Most people know about Chobani yogurt. Few know that it represents a remarkable story of immigrant success in America. Hamdi Ulukaya is a Turkish immigrant with Kurdish heritage, who arrived in upstate New York in the 1990s. He used a family recipe to make feta cheese. With a $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration, he bought a local yogurt factory and started selling Chobani yogurt 9 years ago. He opened the world’s largest yogurt manufacturing plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 2012.
Chobani is now the number one selling yogurt in the US. Ulukaya offers his 2000 employees 6 weeks of fully-paid family leave for new parents and recently gave them shares in the company, which could make some of them millionaires. He sponsors the US Olympic team.
But Ulukaya and the Chobani brand are a new target of a right-wing campaign of disinformation, led by Breitbart News, home of Donald Trump’s campaign CEO Stephen Bannon. Ulukaya employs more than 300 Iraqi, Afghan and Turkish refugees in his factories. He has created a foundation to assist refugees, gaining direct support from IBM and other giant corporations. Breitbart began publishing stories which falsely linked his company with tuberculosis cases in Idaho and a sexual assault case in Twin Falls. This spawned online calls to boycott Chobani and online death threats to the Twin Falls mayor and his wife. Many of these threats come from Trump supporters. Helping refugees become productive citizens in America is a crime in the eyes of those who love Trump.
Certainly this election will make a difference in government and laws. Here’s a big example – the health of our planet. If Trump is elected, we can expect no action to slow global heating. His repeated insistence that climate change is a hoax might mean that his policies, backed by a Republican Congress, would make temperature rise faster. We would lose four crucial years in the race to save our planet for the next generations.
How our laws are interpreted by the Supreme Court would also be starkly different, depending on who wins. Trump promises to appoint very conservative justices, which could mean an end to legal abortion and to our progress toward equal treatment for gay Americans.
But the difference this election makes will not only be in concrete actions of government. If Trump wins, then women who are sexually harassed will have a harder time gaining justice. A Trump victory would be victory for “locker room talk” and worse, sexual assault. Bragging about sexual predation and getting away with it would be confirmed as winning male behavior.
A Trump victory would be a victory for discrimination against Muslims, not only foreign Muslims, but American Muslims, too. Even if he couldn’t pass the discriminatory laws he promises, a hater of Islam in the White House would mean encouragement for haters of Islam all over America.
A Trump victory would be a victory for white racism. About half of Trump supporters hold racist views of American blacks and Hispanics. They attack “political correctness”, because it prevents them from openly espousing their racist ideas. The “great” America they seek is a white America.
A Trump victory would be a victory for the politics of insults and lies. Having the Insulter-in-Chief leading our country would encourage every jerk in America to unleash his nastiness, to spew hatred, to try to win in life by making everyone else small. We see that happen at his rallies, where verbal attacks on reporters are now common.
The people who concoct the wildest stories about evil refugees, terrorist Muslims, lazy blacks and whining women will be able to look at President Trump as their role model. A country in which the President’s closest advisor tells racist lies about a good man, a good employer, and a good yogurt maker is not a great country.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, November 8, 2016