We are strengthened by our diversity

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A "pro diversity" sign is displayed on a high school student's truck outside Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 19, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

An open letter to Iowa 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King.

Rep. King, in a recent tweet now heard around the world, you decried, “Diversity is not our strength.” You went on to support white nationalism using a quote from Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who said: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.” I could not disagree with you or Prime Minister Orban more.

The fact is, our strength as a nation is indeed our diversity. We see diversity in the unity of people in communities across this country. I am disheartened by your comments and fear that many around the globe will associate your idea of separatism as representative of what Iowans value.

I advocate on behalf of Americans disenfranchised by leaders who seek to rule by fear, and then use this fear as an excuse to turn back the clock on civil rights and equality. I stand for communities that are, in these times, routinely denied equal access to representation through voter suppression, gerrymandering or fear-mongering.

We will resist all rhetoric that is designed to silence the voices of millions of Americans. We are Americans who believe in our strength as a diverse nation. As a recently retired combat veteran who served this nation for 30 years, I cannot stand by and allow you to denigrate my contribution to our country. My grandfather served in World War II, during a time when many thought the same way you do about mixing cultures. That was 1942. I am appalled this kind of thinking still exists in 2017 among our nation’s leaders, especially those in the halls of Congress.

Furthermore, I am disappointed when leaders use their voice and actions to tear down hardworking families, seniors and veterans rather than fight for their well-being, civil rights and civil liberties. Now is a time for all Americans, no matter our race or nationality, gender, sexual preference or socioeconomic status to stand in unity. One would expect that as the sitting chair of the House Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice, you, more than anyone else, would understand the dangers of your statements and the harm they inflict in further damaging a nation that is in desperate need of healing.

Our quality of life, strength and prosperity depend on the diversity of America’s citizens. Embracing diversity delivers the freedom to exist safely among others; it celebrates our similarities and discovers meaningful value in our differences. And while our politics may classify and divide elected officials, honoring our differences and seeking unity within our communities makes us strong.

• George Ramsey is a Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District

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