I received a political survey call last week that I can’t shake. The focus quickly turned to the attorney general’s race, and the messages that the Republican candidate, Doug Wardlow, is apparently testing. I hadn’t known anything about Wardlow, except his party; but now, I do.
His campaign, or one working on his behalf, appears to be testing messages against Muslims; immigrants; and a decades-old past association between the Democratic candidate, Keith Ellison, a Muslim, and a fringe group that Ellison disavowed years ago. These campaign messages don’t say who Wardlow is, or what he can do to serve Minnesota. They are designed to stir fear and hatred of the stranger, because of the way they dress, the color of their skin, the particulars of how they pray. They play on fear of the other, and they turned my stomach cold.
The next time that you or a loved one is in a hospital, look at who is serving you — the phlebotomist in the hijab who carefully places the needle in a vein that’s been threaded many times before. The nurse with skin the color of a shiny coffee bean, who smiles at you and says that he will pray for you, and means it, as he shows you how to empty your ileostomy appliance. The oncologist who came to America from India as a boy, who now holds your life in his hands. And your strikingly blunt but powerfully effective radiologist from China who saved you from a painful, invasive surgery.
Think about how every bit of food gets to your table; how the hotels you sleep in are comfortable and cared for; and how immigrants make our Minnesota economy hum with commerce, culture, and vitality, and with their children eager to learn and add their energy to ours. (See the work of Bruce Corrie, among many others’, for empirical research on the economic benefits immigrants provide to Minnesota.)
Remember that if you were Catholic, Jewish, or anything but Lutheran, back in the day in Minnesota, you were on the outs, too. Then, you were the stranger.
Please raise your voice against this malignant strain of politics that has been infecting our country more virulently, with new citizens and potential citizens as its target. We are better than this.
Donna Greenberg Koren lives in West Saint Paul, is the granddaughter of immigrants, and greatly appreciates all of the contributions that immigrants provide to Minnesota and our nation. She also supports positive political campaigns.