Three days after Donald Trump's first travel ban was announced, I had a disturbing encounter. I witnessed two men at a local coffee shop discussing the ban. The way these men spoke about Muslims — and about refugees from countries undergoing violent turbulence who were attempting to come to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity — was disturbing. As I ran out of the coffee shop, anticipating the hot tears that would soon run down my face, I immediately began forming my response. Later that night, I wrote a blog post entitled "Muslims Did Not Kill My Father," which I shared on my personal Facebook page.
Overnight, it went viral, attracting attention from various newspapers. Headlines read, “9/11 daughter pens pro-Muslim essay.” Naturally, the keyboard warriors planned their attacks and commented on the online posting of the news article saying things like, “I’m sure her father is rolling in his grave” and “But what would her father think?”
These comments hurt, but they brought me to a deep place of contemplation. What would my father think of me speaking out against this ban, against banning the people who supposedly murdered him, those who claimed Islam as their own in the name of terrorism?
The answer is complicated, and one that required a lot of difficult inner dialogue, but I’m pretty sure, at this point, I can predict what my father's response would have been.
My father died a month shy of my 16th birthday. I was lucky enough to have my father there for most of my adolescent life, and the lessons he taught me were ones I was able to remember and carry with me into adulthood. However, I know that if he were alive today, there is a distinct possibility that we would not see eye to eye politically. There is also a distinct chance that we would. My father’s death caused a change in me, and I formed my own opinions and my own political beliefs, an opportunity that, as odd as it sounds, I’m not sure would have been afforded to me if my father was still alive.
My brother and I were raised on Rush Limbaugh, Bob Grant, and yes, Sean Hannity. My father tuned into politically charged talk radio whenever he could; he would only turn it off for Mets games and commercial free “oldies” playlists. My father was a proudly registered and active Republican, and while I was growing up, I imitated his views, disagreeing with my more liberal classmates on topics such as affirmative action, abortion, and public assistance.
My father was a patriot who loved America. He loved all it represented.
Obviously I’ve changed in my political views. In my blog post, I wrote that “I learned, I changed, and I grew.” Would my father have approved of my political, intellectual, and emotional transformation? Although he was conservative in politics at the time of his death, I don't believe that he would be approving of the travel ban — neither the first one nor the new one — let alone our current president.
In addition to being a Republican, my father was a history buff and a political maestro. He had a gift for words and was a pro with the pen. My father valued the written word, and for that alone, I know he would be proud of me. My father also valued information. He read multiple newspapers a day (on his commute to and from work), watched a variety of news channels, and acknowledged media bias on both sides.
In thinking about how my father would have reacted to my post and follow-up news articles, I have come to the following conclusions. My father would be undoubtedly and unabashedly proud of me, and as for the travel ban, my father would disapprove. My father was a patriot who loved America. He loved all it represented. He loved that it was the land of opportunity, he loved that it was the land of freedom, and he loved that it was the land of free public education. It were these freedoms and opportunities his father’s family moved for when they immigrated from Italy many years ago.
My father was the product of immigration. His father arrived here in Italy when he was a young boy. My father married a woman outside his faith and raised children in that faith without question. He danced with me at my Bat-Mitzvah, stating that he knew I would rock my Torah portion with such ease that it was almost like “shit through a goose.” My father valued how America allowed the people inhabiting it to marry freely, worship freely, and work freely. To discriminate and block an entire group of people for their religion only would have angered and disgusted my father, wholly and completely.
Despite the fact that my father was, at the time before his death, politically conservative, he was not immune to the plight of human suffering.
And to those who may say "Muslims pose a terrorist threat" or "banning Muslims would have prevented 9/11," I say this: Even if you believe that, even if you honestly believe in your heart that Muslims need to be banned in order to maintain the safety of our country, you are still wrong in believing that this immigration executive order is the right thing to do, especially since our president has chosen not to impose a ban on travelers from Saudi Arabia, a country where, in fact, the terrorists of 9/11 were from. My father would have had five newspapers in hand and would be arguing that very point
Furthermore, despite the fact that my father was, at the time before his death, politically conservative, he was not immune to the plight of human suffering. In our talks about history and politics, he always stated how the Holocaust was one of the most disgusting and horrifying tragedies in history. He acknowledged the irresponsibility of the U.S. government and and other foreign countries that denied refuge for those trying to escape Hitler’s powerful and violent regime. If he were alive today, I know he would be greatly disappointed that we have not learned from our history and that we once again are denying refuge from those desperate to escape their tragic and terrifying lives in a country that is persecuting them.
As a person, my father would be sickened. As a history buff, my father would be disheartened. As a political maestro, my father would be discouraged that our country, one founded on acceptance, democracy, and opportunity, a country that was designed as a safe-haven for all escaping oppression and persecution, was now denying entrance to those seeking just that. He would be frustrated that this order was signed into action without acknowledging the democratic process that the United States of America was founded on, a process he respected, a process he quizzed his kids on again and again and again. And again.
All who read this may not agree with me, and that is OK. Our country was founded on our right to speak (and write), and I know my father would be proud of me. To the keyboard trolls out there in the universe, claiming that my father would be “rolling in his grave” or stating that I somehow “forgot” 9/11, or that my father would be ashamed at who I have become, that is simply not true. Not only would he be proud of me for speaking my mind, armed with credible information and careful word choice, but he also would be thrilled that my sentiment of disapproval on this unconstitutional ban was echoed by Judge James Robart, a federal judge and a George W. Bush appointee.
Thanks Dad, for the disagreements, the long trips listening to news and talk radio, and for passing on your love of information and skill with the pen. I hope that you’re smiling somewhere, acknowledging that you raised a strong, smart and passionate woman — one, who like you, does not hold back when it comes to standing up for what you believe in.