Opinion: Bigotry in Trump’s speech could impact Southwest Florida

Jan. 8, 2019 by David Silverberg

There’s no evidence of a humanitarian or security crisis in Southwest Florida. The foreigners who usually arrive fly into Florida Southwest International Airport or drive down Route 75 from Ontario. A wall around Florida would be more useful for keeping out seawater than keeping out migrants.

As a result, there was very little in President Donald Trump’s national speech that seemed to apply to Southwest Florida. This was a national debate on a national issue that must be resolved in Congress at a national level.

However, what did flow out of Trump’s speech that can affect Southwest Florida and every city and town in the nation was his clear hatred of all immigrants, his stereotyping of broad swaths of people and his citations of only the worst examples of human behavior.

For every instance of an undocumented migrant who committed a crime, one can also cite the example of an immigrant who came to America, worked and thrived, perhaps put his life on the line in service to the United States and his fellow Americans and who made a contribution—some major, some minor—to this country.

But these don’t matter to Donald Trump. His poisonous hatred is capable of infecting Southwest Florida. It cannot help but lead to rising intolerance, suspicion and xenophobia. In the days ahead there will no doubt be instances of violence and hate crimes as a result of the kind of prejudice that Trump is promoting.

We can have debates over border security and the need for a wall. We can fact-check his figures and dissect his language. We can weigh the costs of his government shutdown. But what we can’t do is close the door and put back the bigotry that he releases into our homes.

Enough time has passed that generations—and Trump in particular—have forgotten where this kind of hatred led. Unchecked in Germany, it led to domestic tyranny, the Holocaust and World War II.

But closer to home, it’s worth remembering that this kind of prejudice and hatred, whipped up by hysteria and unconfirmed accusations, led to the lynching of two African-American teenagers in Fort Myers as recently as 1924.

We’ve long put away the days and passions of Nazism and Jim Crow and they should never be resurrected. But Trump is deliberately resuscitating long-dead demons of racism and hatred in pursuit of his narrow personal ends.

It’s up to everyone who knows history, who opposes bigotry and wants a big, vibrant and prosperous America and a peaceful and inclusive Southwest Florida to battle these demons, whether they appear in our hearts, our minds or in our dealings with our neighbors—no matter where they were born.

Liberty lives in light

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