Today, four members of the House of Representatives did exactly what we elect representatives to do. Singled out and criticized by the President because they don’t share his perspective, he made the mistake of attacking them personally, based on their ethnicity and their religious beliefs. In a relatively short amount of time, his twitter tirade attacking the four representatives has quickly become a political firestorm. He inadvertently gave them an open platform to respond and they did, by laying out the issues which got them elected by their constituents and by refuting the falsehoods in his accusations.
In start contrast to Trump’s angry blast, the four Representatives took advantage of the attention focused on the moment to give clear, concise explanations of their perspective on the specific issues they believe are priorities for the people they represent. Representatives Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York were the objects of a Trump tweet and comments that said if they hated America so much, they could go back to their “broken and crime infested countries.” In a few short minutes, their response refuted every point of Trump’s accusation, including his statement that they are “constantly complaining” and that they “hate America so much.”
Representatives are supposed to “represent” their constituents. These four freshmen women house members clearly get that, emphasizing their very clear awareness of issues that are important to their constituents and that their position on those issues was exactly why they ran for Congress and why they were elected, overwhelmingly in all four cases, to the House of Representatives from their respective districts. They are not “angry” at America, or mad about living in America as Trump tweeted and mischaracterized them completely. And they underlined the fact that the President doesn’t seem to get this. They pointed out, clearly and correctly, that taking a different perspective from that of the President is not hatred of America, it is what makes America great. It is one of the inherent values of a democratic republic. It appears, from the reaction they received, that much of America certainly loves “the Squad.”
Only Rep. Ocasio-Cortez referenced the President’s statement regarding “returning to their broken and crime infested countries,” by noting that she is from the Bronx and that she is going back there in order to be able to represent her constituency. She illustrated her understanding of the American government with a story about a visit to Washington, DC as a child, when her father had her sitting on the reflecting pool in front of the Washington Monument and told her that everything she was looking at belonged to her, and to all of the people of this country. Two of the other three in the group are, like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, native born American citizens.
It is interesting to note that the First Lady has not been in the United States as long as the only one of the four, Rep. Omar, has been here. Omar’s family came when she was a child. Ocasio-Cortez, of Puerto Rican ancestry, comes from a native-born American family that goes back generations and is of longer tenure than that of Donald Trump.
Rep. Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her father fled the country when she was still a child because he and several other family members had been involved in civil government in Somalia and were under attack by rebels and revolutionary groups when the country fell into anarchy. They came to the US and were granted refugee status seeking asylum. Her grandfather became involved in local government and civic organizations and was the primary influence in her decision to become involved in politics by serving as his interpreter when he attended caucus meetings. She earned a degree in political science and international studies from North Dakota State University, not exactly a radical, wild-eyed liberal place. She is an advocate for the living wage, affordable housing, student debt relief, immigration reform that includes the humane and decent treatment of children and families and favors abolishing ICE. She has, along with many other Americans, expressed opposition to Israeli treatment of people living in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. To accuse her of “hatred” toward America is blatant and inexcusable ignorance.
Rep. Tlaib was born in the United States, in Michigan. Her family ethnicity is Palestinian Arab and she, like Rep. Omar, is a Muslim. Politically, she is on the far left side of the Democratic party, in the same general ideological group with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. She is opposed to US aid to Israel and is an outspoken critic of Israel’s actions and policies regarding the Palestinian state and people. She is also an advocate for universal health care, particularly Medicare-for-all and has been opposed to the current President’s tax and economic policy which she claims favors only the wealthy at the expense of those who work for a living. There is little question about her perspective on economics and government, nor over whether her positions are supported by an overwhelming majority of her constituents. There’s no evidence in anything she has said or done to indicate that she is anything but a patriotic American.
Rep. Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Chicago. Her political background includes service as an intern to Rep. Joseph Kennedy III which explains her positions on issues considered to be progressive, including being an advocate of “Medicare-for-all”, addressing violence against women, human trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence. She falls within the same political spectrum on economic reform as the other three, to the left of most members of the house, including those of her own party. She, along with Rep. Tlaib, have been outspoken in their support for the impeachment of the President which explains his accusation of “hatred for America” against her. That doesn’t prove any hatred for America.
When has dissent on issues supported by a sitting President ever constituted “hatred for America”?
This is America. We are a nation of immigrants and a country that is built on a foundation which recognizes what is stated in our Declaration of Independence, that all human beings are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Whether our family recently arrived or our ancestors have been here for a while does not matter. The color of our skin and our ethnic background does not matter. The religious beliefs we hold do not make any difference in the recognition of our equality.
It is a testimony to the veracity of this basic American principle that a child whose parents came here fleeing tyranny and anarchy in Somalia could continue to pursue her interest in public service, something she learned from her family and wind up getting overwhelmingly elected to serve in the United States House of Representatives. It is a testimony to this principle that a young African American girl could get a quality education at a private school in Chicago with a strong academic program and advance to a position from which she can influence American public policy and get elected to the US Congress. It is a testimony to this principle that a girl growing up in a low income area of the Bronx, and who supported herself by working at two jobs including as a waitress could aspire to run for Congress because she felt compelled to make a difference. And it is a testimony to this principle that a girl who was born and raised on the west side of Detroit among a community of refugees escaping persecution and oppression including the loss of their homes and land could win the trust of the entire district in which she lived in order to be overwhelmingly elected to serve in Congress.
This is America. These views, expressed by these people, are part of who we are just as much as those who press for things conservatives think are important. These women went through the process of running for office and through all of the steps necessary to win the confidence of the voters in their respective districts. Now, thanks to the President, we are aware of the fact that they are doing exactly what they were elected to do, which is to represent their constituents in the House of Representatives. They don’t hate America, on the contrary, their presence in Congress is fulfilling a civic responsibility that is a demonstration of true patriotism and love for America, not hatred. The positions they have taken on the issues are legitimate, whether you agree with them or not, and they are the reason why their constituents elected them rather than their opponents.
This is America. There is no religious test for serving in government. While Christianity has been the dominant religious influence on American culture, there have been people here representing all of the major world religions since colonial days. The Muslim community in this country is made up mostly of people who were born and raised in the United States and those who weren’t came here legally, by their own choice, not because they hated this country but because they loved it and wanted to invest their lives and families in it. Muslim history in this country goes back to colonial days, though they have only recently begun to participate in the political process but they have served and sacrificed in our military. Being Muslim doesn’t mean they are loyal to another country, they live here by choice and the vast majority of them are just as horrified and saddened by terrorist activity as any other Americans.
These four women, freshmen members of the United States House of Representatives are working to make their country better, because this is their country, not someplace else. Mr. President, they are “back where they came from,” and every one of them has a list of things they want to accomplish, not to boost their own reputation, but on behalf of the constituents who overwhelmingly elected them to office. They are representatives in the truest sense of the term.
Because this is America.