Open Letter from Guillermo Bernal

This is the text from a presentation made by Dr. Bernal to the congregation on January 14, 2018.  It follows a weekend of prayer and reflection after news reports cited the president of the United States decrying immigrants coming from “” hole countries.  Guillermo Argueta-Bernal, PhD, is Clinical Psychology Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toledo Medical Center.

A few days ago, one of my best friends texted me and asked me, “How does it feel to come from a blankety-blank-hole country?”  I responded, “I am angry, sad and ashamed to say I am an American.  I am ashamed to think that the country that elected Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin B. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama; and which will be celebrating Martin Luther King Day, would elect someone who would stoop so low as to use vulgarities to refer to other human beings.” It is beyond comprehension that the greatest nation on Earth has fallen down so far.

I thought I would give you a face to attach to the phrase, “From El Salvador.”  It is not an anonymous mass of people.  I am from El Salvador, and I’m not dependent on social services, not a drug addict, not a rapist, nor lazy or any other denigrating words that the person in the White House uses to refer to people of color.

Today, I am sad, angry and ashamed to think that I am an American.  We should not support or stand for someone who stands against all that is our country.  I hope and believe that the United States of America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave; the country that enshrined the words that changed the world in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men [and women] are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It is sad when many people can stand silently, idly by, and allow a man who supposedly represents you, me, and all the citizens of this country to speak like this.  I am a Salvadoran whom you know, care about and respect, I hope.  So, stand with me, and speak out loud and clear, that this is not the country you know and love.  That there are compassionate, loving men and women who want to live up to the ideals that this country stands for, and that we believe in and support; the words etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I end with two quotes; one from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”; and from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Thank you.

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