Rep. Ilhan Omar stepped to the edge of the stage in front of about 400 Richfield High School students and squinted into the lights.
More than two decades had passed since she and her family fled civil war in Somalia, first for a Kenyan refugee camp and then America. Now she was 36, one of the youngest members of Congress and the first lawmaker to wear a hijab in the legislative body’s long history. She was also at the center of a contentious fight over American identity that pitted her against the president and, even, some in her own party.
At issue wasn’t a piece of legislation or an election. It was something bigger — a battle over the American story — who was entitled to tell it and how it would be told.
In Omar’s version, America wasn’t the bighearted country that saved her from a brutal war and a bleak refugee camp. It wasn’t a meritocracy that helped her attend college or vaulted her into Congress. Instead, it was the country that had failed to live up to its founding ideals, a place that had disappointed her and so many immigrants, refugees and minorities like her. [Continue reading…]