Watching a Trump rally a couple months ago, I was particularly struck by signs being held proudly that read: “Make America Safe Again.” What was at the root of the signs that I saw? How could I better understand their perspective?
I questioned myself: “Well, what does that phrase even mean? What does ‘safe’ mean to me? What does ‘safe’ mean to those at the rally?”
Apparently, the people at the rally and I don’t have the same definition of “safe”. I believe the feeling of safety depends upon a lack of fear. I have been trying to discern what fear means in the context of this new political era, and I began to ask some questions. So here are some for you.
What is at the root of this fear? Is the root a desire to keep oneself safe? When was the last time you were a victim of crime by someone distinctly different from you, or by someone who was not a citizen? I feel safe in my workplace and my community, where I am surrounded by a multitude of races, religions, and economic backgrounds. Others, apparently, feel threatened. That stinks for them, because who wants to walk around feeling scared all the time? And what could quell that? Can truth lessen fear?
Is the root of the fear otherness? Have you tried to get to know “the other” so that he or she will become a someone to you? Taking the time to get to know people who are unlike you politically, socially, racially, and religiously is good work. It opens the door of relationship and breeds safety; it opens the door to truth.
Is the root of this current fear a fear of Muslims? Do you know any? I wonder if the people at the Nashville rally who were waving their “Safe Again” signs do. If not, I do wish they would get to know a Muslim and take the time to open the window and let truth slide in, in order to quell their fears.
I know hundreds of Muslim folks. I have taught hundreds of Muslim students over the past ten years, many from Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Not a one has committed a crime against me. Quite the opposite, I’ve been showered with love.
I have a deep love for my Muslim brothers and sisters, and they for me. We have strong bonds and genuine concern for one another. We have taken the time to build relationships, and my Muslim students and friends are one of my life’s greatest blessings.
I believe it is imperative that we stand tall and speak out firmly and, yes, loudly against those who choose to disdain and discriminate against those who may have different ethnic origins or religions from their own. I will do so, and, in the doing, I will work to foster and flame love. I will seek to open the eyes of those who feel unsafe in my community as we work together to build bridges instead of walls. It is much too easy to close ourselves off to those who think differently in this politically charged era, but I pledge to listen and not close myself off from hearing the other side’s heartfelt concerns and fears. I will foster safety, I will seek to assuage fear.
How about you? Won’t you join me in this march to foster and flame truth and, even further, make yourself vulnerable as you seek to flame love for your immigrant and refugee neighbor or coworker? Will you seek to understand the fears of those on the opposite side of the political fence? When we seek these things, fear loses. Then, indeed, America will be a safer place. I hope that you, my friend, will choose to play your part.
Be convicted, friends. Dig in. Therein, you will find blessing. Therein, the opposite of fear will take root. Therein, truth will find wings.