February 15, 2018: Thoughts From My Son on This Week’s Tragedy

Yesterday, a horrific tragedy occurred in Florida. I have struggled to put into words my feelings, so I want to share something my 17 year old son Eric wrote about yesterday’s shooting, I’m very proud of him.

“Yesterday, America witnessed yet another tragic shooting that ranks as the 8th most deadly in modern US history. But instead I would like to talk about cars.

The first cars hit the road in the late 1800s, but come the invention of the Model T by Ford, the car became a crucial piece of societal life. Originally, these cars were driven without legislation and by no surprise, this caused issues. There began to be needless casualties spanning from minor but avoidable injury to death as a result of reckless driving and design flaws. Come 1960, Congress acknowledged the need for legislation to insure the safety of automobile operators in the event of a crash, and also to deter reckless people from getting behind the wheel. Flash forward to the modern day, and car restrictions are quite heavy with license requirements, speed limits, test requirements etc. Wait, why am I talking about cars?

Both cars and guns have evolved dramatically since their debut with new technologies and methods of production. The difference is, as they both got more lethal, only one of the two brought legislation along with it. Now it would be absurd to suggest that cars should be banned altogether given their practical purposes right? The same can be said about guns. Yet, not a single person is arguing that auto manufacturers should be allowed to cut safety features out of their cars, that speed limits should be abolished, or that someone convicted of driving drunk should be able to go out on the road again unpunished and unrestricted. So why would we not have similar restrictions for guns?

Though, there is one pretty major difference in the two I may have left out. Guns are made to injure and/or kill. Whether that be hunting, self defense, or cold blooded murder, these are lethal weapons.

But not all guns are created equal. I have no problem with an 80 year old lady keeping a revolver in her bedside table drawer in order to shoot a violent intruder if necessary, but I’d have a hard time believing that same gun could take 17 lives so swiftly and easily as they were taken today. Instead, an AR-15 was used, which packs significantly more force than your average handgun and still fires bullets small enough to lead to inoperable complications if you live long enough to see the hospital. And this is one of the tamer guns available on the market. It does not even scratch the surface of other major assault riffles that are also legally purchasable.

To the ladies and gentleman of Congress:

How many deaths will it take for you to acknowledge that overly powerful weapons are too widely available to citizens and are causing the deaths of your own constituents? It is time to step off the high horse that your party has so kindly provided you, and be rational representatives of our nation. Guns are deadly, and there is no reason that there should not be heavy legislation surrounding this market. Open your eyes, because thoughts and prayers don’t cut it anymore. God does not have a seat in our government, you do.”

February 12, 2018: Cape Town — A Lesson From Afar

If you haven’t heard yet, in a little over two months one of the world’s major metropolitan cities will run out of water. Cape Town, the beautiful city by the bay, my birthplace, has been in a drought for three years. Residents of the city have been anxiously trimming their water use. Current restrictions allow use of only 13 gallons of water per person per day. Let’s put this in perspective: An average shower with a water-saving shower head consumes 30 gallons of water!

When the water is shut off, Capetonians will have to go to specific water distribution locations to collect their allotment of just 6.6 gallons per day.

My 83-year old father and step mother are among the 4 million residents of Cape Town. It is inconceivable to imagine what is happening there and what is about to unfold when the water runs out.

From the safety and security of our comfortable homes with ample water and electricity we can watch from afar as the future of the rest of the world unfolds dramatically in Cape Town.

Lest we believe that the consequences of denying climate science are the problems of other countries on continents far away, we need only take stock of this week’s Senate 2-year budget deal that includes $90 billion in disaster relief responding to the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017.

It is inconceivable that an issue of established science has become a political football, but here we are, partnered with Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries sitting outside the Paris Climate Agreement.

When will we recognize that when politics trumps reason, we all lose?

January 25, 2018 — America, Our Welcoming Country

“America is an idea,” said Senator Lindsey Graham earlier this month.

At the age 14, living in South Africa, I understood this idea of America. I yearned to live in America as did most of my peers in South Africa, and frankly, people in many countries all over the world.

Almost 40 years ago my dad gave permission to my mother and step-father to immigrate with his three young sons to the United States. I have three children. I couldn’t imagine not living in the same house as them while they were growing up, let alone having them move 8,000 miles away to another continent. My father understood the power of the American Dream. By allowing my mother to take his boys away, he was making an unfathomable sacrifice so that we would have a better life, an opportunity to thrive in America. My dad, Colin, will be 83 in two weeks and still lives in Cape Town. No-one is prouder of me than he is. The fact that I am running for Congress in the United States of America is an embodiment of my having realized the promise of the American idea, the American Dream.

Welcoming immigrants to our country’s shores is a core value, a central tenet of what it means to be American. This ideal is inscribed in our culture, demonstrated most notably in the immortal words of Emma Lazarus etched on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, …

Even more notably, this ethos of welcoming the stranger is evoked over and again in the scriptures of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which
regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow,
and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were
strangers in the land of Egypt.

– Deuteronomy 10:17-19

America welcomed my family, strangers that we were. My step-father started his own accounting practice and grew a thriving business in Dallas. My brother has started not one but two businesses, contributing in a significant way to his community. Together with my wife, Cindy, I started a business and created good paying jobs with medical benefits for a significant number of people in Alpharetta over a 23 year span. Some of those employees have gone on to start their own businesses, inspired, as they have told me, by my example. Our children, the next generation of Americans, will go on to be screen writers and physical therapists and neurobiologists and engineers and singers and songwriters. Or maybe they’ll pursue other vocations as their hearts and talents dictate. Wherever their paths lead them, I know they’ll be inspired to do well and to do good.

I work closely with an organization that resettles refugees in Clarkston, Georgia. 93% of those refugee families are self-sufficient, contributing members of our community within 180 days after their plane lands in America. The fertile soil that is America nurtures the children of these new Americans who then go on to give so much back to our communities and our society as a whole. Dr. Heval Kelli is a wonderful example of how much richer we are in Atlanta because our country allowed his mother and father to settle here with their children 17 years ago.

To be sure, we have many issues related to immigration that need to be resolved. Undocumented immigrants, DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), vetting of immigrants from certain countries, lottery, and border security. Clearly any immigrant who poses a threat to a community by violence or serious criminality should be deported.  And anyone involved in a gang must be dealt with seriously. But these issues should not be used as cudgels in a political melee. When we denigrate those who do not look like us or sound like us or pray like us in the name of political expediency we denigrate who we are as Americans.

Senator Graham said it well when he said that America is an “idea”. While we are a country of laws undergirded by our Constitution, we are also a country of ideals, an unwritten but no less fundamental constitution of moral and ethical imperatives that is the glue that binds us as a proud nation.

As Americans, we should take a step back and reflect on our values, our history, our ethical and moral core, and then calmly and pragmatically iron out resolutions to the key immigration policy issues. We are American in the truest sense of the term only when we remain true to the idea of America.