I am an Indian immigrant. I came here 25 years ago because I believed in the equality, rights and freedom that America stands for. I still do.
I love America and I want to tell everyone. So do all immigrants, whether they are Asians, Muslims, Mexicans, Africans or Europeans. We don’t just come here to live a better life and be free. We are drawn to the charismatic aura of the American dream, its promise that if you work hard, you can be anything you want. That work ethic and the unlimited opportunities gave us our passion and hope.
Here in Mason, I look in awe at our church and, driving down the highway, I catch glimpses of a mosque and a gurudwara (a Sikh temple) and the unity in diversity always makes me grateful to be a piece of the mosaic of our great country.
Disgust, Horror and Fear
However, a year ago, the calmness of our existence was shattered when Donald Trump, the brash, boisterous billionaire, began his run for the White House. Local immigrants watched with a mixture of disgust, horror and fear as he systematically abused, mocked, angered, ridiculed and alienated so many minorities that I don’t even have enough space to write about it.
But I will tell you this: Local Muslims, Sikhs, Asians and Mexicans say they have already felt the effects of Trump’s rhetoric.
Muslim residents say they have been glared at, spat at, cursed, given the middle finger in traffic as they go to work and shop. Sikhs, who wear turbans because their religion dictates that they be perpetually on guard, say they are often mistaken for Muslims.
Hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims are on the rise nationwide and vandalism at their places of worship has increased.
Locally, the mosque has a police car on its premises and the gurudwara has its own armed security.
A Hindu man who wore a chain with the symbol “Om” to denote his religion, hoping not to be confused with a Muslim, says he has still been victimized by “mean remarks.”
Bullying and Harassment
We are hearing of more incidents of bullying and harassment in local schools. And people are more willing to verbalize their dislike of anyone who is “different.”
At the beginning of this school year, a Mason mother moved her two kids out of the public school and sent them to a Christian school because one child's class had six Muslims and three Indians in it. She was outraged and it took it personally because her husband, a member of our armed forces, was once injured in Afghanistan.
Muslims, Indians, Mexicans and Asians are frightened by Trump’s hateful rhetoric. They say the damage is done and they fearful of the repercussions in their personal and professional lives.
I can only shake my head in despair at Trump’s spectacular rise. How is it that a country like America that twice elected an African American to the White House even consider the idea of elevating a bigot like Trump into the same position?
In schools and colleges all over the world, we studied the legacies of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. We from the Third World believed that only the most extraordinary and the most talented leaders become presidents.
The whole world listens intently to every word that America says. We are a superpower and we speak for human rights, truth and justice in the world. We are quick to condemn countries that do the slightest damage to their citizens and yet we enable the rise of this businessman to the highest office in the land? Why?
'Make America Hate Again?'
Can we not see that Trump is negative and divisive? His campaign theme of “Make America Great Again” seems to us immigrants to be a code for “Make America Hate Again.” He plays into some of the deepest fears people have about employment and safety.
Please don’t believe him when he says immigrants are taking your jobs. Companies are offering jobs to the best educated candidates who are bilingual to get an edge on globalization. We earn jobs by our skills and retain them by working long hours and making sacrifices. We work for hours on visas till we are granted green cards and finally citizenship. This can take up to a decade and, trust me, it’s not easy or cheap.
We are doctors, engineers, attorneys, teachers, innovators, computer scientists, writers, actors and artists. We create our own niches wherever we go and we build the economy. We buy homes, we pay taxes, we send money home and we pump billions into the country.
Mexicans are not criminals. Muslims are not terrorists. Most of them escape countries torn apart from violence. Stop the ugly stereotyping. We come to this country for peace, we come for freedom and we join all Americans in gratitude as we place our hands over our hearts and sing the national anthem. We do not like the attention we get when Trump makes incendiary remarks.
We deserve better. And America deserves better.