Editor’s Note: The Civility of Inclusion
Infringing on personal liberties is no way to run a country — or an economy.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
A young, diligent man I know came to the Seattle area from Mexico as a toddler. Permitted recently to work legally under former President Obama’s DREAM Act, the young man found a job at a used-car dealership. With bilingual skills and personal charm, he sold several cars in his first weeks on the job. Sadly, his employer took advantage of anti-immigrant sentiment stirred up by President Donald Trump to fire the young man, depriving him of commissions he was owed.
Those of us focused on the economy tend to dismiss such “minor” blips and focus on the potential bonanza of tax cuts and deregulation Trump has promised. We must not.
Trump is leading us down a crooked path we have seen before and which has brought shame to our democracy. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were unfairly disparaged as a potential “fifth column” and thrown into internment camps. My grandfather, a United States citizen born in America, lived in fear of being identified as half-Japanese. He managed to avoid the internment camps but had his assets frozen and his activities tracked by the FBI. Later, after the war, the House Committee on Un-American Activities ignored civil liberties to investigate, blacklist and sometimes imprison diplomats, Hollywood directors and others suspected of being “communist sympathizers.”
In America, as elsewhere, there is always resentment bubbling just below the surface. Trump’s careless, angry talk has given people permission to act out on those resentments. During a performance at a University of Washington theater, neo-Nazis plastered on the door posters depicting the swastika with the call “Join your local Nazis! Congregating near you!” In Kansas, a man in a bar shot dead an Indian engineer after earlier yelling to the engineer, “Get out of my country!”
Trump has raised the stakes by undermining key institutions of democracy. He has attacked judges and called the press the “enemy of the people.” He has given Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials broad discretion to round up and deport immigrants, creating an atmosphere of fear among immigrants, many of whom are crucial to our economy, as Managing Editor John Levesque points out.
The actions have damaged our reputation as a beacon of freedom in a way that threatens to reduce our influence in the world and damage our economic interests.
Fortunately, many in our state and across the country are fighting back. A local attorney who volunteered to intervene on my young friend’s behalf was able to pressure the used-car dealer into giving the young man his job back, along with the pay owed him. Governor Jay Inslee has courageously moved to block state officials from engaging in enforcement actions against immigrants.
The more Trump works to erode basic civil liberties, the more important it is for Washington state to resist. We must show that real economic success comes not from stoking resentment and encouraging isolation, but from broadening inclusion and expanding trade.
Washington state’s inclusiveness, and our understanding that trade is not a zero-sum game, have helped us to grow and flourish. If Trump needs to make some adjustments to protect more domestic jobs, so be it. But stoking hatred and eroding civil liberties risks undermining the basic principles that have made America great.
LESLIE HELM is executive editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.