Politics & Prejudices: It’s finally over ... now what? 

A week before we voted, I spent a couple hours with a group of some of the most truly American of all of us.

None of them voted, because none of them could. Yet they are very much like the people this nation was founded by, people our much-worshipped founding fathers swore to protect.

Yes, they are immigrants, but they are neither legal nor illegal. Every one of them deserves to be here.

More on that in a few moments. But first — the weirdest and most bizarre presidential election in history is finally over, though a few million votes remain to be counted.

And right now you, dear reader, have an advantage over me: You know who won, and thanks to deadlines, as I write these words, I don't. But what I do know is this:

If sanity prevailed, and Hillary Clinton is the president-elect, we've at least bought ourselves a little time to try and make America work again.

That's especially true if Democrats have also won control of the U.S. Senate, which may give them a chance to put some decent, sensible justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the road ahead won't be easy. More than 50 million people have voted for Donald Trump, who essentially ran against everything sacred in America.

He had no understanding of democracy, our institutions, and protections that have been carefully built over centuries.

Nor did he care that he didn't. He intentionally stirred up ethnic hatreds and appealed to the worst in all of us. And millions, dissatisfied with their lives, took the bait.

Which should make us all wonder. If we were so susceptible to the bluster of this undisciplined emotional fascist when times are relatively good — what will the next Trump be able to get away with when we are in another scary recession?

What if another version of this candidate comes forth in four years and doesn't brag about sexually assaulting women or attack the parents of veteran heroes? What then?

But back to the people I mentioned; those who have more than most of us to fear when xenophobia rears its head.

This nation was largely founded by those, like the Pilgrims, who were fleeing persecution, religious, political, and otherwise. So from the start, the much-revered Founding Fathers established a right of asylum for those in danger.

We aren't talking about undocumented immigrants (aka "illegal aliens") who slip across the border to make money. This is about people who are raped, tortured, and killed because of their race, religion, nationality, or political opinions.

People being tortured and killed in countries that can't or won't stop it. That's why Freedom House exists. It doesn't look like much from the outside — a century-old red-brick former convent, almost in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge.

A third of a century ago, when victims of El Salvador were flooding into the area, folks from the both sides of the river formed a group called the Detroit-Windsor Refugee Coalition, which was soon renamed Freedom House.

Since then, thousands of asylum seekers have turned up on its doorstep. Beaten, half-starved, they sometimes arrive clutching a piece of paper with the address, or just the words, "Freedom House Detroit." They've come from Europe, South America, Asia, the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Today, the 40-some refugees sheltering within its walls are nearly all from Africa. Some are awaiting hearings before asylum courts in Chicago; others in Canada.

Freedom House is not set up to protect those who came across the border to find jobs, or those with expired student visas who don't want to go home. Virtually everyone they admit eventually gets asylum, though it can take up to two years.

I went there last week because I was curious to see how closely the residents were following the election — and what they thought of the most anti-immigrant candidate since the know-nothing party. Not surprisingly, they were better informed than most who were born here. All of the dozen or so folks I talked with had watched every one of the debates.

"I found them fascinating," said Ophelia, an amazingly impressive 26-year-old from Brazzaville, in the Congo. She spoke to me in perfect British English; she spoke to other refugees in what sounded like very good French.

Later, I learned she'd been studying business administration in Ukraine, and learned Russian as well.

"On the whole, it was a very positive experience, to see how the two candidates responded to questions," she said, as Ronnie, from Uganda, and Raoul, from Rwanda, nodded. (Their names have been changed slightly for their safety.)

"And also, I have to say I think it showed that Mr. Donald Trump is not ready," she said, "because of the way he was answering the questions, his attitudes."

The asylum seekers were polite, but wanted to know how Americans could nominate such an ignoramus. In fact, they were more interested in asking than answering questions.

Why was it that so many Americans knew so little about the world, geography, other countries, even their own political system? I answered as best I could.

We had long been spoiled, I told them, and raised to believe other countries didn't matter, and that we could get by with only English. They weren't too hard on us.

Those awaiting asylum in Freedom House know that America was still a far better place than those they came from. I knew better to ask whether any of them had been tortured.

I asked instead if any had not been.

The answer was no.

Soon after I left, I saw the fat, vacant face of Donald Trump filling a computer screen, and I felt ashamed.

Incidentally, Freedom House accomplishes great things on a shoestring, and they'd appreciate any help, from cash to donations to sweat equity.

They're at 2630 W. Lafayette Blvd., in Detroit, 48216, or contact TJ Rogers, the program director, at 313-964-4320.

Success of the big lie

Throughout this campaign, Donald Trump constantly referred to "Crooked Hillary," and his crowds predictably chanted "lock her up," and similar sentiments, and wore T-shirts saying "Hillary for Prison."

Thanks to this, and the mindless smears of right-wing radio and TV, by the campaign's end far too many voters were telling pollsters that while they knew Trump was disgustingly sleazy, they believed Clinton was somehow criminal.

However, the facts show nothing of the kind. In fact, there is less reason to think Hillary Clinton has committed any crimes whatsoever than almost any other politician, for one reason.

For two decades, the Clintons have undergone relentless investigations by committee after committee, most of them politically motivated. Trust me, if she had even stolen a candy bar from her corner drugstore in 1955, we would not only know about it; someone would have filed charges against her.

When I took civics in high school and later studied journalism in graduate school, we were told about this quaint little concept called "innocent 'till proven guilty."

Today, forget that shit. Mainstream broadcast media like CNN don't have their correspondents calling her "Crooked Hillary." They just give an unlimited forum to Trump and ethic-free creatures like Newt Gingrich to incessantly slime Clinton.

Journalism, Bob Woodward of Watergate fame likes to say, is not stenography. His partner, Carl Bernstein, once said that while the First Amendment means trash is freely protected, that "does not mean we should always furnish it with an outlet."

Well, the media have been giving trash a stage and a spotlight throughout this presidential campaign.

We saw the result. By the way, if you are reading this in a world where Trump has been defeated, remember this:

The barbarians didn't smash through the gates of Rome the first time they tried. But they just kept coming, until they did.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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