Liberty’s Flameout

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Last Saturday, I was working in my the studio with the TV on in the background. In the middle of the afternoon, the news started reporting spontaneous protests at JFK and other airports around the country in response to the Executive Order banning residents of seven countries from entering the country. As the afternoon progressed, the crowds got larger. In the early evening word spread across twitter that a crowd was gathering outside the Federal Court House at Cadman Plaza. After the kids were in bed, I hopped on my bicycle and headed toward downtown Brooklyn. I felt that I had to do something.

I live in a neighborhood with a growing Arab population. My wife teaches at a school with a large immigrant population, primarily from Mexico. My brother married the daughter of Persian immigrants. I went to school with Muslims and refugees, they were my classmates and teammates. When people talk about building the wall, deporting all the ‘illegals’, banning Muslims and refugees they are talking about my neighbors, my friends and my family.  How can I ever hope to look any of these people in the eye if I stand on the sidelines and say or do nothing?

I reached the court house at the same moment Judge Donnelly’s decision reached the crowd. A roar went up and I hung around for a while taking in the celebration. Despite that victory and the others that followed last week, I’m still worried. We’re in a strange place. America has its warts, for sure, but right now it seems we’re being dragged somewhere dark, away from the ideals that we tell ourselves we’re striving for. The President’s autocratic and kleptocratic streaks are troubling. Couple them with cruel policies like building the wall, banning Muslims, repealing the ACA, gutting consumer and environmental protections–to say nothing of the threat of catastrophic climate change or war from all the idiotic saber-rattling and it’s hard not be afraid for the future.

Those are the things I thought about on the ride home, with the Statue of Liberty in full view for a good chunk of my trip. Are we still the to be beacon of freedom, that we like to tell ourselves that we are? Right now it feels like we’re turing off the lights and hiding in the dark.

06. February 2017 by John W. Tomac
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