Like most of the civilized world, I have been watching in horror what is happening on the southern border of our country. It is inhumane, incompetent, cruel, and reminiscent of other atrocities like slavery, Japanese-American internment, and the Holocaust. The barrage of painful sights and sounds of little children screaming for Papi are hard to watch and yet bizarrely hard to turn away from. My son begged me to turn off the radio in the car this morning because he couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t blame him.
While my heart breaks at the unrelenting news coverage, I am perhaps more worried about what it really means. In the endless news cycle, commentators and pundits openly weeping on air, keep saying this is not who we are, but I wonder. Look at what else is happening. The United States has pulled out of the UN Commission on Human Rights because we don’t take criticism well. The Supreme Court says that a Muslim Ban is okay and the President believes that absolute dictators who have no sense of human rights should be honored and respected. While he can’t do it –at the moment – Trump is urging the end to due process for immigrants seeking asylum.
As a student of Latin America, I reel at the ignorance people are showing concerning these refugees (that is what they are). While I don’t doubt the occasional bad actor is trying to cross the border, the vast majority of those seeking asylum are human beings fleeing the worst of the worst conditions in their countries. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are overrun with drugs, gangs, and human traffickers. These victims come to the U.S., the shining lamp beside the golden door, to save their children from gangs and sexual exploitation. They risk everything to reach us because we are a country of goodness, empathy, and generosity. We are a country of faith, people who believe in doing good works and following God’s commandments. These people are running for their lives to a place of peace and prosperity; they do not come to rob and rape. They come because they believe in us, the people we think we are but are we?
I am comforted and sustained by the actions of my church. My clergy and leaders who call out for justice and suggest that NOTHING in the bible, regardless of who quotes it, says the horror visited on those children is justified. But I am deeply concerned that we are in the minority.
I can not get over the fact that at least 40% of my fellow citizens think that this is ok. They believe that we should be a country of repressive, nondemocratic policies. This group believes that we should turn back the humble masses yearning to be free at the border without due process. I can’t help but think where any of us would be if our ancestors had been turned back, including the folks on the Mayflower.
I know people are angry and feel ignored and left out of the ever-increasing prosperity of the few. I understand how hard it can be in parts of our country right now, but that is not an answer. My family lived through the Great Depression and never did they suggest the kind of hate and bigotry I witness daily.
Many people of faith pray for the people on the border. I pray with them, but I want to see us expand our prayers for the people of our country. Let us pray for the Americans in South Carolina, West Virginia, and other places where pockets of hate and zeal for despots reign, to come home to the faith of our fathers. Remember the words of Jesus about taking care of the least among us and of course the children.
My church gives me comfort, but it is not enough we are becoming a country that many of us may not recognize and it is not about politics. It is about losing our heart and our soul; it is about not being “us” anymore.