Today it is my decision to stand with the "shithole" citizens of the world.
Thomas Paine wrote that it is the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart and conscience is firm, will pursue his principles until death. Paine has always been an inspiration to me, but he always reminds me to pursue my principles.
Today, the shithole People of the world need to hear from people like me.
Politics became quite personal for me when I read of efforts to keep people from "the shithole" countries out of America and seek white to admit prosperous white Norwegians instead. It was a little hard for me to believe what I heard and saw, and I take no joy in it, it was a sad thing to hear a President say..
My life in recent months and years has brought me into close contact with some of the shithole Refugees, including Ali, and Tafsela and Sifa and Francis and Maulidi And Kone and Abderahman and Iglal and Rae Beh, and Mlondani and Asukulu and Matembo and Kin Sew Ye and a score of others I have talked with, met, and tried to support, along with many others.
The Shithole Refugees come from poor and troubled countries, just as I did, and odds are, you and your people did.
Is our collective memory that fickle?
If you read your history books, you learn that it is the Shithole Countries that create the very idea of refugees and the idea of refuge.
The Jews of Russia didn't flee Stalin and come to America because it was a happy and prosperous country, the Irish didn't flock to America because there was too much to eat, the Africans don't come here because their countries are peaceful and prosperous.
Persecution and starvation are the mother of all refugees.
A Norwegian journalist I once worked with e-mailed me this morning, he wrote "any Norwegian would have to be crazy to move to your insane country. We have health care for everyone, no guns or crime, tuition support for schools and generous pension and retirement funds. Why on earth would we want to come to America?"
That's what America is all about for me, opening its arms to the troubled and poor and giving them a path to live and grow. That's how I got here, that's why I am here at all. My grandparents came from one of the worst shitholes on the earth and their bravery and determination gave birth to many saved and meaningful lives.
So my intention today is to support the Shithole Peoples of the world, today, tomorrow, and for as long as i am able. You are welcome to join me if you wish.
I have come to know some of these people quite well, I know them to have had brutal and sometimes horrific lives, to wait many years to come to America, to work incredibly hard when they get here.
I know them to be obsessed with providing better lives for their children than they had in a country whose historic open arms for shithole refugees has been a light and inspiration unto the world, the very heart of the great experiment in freedom and democracy.
I know these people to be decent and honest and law-abiding and loving. They love our country very much, and appreciate it as only they can.
I know them to be honest and ambitious, to work every day to assimilate, contribute and advance. Every day, I see their lives getting better, their English stronger, their computing skills better, their contributions more meaningful, their children more secure.
They take every class they can get to, learn, learn, learn.
It is a miracle to see it, and it breaks my heart to see these people disparaged in this awful and ignorant way.
Sunday, I am going to Albany to attend at Koran celebration at a local school.
I am bringing a winter jacket for a brave woman who spend 22 years in a refugee camp hoping to get to America. And three pairs of snow boots for her children. And $500 for Maulidi, whose brilliant carvings are in demand all over the country. He is an asset to any country.
We bought new uniforms for the soccer team, funding bowling and skating excursions and even the movies.
We are sponsoring a retreat for the RISSE soccer team in the country next weekend, and negotiating to purchase indoor soccer practice time for them somewhere south of Albany. This week, I bought 16 copies of a book called "Outcasts United" to show them what refugee soccer teams have done for America in other parts of the country.
We are supporting the new RISSE women's basketball team, and have helped several refugees take classes they need, pay back loans, go on boat rides and to amusement parks. I'm proud to say that is a very partial list.
If you wish to help the Shithole Peoples of the world, you will soon be able to do it daily on a new Amazon Gift Page RISSE has agreed to put up, at our suggestion. You can choose to contribute in your own way, at your own pace. If you wish to contribute to them today, you can do it here.
If you wish to help me do it, you can donate to Jon Katz, Refugee Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via Paypal, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can contact your local refugee aid organization and contribute to them directly, or you can volunteer to tutor refugees and immigrants in your community.
They need to hear from you and me today.
The WInter Clothing Fund we began at RISSE has been a spectacular success. Winter clothes – socks, jackets, snowboots, hats are welcome and can be sent directly to the Refugee And Immigrant Support Center (RISSE) at 715 Morris Avenue, Albany, New York, 12208.
None of this is easy, none of this is something I ever expected to do or thought I would do. My response to hatred and argument and bigotry is always the same: do good, do more good, Fortunately, you need not be a saint to do good, or I would not qualify.
You just have to believe that doing good is better than arguing about what good is.
This is a painful and difficult time for all us, whatever our values and views. There is no sugar-coating that. Paine wrote that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. He said he loves the man who can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.
I hope that is my story, the children and grandchild of Shithole People, who has a chance to use his words for good, and pay them back. In trouble, I have learned to smile, i am gathering strength from distress, i am learning to grow.
Thanks for listening and hopefully, for coming along.