A lot of other countries have made a point of priding themselves on their purity. They have draconian restrictions on who can be a citizen, like Japan. Countries like Iceland actually restrict the names you can give your children to a list of preapproved ethnic names. France even has an official body charged with maintaining the purity of the French language and keeping out foreign elements.
In America, it's a point of pride how diverse we are. Our national motto is "E pluribus unum," Latin for "Out of many, one." We talk about our country as a great American melting pot, and we boast about how many nations our ancestors came from.
We're exceptional because we're a mix of religions. My daughters have played with classmates who were Hindu. I've celebrated Passover with Jewish friends and broken the fast during Ramadan at the local mosque. Our differences, joined together, are what makes us strong as a nation. It's like alloys: if you mix different metals together, you find that they're stronger together than they are alone.
America is a place where I can commiserate with a Muslim man because his daughters don't know who sings "Let It Be."
America is a place where I can walk down the main drag in my city and have my pick of Mexican,, Lebanese, Ethiopian, Italian, Chinese and Greek dinners, or just grab a burger and some fries.
America is a place where I can connect with people from all over the world in their native languages, and then join them in watching fireworks on the Fourth of July.
America is what President Reagan called a brightly shining city on a hill, a place that serves as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. It's in the fabric of our country to welcome refugees and immigrants.
This isn't a new or progressive view of America. This is what we have always aspired to be. From the beginning we've been a place of many faiths. The story of Christianity in the United States goes back to our very beginnings. So does the story of Judaism. So does the story of Islam
Peter Salem, for instance, fought for our independence at Bunker Hill. Others Muslims who joined the Revolutionary cause include Yusuf Ben Ali, who fought in South Carolina; Bampett Muhamed in Virginia, and Francis and Joseph Saba.
Beware of those who would tell you that America is best served by turning away immigrants from another country or a particular religion, or who try to portray them as a threat to our country. Such people are lying about who we are, and they're trying to take America not back to its roots but in a very new and illiberal direction, one that betrays our values and all that makes us proud of this great land.
American is an exceptional place in this world. Let's keep it that way.
Copyright © 2018 by David Learn. Used with permission.