A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who immigrated (legally) with his family from a mainly Muslim nation many years ago. To protect his privacy I will say only this: He is a learned man, a global leader in his field who has risen to the top of his profession, where he makes huge contributions to his adopted country. He has a wide circle of admiring acquaintances in both the public and private sectors.
I was astonished therefore when he shared with me his concern that bringing his family to the United States decades ago may have been the biggest mistake of his life. I was astonished to learn that this prominent man was scared: scared for the physical safety of his family, scared that he might not be able to freely practice the religion of his birth, scared that because of his religion he might have to leave America, and -- even worse -- scared that he might wait too long before leaving. I could not believe that I was hearing these things in a restaurant in lower Manhattan in the second decade of the 21st century. It shocked me profoundly.
In the days following that lunch, I realized that I had made a fundamental omission in my consideration of Trumpism. I was writing about it in terms of history, law, politics, and morality. But I had failed to understand that it also has a profoundly personal dimension. I had failed to consider Trump from the perspective of millions of Muslim citizens, and from the perspective of hard-working immigrants of all national origins. For them, the fact that a bigoted nativist had received the nomination of a major party already has betrayed their belief in the promise of America. Many moved their families to America to escape fear, and now they find themselves in fear’s acidic grip. All the things that we observe as merely political, they experience as personal.
These people are our neighbors and friends. They are the people who mow your lawn, clean your house and look after your children. They are the people who are researching the medical breakthrough that might save your life. Let’s remember on November 8 that for these people, it’s personal. Defeating Mr. Trump is only the first thing we need to do to restore faith with those who came here seeking to redeem the great promise of America.