The Planted Row: This is not who we are

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

When I stray into politics in this column, I like to stick to concrete realities — decisions made by government agencies, changes made to people’s lives and how they conduct business, etc. Though I am not always successful, I try to avoid the mud-slinging.

There is, after all, only so much we can do about the things people say.

Sometimes, however, one of our leaders says something that cannot be ignored, and people of good conscience are forced to stand up and say, “That is not who we are or who we should aspire to be.”

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted, “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

It is widely known that he was talking about four female Democrat members of Congress: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are women of color. All four of them are American citizens. All but one of them was born here. In fact, Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent, and Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1899.

If you are getting upset right now and thinking that this is just another column attacking the president, I need you to keep one thing in mind: Rebuking someone for unacceptable behavior isn’t an attack. It’s a correction. It’s re-establishing the guidelines for how we expect people to behave in a civilized society. If your child misbehaves in public and you rebuke him, no one would accuse you of attacking him or even of loving him any less.

With these comments, the president has behaved in a manner far, far beneath the dignity of the office he holds. It is possible to both rebuke him for that behavior and still support his work as president.

Trump’s comments were racist. Full stop.

“Go back to Africa” is a common refrain among racists. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists “Go back where you came from” as an example of a discriminatory remark in the workplace.

The president’s tweet was no different.

He is married to a white European immigrant who has been a citizen of this country for less time than Omar. One can only assume that when first lady Melania Trump wants to make changes in America in hopes of making it better, the president does not tell her to return home to Slovenia and make it better first.

Also, the president is the child of an immigrant. It seems unlikely that he told these women to leave the country simply because some of them are the children of immigrants.

No, the president told these congresswomen to go back where they came from because they are minorities. To him, they are obviously not “real” Americans, are not allowed to have ideas about how to improve the country and are not allowed to participate in the political processes in the country of their citizenship.

We live in a democratic republic. Such a government demands that we participate and do our best to make our government better. Yet when four minority women dare to do that and have different ideas about how to improve our country, the president feels comfortable telling them to leave.


In the days since his original tweet, Trump has doubled down on his racist message and has attempted to justify it by falsely stating that the congresswomen support terrorism and hate our country and by painting some of their remarks as anti-semitic. Even if all of that were true, as my grandmother was fond of telling me, two wrongs don’t make a right.

The president has also suggested he was only making the old “love it or leave it” argument. That has always been a false dilemma. We don’t have to love America or leave it. Thankfully, the founding fathers created a government in which we can “love it and fix it,” which is exactly what the congresswomen believe they are trying to do.

The president’s defense doesn’t hold water, mainly because his tweet is indefensible.

It is also out of step with the message the political right likes to repeat about immigration. We often hear that conservatives are not against immigrants as long as they come here legally. Yet the women Trump attacked are all legal citizens, and he still questioned their right to participate in our political process.

Large swaths of the agriculture industry are built on immigrant labor. When companies follow the rules to hire legal immigrants and when immigrants bend over backwards to come here legally, the last thing the ag industry can afford is for the president to tell workers their legitimacy in our country depends not upon their immigration status, but upon the color of their skin.

There are millions of minority citizens in this country who are not immigrants. If we allow the head of the executive branch to tell them they are not welcome to participate in government simply because they both disagree with him and are minorities, our society will fail.

Our society will fail.

That is not an overstatement. We do not have a homogeneous country. If we don’t include everyone, our country doesn’t function. It’s as simple as that.

So what are we supposed to do?

The answer is obvious. We stand up and say that the president’s tweets do not represent who we are as a nation. We ask our political leaders — every single one — to publicly denounce Trump’s position. We do everything it takes to let the entire world know the president’s racist tweet doesn’t define us. We do this in hopes that Trump will decide to comport himself with both the dignity and sense of fairness required from the office of the president of the United States.

To do otherwise is to endorse the racist notions espoused by Trump’s tweets and subsequent justifications.

This is not who we are, and we must not let this become who we are.