President Donald Trump believes that limitations on immigration and torture of our enemies will be effective in protecting our country. He seems to fear for our nation absent these measures. And, he continues to expresses his desire to “make America great again.” Any attempt to reconcile these concepts must examine what made America great in the first place.
George Washington was “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” As commander in chief of the Continental Army, he believed his troops should afford their enemies the same rights for which they were fighting. Although enemy troops tortured American civilians and soldiers, Gen. Washington told his officers with respect to prisoners: “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army and their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.”
Later, after the victory of his army over the British Empire, Washington wrote that the new nation would be “open to receive ... the oppressed and the persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to participation of all our rights and privileges. They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews or Christians of any sect.”
If Trump truly wishes to understand the ideas that make America great, he would do well to take to heart the words of the father of our country. I pray he does so before tarnishing those ideas here and abroad.
Clemens A. Erdahl