Sunday, I marched to voice my opposition to the recent executive order regarding immigration from several, but not all, predominately Muslim countries. I ran into Rabbi Cohen there and he asked me to write about why I came. Why had I decided that it was time to become openly politically active?

Marching was almost instinctive. For me there was instant clarity that this is a time when it is imperative to stand up and fight for what is right. It is my moral duty as a citizen not only of America but of the world to fight for myself, my loved ones, and most importantly for those who do not have the voice. America was not designed to be a place to discriminate against people of different religions. A clear separation of church and state is stated in the Constitution, the very document that defines us as a nation. I am not denying that we have had a troubled history of immigration blocks and quotas in the past but we have made progress and I am not interested in reversing that progress. The very idea of cherry-picking countries to discriminate against based on vague and inconsistent criteria is beyond political argument or defense. It is the work of someone who deeply does not understand the role of government or the presidency and does not care to learn. Government is not about retaining or furthering business interests nor furthering the racist misogynistic agenda of one group over others. It is about the benefit and well being of the entire, deeply diverse country. It is about setting an example throughout the world, representing the best of democracy; it is called public “service” for a reason.

Although I come from a politically engaged family, I myself have up to this point been low-key, unwilling to engage in vehement political discourse. Believing instead, that all opinions deserved to be aired and generally holding back from adversarial interactions. But the discourse is no longer based on differing interpretations of facts and policies. Instead it is based on clever manipulation of half-truths, outright lies, and pandering to base instincts. If you don’t agree then you are wrong and attacked for being morally corrupt. This is not discourse; this is scary manipulation providing facile solutions and scapegoats for complex problems. It is reminiscent of Europe in the lead-up to WWII.

When I marched, my eyes teared-up at the first chanting of “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” How deeply powerful it was to share in a moment with hundreds of others coming together to speak loudly as one – proclaiming opposition to that which is wrong. The experience infused me with hope and inspiration but it is not an end unto itself, rather it is a call to action. Now we need fight, to work, to ably use the tools of democracy and the power of the people to block policies and actions that will turn this country into something that is simply not America. It’s not why did I march? But how could I not?

Perrine Robinson-Gelle