The noblest fact of democracy is choice. The greatest evil in democracy is choice. So here is what you, Americans, would be turning your back on, degrading, renouncing, if you choose to vote for Trump and give a victory to xenophobia, isolationism and downright close-mindedness.
And if political argument can’t sway you, maybe beauty can. If it doesn’t, then that really is deplorable.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Somali born author, critique of Islam, advocate of secularism, and collaborator of Theo Van Gogh – ancestor of Vincent, who was killed for making an apparently controversial film criticising Islam’s oppression of women. She spent most of her life in the Netherlands under armed guard, until she emigrated, and was welcomed into the US where she continues to be an important voice of reason and criticism of Islam.
“Islam was like a mental cage. At first, when you open the door, the caged bird stays inside: it is frightened. It has internalized its imprisonment. It takes time for bird to escape, even after someone has opened the doors to its cage.” Infidel
The novels of Toni Morrison: An African-American writer whose family had to leave the south to escape the racism that now threatens to move from the south into the White House.
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” Songs of Solomon
The Brief Wonderful Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: A Dominican-American author whose quirky, heart-felt style is dominating 21st century American literature.
“That’s life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it’s nothing. If you ask me I don’t think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That’s enough.” The Brief Wonderful Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The stories of Edwidge Danticat: A Haitian-American writer that deals with how immigrants from the poorest country in the Western hemisphere make it, or not, in the American Dream.
“It’s not easy to start over in a new place,’ he said. ‘Exile is not for everyone. Someone has to stay behind, to receive the letters and greet family members when they come back.” Brother, I’m Dying
The late work of Reinaldo Arenas: The gay Cuban novelist who was imprisoned by the Revolution for clandestinely publishing a novel abroad. He escaped Cuba, like many other Cubans, and made a life and fame for himself in the US.
“All this had already given us an inkling of what the new regime was about. There was still some hope, however. There is always some hope, especially for cowards. I was one of them, one of those cowardly or hopeful young men who still thought the government had something to offer.” Before Night Falls
Khaled Hosseini: One of the 21st century’s most commercially successful authors, Khaled Hosseini originally hails from that barren, Taliban-ridden, Bin Laden-hiding, heroin-producing Afghanistan! In his career he has created eloquent works moving his country of birth away from the vicious stereotypes.
The works of Vladimir Nabokov and yes Lolita: When the Second World War broke out Nabokov was living in France. When the Germans moved in the Nabokovs had to flee, and they fled to America. Except for Nabokov’s brother Sergei who died in a concentration camp. And the Russian émigré went on to write the greatest American novel, Lolita.
“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.” Lolita
Einstein: Though past his scientific prime, the 20th century greatest physicist was a refugee too. As a Jew he was blacklisted as an enemy of the German Reich. So he fled and was given US citizenship. Einsten hailed America’s meritocratic principles and was a supporter of civil rights throughout. Would Trump have turned Einstein away?
“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” Albert Einstein
Carl Sagan: The greatest populariser of hard science, Sagan’s father was an immigrant from modern-day Ukraine, what used to form part of the Russian Empire. Had his father never been given a start, a shot at the American Dream, we would never have opened our minds to the stars, to the Cosmos.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” Cosmos
The X-Ray microscope: You’ve hear of Joan Baez, but have you heard of Albert Baez? No. You’ve not heard of the man born in Puebla Mexico who, along with his family, emigrated to the US and who, once settled there, invented and pioneered the X-Ray microscope? Shame. Well, now you have.
Salma Hayek: Alright, not making much of a point here, hardly to be compared with Einstein and Nabokov. But not even the most die-hard Trump campaigner would turn her away – even if she is Mexican!
Diana al-Hadid: One of the most organically creative sculptors of our times, an artist who manages that rare balance of being avant-garde without being up her own ass. She now lives, and embodies, Brooklyn New York but she was born in Aleppo. Syria.
Edward Said: One of America’s greatest intellectuals and commentators on the relationship between the West and the Middle-East was born in Palestine; a man who greatly contributed to the sophistication of the West.
“You cannot continue to victimize someone else just because you yourself were a victim once—there has to be a limit.” Edward Said
Carlos Llaguno Morales: Born in Puebla Mexico, executive chef of top French restaurant in New York Les Halles until his premature death from cancer last year. An immigrant who started with nothing, no formal catering education, yet through sheer perseverance made it to the top. He was mentored by and a great friend of Anthony Bourdain. And if the Great Wall of Trump were to go up, what would happen to the kitchens of America, so many of them employed by determined, remarkably talented Mexicans?