brother’s keeper, and reject this administration’s actions on every level.
So call your Senators and your Congressperson. Go out in the streets and protest. And carry that action through to the ballot box this November, when Virginia offers the first electoral answer to this administration.
We may have started 2017 with hatred and division, with folks stranded in Virginia’s airports because of fear, but we will end 2017 by ushering in a new Virginia government – from the Governor on down to each of our 100 House of Delegates districts – that recognizes that lifting up one person uplifts us all.
That’s the America I know. That’s the America I’m fighting for.
Lee Carter is a Democrat running for Virginia’s 50th House of Delegates District. He deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and served in Haiti during Operation Unified Response.