By Tom Ehrich

Here is my word to Syrian refugees: "Come on in. You are welcome in my neighborhood."

One caveat, of course: If you intend to use the house next door as a launch pad for terrorism, then I withdraw my welcome.

The same can be said to Christian extremists and to wingnuts carrying firearms. If your intent is to bomb abortion clinics or to execute gays or to swagger through malls and schools carrying weapons, then you aren't welcome, either.

You are all crazy. And dangerous. Live some place else.

But if your skin simply is darker than mine, or your religion different from mine, or your political ideas more conservative than mine, or your dreams and families unlike mine, no problem. This is a melting pot. This is a land where all are welcome and all are free.

If you move in, then you become my neighbor. That's all it takes in America. I don't have to approve you. Your wanting to be here is enough. In time, we will get to know each other, our values will tend to converge, as happens in a free society, and we will face the negatives and dangers of life together.

In America -- maybe not the America of right-wing politicians and their hate-filled followers, but the America that has stood the test of time -- we belong to each other. Whether or not we are alike, whether or not we agree on anything, whether or not we are friends, we share a land. "This land is your land, this land is my land."

So, come on in. Don't let the nativists and bigots deter you. If you "yearn to breathe free," let this be your new home. We are a nation largely of immigrants. My mother's family came here to escape religious persecution. My father's came to escape militarism. Others came to escape poverty and serfdom.

We are a troubled land. No question about it. Many came here as slaves, and we are still dealing with that fact three centuries later. Many came to find and to hoard wealth. They are like locusts denuding the land. Many are filled with hate. Many cringe at the diversity we represent. But those troubles don't define us. Injustice isn't our middle name. Mammon isn't our God.

You might be an answer to our shortcomings. Imagine that: you come here seeking refuge, and you become part of the solution. That's what can happen here.

So, welcome! Ignore the nativists and bigots and religious extremists. They don't speak for America.

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