On June 12, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida, shocking the nation and sending a searing grief through the LGBTQ community. Here in Iowa, groups in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Davenport met in prayer, remembrance, and solidarity not only with LGBTQ people, but with the Muslim community. People at the Iowa City gathering were photographed wearing shirts saying “I Love My Muslim Neighbor.” This might seem odd to someone viewing the situation out of context: What does one have to do with the other? You see, almost immediately after the attack, Donald Trump blamed the attack on Muslims, using it as fodder for his long-running fear campaign.
When Donald Trump could have been a leader — could have provided comfort to the families of the people who were murdered in Orlando — he instead chose a path of hate, fear, and ignorance for his own political gain. It hurts to see your community’s pain used for political gain: It hurts even more to see it used to hurt others, and this is what Donald Trump did by using a senseless act against the LGBTQ community committed by a disturbed person to marginalize immigrants and Muslims.
Make no mistake: scapegoating of Muslims for America’s perceived problems does hurt. It hurts my constituents, Mo and Sally Igram, who I met last time Trump spoke in Cedar Rapids. Sally held a sign reading: “Hug a Muslim.” It hurts people like another constituent’s grandmother who was spit on for covering her head. It hurts people like Tigani Mahamoud, who while fixing up a flooded home in Time Check, received spray-painted death threats. It hurts children, like the sixth-grade little girl in the Bronx who was attacked by boys who ripped her clothing and called her “ISIS.”
Even under the shadow of Donald Trump’s attempts to divide, countless LBTGQ people and allies across Iowa — including me — stood together with our Muslim brothers and sisters and comforted one another because we know all too well that hate, fear and ignorance will never protect us. Whereas, Donald Trump believes that building walls of fear between people will protect us, we know that building walls only prevents us from seeing the humanity in our fellow person. Donald Trump does not understand this.
When Trump visits Cedar Rapids, he is visiting the home of the Mother Mosque of America. Built in 1934, the Mother Mosque is the oldest standing Mosque in the U.S. Muslim Americans have lived, worked, and owned businesses in Cedar Rapids since before many of our great-grandparents were born. As one who is fond of excluding those he considers ‘outsiders,’ this puts Trump in an interesting position.
One hopes that Trump learns some lessons from his experiences as an outsider in Cedar Rapids. Namely, that our strength comes from standing together when times get tough. This is how we rebuilt after the devastating flood which submerged the Mother Mosque of America and St. James United Methodist Church, just the same. We emerged from those murky waters because we stood together and this is what our nation must do when we are faced with threats. One hopes that Donald Trump learns what we in Cedar Rapids know: That the only walls we need are flood walls.
• Rep. Liz Bennett, is a Democrat from Cedar Rapids. Comments: liz.Bennett@legis.iowa.gov