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The new colossus

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These are the last five lines from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “The New Colossus” inscribed on the plaque at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

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The world has had unforgettable leaders, from the great to the terrible and the evil to the useless. But never have the likes of Trump ever stained so much embarrassment and division on human history. Just when you think his sexist humor, sweeping generalizations, and authoritarian ideals can’t get any worse—it does. Because now, businessman-turned-president Donald Trump has already tapped the two pressure points that has put the world in discord—race and religion.

Daring to redefine the very foundations of America, Trump called for a complete shutdown of Muslims whom he calls “terrorists” and immigrants like Mexican whom he calls “rapists” to “make America great again” while he was still campaigning for the position. Perhaps Trump ought to read more on the history of the United State of America—a land that was made by and meant for the immigrants and refugees of the old world. Banning immigrants from the land of immigrants—where diversity is what makes America great—Trump signed an executive order on January 27 suspending the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days, banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for 90 days, and indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program.                                                 

Rebutting this act of paranoia, the non-partisan policy research organization Cato Institute states that there has been zero recorded incidents of refugees from the mentioned banned countries being responsible for terrorist attacks in the US since 1975. But the damage has been done and hate crimes against American Muslims have escalated to their highest levels since the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to data compiled by researchers at California State University. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Proving once again that he is not a president for all Americans, he said himself that he sees persecuted Christian overseas as priority refugees and even sited that he’d help Christians under persecution in places like Syria, according to US Christian network CBN News. However, US government’s National Counter-Terrorism Center states that “in cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.” But of course, it’s doubtful to say that Trump actually cares about the statistics—nor facts.

Thankfully, even those in his party see the blatant faults in his decisions. US Republican Senators like John McCain warn that the ban could cause a self-inflicted wound in the clash against terrorism. Just after the announcement of the executive order, some jihadists celebrated and claimed victory with what they called the “blessed ban” as the policy proves that the US is actually at war with Islam. Unbeknownst to Trump, his declaration falls perfectly into ISIS’ vital narrative that preaches that the West is persecuting the Muslims, justifying their holy duty to fight back.

While the chaos might be occurring on the other side of the world, that’s no reason to sit comfortably by when the Philippines might still be affected by the growing extremist tension between ISIS and what they consider as an act of war by the US. Because through President Rodrigo Duterte and Trump’s shared volatile personalities and populist views, it could mean a point of convergence between US and the Philippines. However, even the slightest, converged wrong move from the two authority figures might provoke the beginning of another wave of violence from local terror groups with connections to ISIS including the infamous Abu Sayaff and Maute, among others.

But more than that, Trump’s actions in the once greatest nation in the world may very well be an omen of worse things to come and a test to see if we’ll do anything to prevent it. A nation dubbed the new world in its early days, the very essence of the American dream was once one of endless opportunities for those of all walks of life, regardless of race and religion. Yet now, those very values are being tested as intolerance is being favored over acceptance, walls are being built, and airport gates are being blocked. The question for what this will grow to be is up in the air, but one thing is for sure—we can’t let this slide as it overwhelms a nation that once symbolized freedom and acceptance of “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and the wretched refuse of the teeming shore.”

But while they try to sort out their own issues, that doesn’t mean we must merely sit back and wait until they do so. Because when they close their gates, we must open ours—someone has to.