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America First-Nationalism in the 21st Century


On Tuesday, March 7th, we went to a City Club Youth Forum titled "America First-Nationalism in the 21st Century" which was a panel discussion moderated by Youth Forum Council Member Mr. Milan Jain.

The questions that Mr. Jain asked the panel included:

***In terms of tolerance and acceptance, how have you seen America evolve since the start of the 21st century?

***Based on our new President's words and proposed legislation, how do you believe America's inclusive and diverse image will adapt under the Trump administration?

***Being a country built on the foundation of free expression, what are your opinions on passionate nationalist groups?

***How do you think internal nationalism may impact this country's future on a social, economic, or political basis?

These questions formed the basis for a very civil and information discussion amongst the panelists who were:

Mr. Jeffrey Allen, Director of Education and Public Programs of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage who gave a very good summary of privilege when he recounted how he once worked as a clerk in a bookstore and everyone thought that he was the boss because he wore a tie and was white. In terms of social justice issues, he said that anytime there is injustice those with justice in their hearts will come together and a lot of our success as a nation involves being able to stand next to someone with an opposing viewpoint and insist on both points of view being heard. Above all, one of the keys is to be able to accept without merely tolerating. Mr. Allen encouraged us to have "savvy" eyes and ears in terms of dealings with groups who tend to oversimplify issues and seek to divided using what might at first seem to be non-offensive dialogue like the virtues of being white as opposed to hate speech against ethnic groups because the end result is the same: creation of the "other" who is threatening our way of life. Another example would be the furor over Syrian refugees who are overwhelmingly women and children. Mr. Allen was thus very sorry that during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign the complex vetting process that they undergo was never properly discussed. He asked us to remember that the United States was an "infant nation" and our democracy and the creation of a multicultural society is a great experiment.

Ms. Heather Hodges, former U.S. Ambassador to Moldova and Ecuador and now the President and Ambassador-in-Residence to the Cleveland Council on World Affairs expressed concern over the future of the trade agreements because she believed that, overall, they have worked to our advantage and those of our partners. Amb. Hodges was also worried about proposed cutbacks in the State Dept. budget that would affect our embassies and foreign service personnel because they are responsible for so much good and the amounts previously allocated were quite actually quite small. In terms of immigration, we commend Amb. Hodges for speaking firmly and eloquently when she discussed the roadblocks that it has placed before foreign-born people who would love to be able to stay in the U.S. legally. She mentioned that the number undocumented people coming here from Mexico is quite low; in fact, more people are returning to Mexico because the economy has improved (no small part due to NAFTA) and people tend to overlook the fact that many undocumented people enter the U.S. via the Canadian border too. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of immigration to the U.S. is family oriented.

Mr. Jon Pinney, Managing Partner, KJK, Secretary and Treasurer of the 2017 Republican National Convention Host Committee maintained that this was the most polarizing period in America history that he has seen in his lifetime and he believed that the reason for this was very serious economic and fiscal conditions faced by our country that both democrats and republicans are responsible for. As far as trade agreements, he believed that we must find the right balance in our policies because too much outsourcing is going on. He indicated that he had reservations about how the Trump administration has handled several issues so far but he remained optimistic in terms of its ultimate fiscal/economic policies. He did hope that more resources would be directed towards education and believed that the Trump Administration's immigration policies would come down in favor of allowing the institutions of the United States to take advantage of foreign-born talent.

Mr. Isam Zaiem, Co-founder of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke about how the new nationalism has contributed to making our Muslim community feel very threatened at this time and presented legitimate reasons for them feeling this way. He was, however, very buoyed by the new coalitions that have been forming which offer support to Muslims and others who have immigrated to the United States from other places. As for our immigration policy itself, he said what we believe to be true which is that it is very outdated and comprehensive immigration reform is needed.

On this day, the City Club was filled with young people who came there from Andrews Osborne Academy, Cleveland Early College at John Hay, MC2 STEM High School, St. Martin de Porres High School, and Westlake High School.

Mr. Zaiem was very happy to see so many young people gathered there at this time because they are indeed the future of this country. He acknowledged that there are many people who do not encounter people of his faith in their everyday dealings and have to rely on the media's coverage which is not always fair. Therefore, he urged the young people (and all of us for that matter) to take the necessary time to get to know each other because, most of the time, everyone has the same concerns in terms of good education, a comfortable lifestyle, and even street maintenance.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC