I went away last Thursday, to spend a few days with family in the magic of Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival (more on that soon). I forgave myself for not writing on the first day, on the grounds that it felt important to be fully present for my in-laws.
And then news of Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban broke. And because bad things happen in threes (or thirties, these days?), there was also the Holocaust Remembrance whitewash and white nationalist Steve Bannon’s elevation to the National Security Council. And I felt a paralyzing shame. That as Americans, we’d all woken up and become villains in our own story — the Afrikaners who at least passively participated in Apartheid, the ancestors who let slavery and segregation happen, the “Ordinary Men” of World War II. And somewhere between the terror in my head and the idyllic mountain vistas out the window, the flight or fight signals in my brain chose flight. For a moment, I wanted to forget.
But that can’t continue. Like everyone else with a conscious and a stake in the matter of what our country will become, I have to fight, in whatever ways I can. And in the moments that I scanned the news today, my mood began to steadily lift. Because something changed today. America woke up. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates took a brave stand. State Department professionals lodged their dissent, and a small but growing number of Congressional Republicans spoke in opposition. Loved ones, kind friends and family who I know to at least partially support Trump, signaled their concern for the fate of these refugees on Facebook and Instagram.
I’m not saying I’m feeling joyful. We will stop these despicable policies eventually, but surely not soon enough to prevent many innocent lives from being irrecoverably harmed. What I do know today, however, is that America’s defense of its most sacred values will be forceful.
I’ve promised I owe you a sign of hope today, and in fact, I owe you four more for the days that I missed. Fortunately, for all of us, they aren’t hard to find right now.
- In corporate America: General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt spoke out firmly in defense of diversity, saying “There would be no GE without our smart, dedicated employees from all over the world. There would be no GE without people of all religions, nationalities, gender, sexual orientation and race.” Too many years ago, Immelt delivered by college commencement address, and everyone complained beforehand that his selection wasn’t very inspired. Good on him for proving the opposite.
- In Silicon Valley: Lots more brewing, but for today, check out Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s open letter to community. Ohanian is the son of an undocumented immigrant from Germany and the great grandson of Armenian refugees.
- At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: Members of the suburban Am Shalom synagogue put their whole hearts into welcoming some of the last Syrian refugee families to make it through passport control ahead of the ban.
- In our nation’s capital: My old and amazing friends have been out and about for every darn protest, and I couldn’t be prouder of them for getting out there to say #nobannowall.
- And back in Park City and the world of independent film: The Sundance Institute announced its shared stand with a global community of artists against the ban.