President Trump’s recent tweet storm targeted at Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, suggesting that they “go back to where they came from,” has called upon all Americans to ask themselves how they define democracy and who they think of as the true patriots of our time. While the Internet has been awash in short-sighted “love it or leave it” posts and misleading memes that don’t bear repeating, it is evident to me that the truest Americans and the most loyal patriots are these four ladies, collectively known as “The Squad.”
Patriotism is not, nor has it ever been, standing by your president and not questioning the status quo. Patriotism is not stubbornly clinging to an idea that has outlived its usefulness, or worse, an idea that has never been useful at all. A true patriot loves his country, but will do everything in his or her power to change things that need to be changed and to keep tyranny at bay, even if the tyrant is sitting in the White House.
Our Republic has never thrived on the basis of “let’s keep things as they are.” That they dare to question he who is in the highest seat of power, that they dare to suggest radical changes to how we, as a country, take care of not just our own people, but those who come to our shores in search of a better life, reflects the true spirit of the Founding Fathers who saw our nation as a “Great Experiment.” When we resist change for the future, when we seek to roll back the clock fifty years earlier, we lose out on our greatest potential as a nation. Rather than looking back at what has been and struggle to try to keep long outdated policies in place, those who truly care about our country look forward with bold anticipation of what we have yet to accomplish.
These four may be excused for their exuberance of youth and the excitement of being in a position to effect meaningful change, having not yet gotten bogged down in the drudgery of policy-making where too often, a good idea is diminished to the point of irrelevance by those who have been in Congress longer, have become wise to the inner workings of the legislature and tweak every good idea with exhortations of “No, they’ll never go for that.” Sometimes it takes a newcomer to speak up and say resolutely, “This will not stand.” It would be truly Presidential for a leader to offer support and amplify the voice of those Congressional newcomers who do so. Alas, such leadership in the White House is missing.
For a sitting president to suggest that duly elected members of Congress “go back to where they came from” is an affront to democracy and the American way. We will have a stronger country when newcomers to Congress take that exquisite measure, channelling those who gave birth to our Great Experiment. Mr. Trump criticized Reps. Tlaib, Pressley, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez for “telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.” He forgot, perhaps, that it is quite literally the congresswomen’s job to do just that.
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.