There’s something about Steve Kerr that makes people listen. Something about the way he engages you, something about the way he looks right at — or through — you. He has seen pain, he has suffered, and you can tell he speaks his own truth.
So, when he spoke out last night against Donald Trump’s immigration ban, the world took notice.
Steve Kerr gives his candid thoughts on the Muslim Ban. pic.twitter.com/ex1CI7Ob3d— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) January 30, 2017
“As someone whose family member is a victim of terrorism, having lost my father — if we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, we’re really going against the principles of what our country is about, and creating fear. It’s the wrong way to go about it. If anything, we could be breeding anger and terror, so I’m completely against what’s happening. I think it’s shocking. I think it’s a horrible idea and I feel for all the people who are affected, families are being torn apart. And I worry about the big picture, what this means for the security of the world. It’s going about it completely opposite. You want to solve terror, you want to solve crime. It’s not the way to do it.”
Kerr, more than anyone, deserves to speak his mind regarding Donald Trump’s immigration ban. He is the son of professor Malcolm H. Kerr, the former President of the University of Beirut, whose life was devoted to the study of the Middle East and Arab world. Steve Kerr himself was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived in numerous countries throughout the Middle East before attending high school in Los Angeles. Not only was Kerr’s father a famous scholar, respected throughout the world, but his grandfather, Stanley Kerr, lived and worked in the Middle East as well. Among his many notable acts, he spent years helping Armenian refugees fleeing genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), who had been driven to Aleppo, Syria, at the end of World War I.
On January 18, 1984, Malcolm Kerr was ambushed in the hallway outside his office at the University Of Beirut. He was shot twice in the back of the head, dying instantly. He was only 52. The entire world took notice. This account, from a New York Times article published the day of his murder, is downright chilling. An extremist Arab group, the Islamic Jihad, which opposed the American military presence in Lebanon and U.S. support of Israel, later took responsibility for the murder.
Steve, a freshman at the University of Arizona, and a rising star on the basketball squad, was only 18.
As he told the Chicago Tribune in 1993, shortly after being acquired by the Bulls, “Something like this opens your eyes. It made me understand the pain that others experience, the effect that death can have. It's made me realize that millions of people go through these things."
Empathy in the face of terror. Compassion in the face of hatred. Steve Kerr — whose father was murdered by terrorists, whose life was forever altered by Islamic extremism — knows more than any of us ever will about what this truly means, both abroad and here in the United States. He understands the ramifications. He has lived through the consequences. And yet, he says, “I think it’s shocking. I think it’s a horrible idea and I feel for all the people who are affected, families are being torn apart.”
I for one, stand with Steve.
Our Founding Fathers set up this great nation in a way so that it specifically would not be a Christian state. They wanted freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion. Trump’s immigration ban is in direct opposition of our Founding Fathers’ vision for this country, and as such, cannot be tolerated.
Here is our First Amendment, in its entirety:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In the first eight days of office, Trump has threatened the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth freedoms guaranteed in that amendment. (Hint: there are six total.) But for this, we’ll stick to freedom of religion.
People have argued that the immigration ban is not a “Muslim Ban.” Instead, it’s a strategic ban to limit the flow of terrorists into our country posing as refugees. If you stop the influx of refugees from countries housing volatile, this “logic” goes, violent factions, you can decrease the likelihood of an attack on American soil, etc, etc.
But if you think this is purely a geographical proposition, and not based in religion, I have an island in Nebraska to sell you.
In an interview with Fox News, Rudy Giuliani explicitly called it a “Muslim Ban.”
Here’s the exchange between Giuliani and host Jeanine Pirro. (Note: I won’t embed the video, because f—k you Rudy Giuliani, I can’t stand the glee with which you describe destroying innocent peoples’ lives.)
From the Washington Post’s transcription:
“How did the president decide the seven countries?” [Jeanine Pirro] asked. “Okay, talk to me.”
“I'll tell you the whole history of it,” Giuliani responded eagerly. “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, 'Muslim ban.' He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.' "
Giuliani said he assembled a “whole group of other very expert lawyers on this,” including former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).
“And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger — the areas of the world that create danger for us,” Giuliani told Pirro. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that's what the ban is based on. It's not based on religion. It's based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”
You guys realize that ISIS ACTIVELY USES STATEMENTS LIKE THIS AS RECRUITING TOOLS, RIGHT?! Their main message to recruits is “America is at war with all Muslims.” And you’re just gonna come right out and prove ISIS correct, even though that statement is not — and should not be — true. Also, even though the executive order instituting the ban invoked the attacks of September 11th three separate times in the first three paragraphs, Trump noticeably excluded Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon, the three countries from which all of the attackers entered the United States. Could his business dealings have anything to do with that oversight? I suspect the answer is, sadly, yes.
As Steve Kerr said, “If anything, we could be breeding anger and terror, so I’m completely against what’s happening. [...] And I worry about the big picture, what this means for the security of the world. It’s going about it completely opposite. You want to solve terror, you want to solve crime. It’s not the way to do it.”
Even Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham came out against the ban.
From our parent company Vox:
Indeed, on Saturday, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement making that exact point: “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred,” the senators explain. “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
“Ultimately,” they write, “we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”
So, jeez. What now?
Last night, amidst a whirlwind of fear, anger, and online worrying, I sat down to live-tweet the Warriors vs. Blazers game. I hoped to find solace. I hoped to find an escape, even if just for a moment. But it was hard, honestly, scrolling through my timeline. In looking for cool Warriors highlights — or in looking for funny things to retweet — I was inundated time and time again with messages of anger. Messages of resistance. Images of people crowding and protesting outside of airports. Protesting in city centers. Protesting like their lives depended on it, which for many, is true.
At the very end of the game, after withholding most of my vitriol and depression, I sent out a simple message. Something I thought would bind us together. Something easy to process.
This has been @BramKincheloe. I'm glad the warriors won, I'm glad this game was able to distract us from horrible things for a few minutes.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) January 30, 2017
Be good to one another. Stand up for your fellow human beings. Remember, everyone likes sports, no matter place of birth or religion.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) January 30, 2017
And ... literally the first message I got back was, “stick to sports not politics.”
To which, all I can say is: Nope. Not now. Sometimes real life transcends sports. I know we all use sports — and here at GSoM, specifically the Golden State Warriors — to escape our daily lives. Or, maybe in a kinder light, to enhance our daily lives. For what are sports but a gorgeous look at a possible future, where human beings approach the unknown, exceeding our shared human past on a nightly basis?
But right now, we need to come together to fight this thing specifically because it runs counter to all the very human beauty of sport. In our gut, we know this is wrong. Steve Kerr knows it. I know it. You know it. If sports can provide a platform to amplify rational conversation, bringing enhanced clarity of thought to the forefront of our dialogue, then so be it.
For all of us worrying that we can’t make a difference, remember this simple fact:
Crowd size actually does matter, Donald. In the past week, we’ve seen literally millions and millions of people out in the street protesting.
When Hitler was preaching a similarly nationalistic vision, urging the manipulation and persecution of an entire swath of people, he was greeted by crowds such as these. The masses were behind him, drawn up in his apocalyptic fervor.
But when Trump and his team walk a similar path, the masses are against them! Look at y’all! Y’all are gorgeous! Just look at those crowds!
The crowd in Seattle for immigration ban protest last night was massive. pic.twitter.com/oyZJDEhhcG— Anonymous (@LatestAnonNews) January 30, 2017
We are the masses. We are the crowds cheering, but this time cheering for a better, kinder tomorrow. We are the ones who decide what happens. The will of the people has long governed this land, and will govern as long as we stand resolute in the face of obvious fallacy and madness. We will not stand for this. We will not stay quiet.
This is not about Democrats vs. Republicans any longer. This is no red state vs. blue state issue. This is about humans protecting other humans and making sure that the genocidal mistakes of the past do not surface again in our lifetime, or in the lifetimes of our children. This is about people standing up for humanity and basic levels of empathy. The demonstrations were not limited to the “elitist coastal cities,” no. These demonstrations were everywhere.
Steve Kerr will not just “stick to sports,” and I will stand beside him. There’s too much at stake.
Be good to one another. It’s the most important thing you can do.