“Give me your tired, your poor . . .I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

New Yorker Cover Statue of LibertyTorch Going Out

I’m utterly horrified and disturbed by so many things right now. (It’s kind of hard to turn in any particular direction and not note something else going down the shitter, whether it be education, or the environment, or protestors’ rights (see my post from Friday).) But right now, IN THIS MOMENT, I am truly heartbroken by the shocking lack of empathy being shown to refugees and immigrants. I’m actually so appalled that I don’t know how to properly characterize it. It feels like such a gross betrayal of all of the better human attributes and is such a showing of unapologetic hypocrisy that I’m a little at a loss.

If you’re not Native American, this is directed at you. If you’ve ever called the refusal of refugees during WWII a “tragedy,” this is directed at you. If you call yourself a Christian, this is directed at you. If you are a United States citizen who is anti-immigrant and anti-refugee and yet still take pride in the Statue of Liberty and our national anthem, this is directed at you. If you are PRO-LIFE, you’d better believe that this is directed at you.

If you read this and you feel uncomfortable, good. I feel uncomfortable writing it. I feel uncomfortable that in 2017, in a globally connected world, we still somehow can’t stop ourselves from being prejudiced assholes who can see pictures of and read articles about drowned children and tormented parents and still say “Don’t come here.” I feel uncomfortable that we compare immigrants and refugees to a bowl of skittles that has a poisoned candy hidden in it. I feel uncomfortable that we rely on the back-breaking labor of immigrants from Mexico and South American countries for our goddamned produce and still say “Get them out of here.” (I’m sorry, did you want that job? You don’t even want to pay people working at McDonald’s a living wage.) And I feel REALLY uncomfortable that almost all of us are the children of immigrants and refugees ourselves, many [most] of whom were treated horribly upon their arrival to this country, and yet some of us still can’t gain enough perspective to find kindness for the new generations.

[And it’s not just in the US; we’re in terrific company. /s Did you know that in Paris, police are teargasing refugees? They’re stealing the refugees’ blankets in freezing weather. They are telling them to get out. These are people who have fled war, who have lost family members, who have lost everything, and the cruelty with which they are being treated is staggering.]

Pull it together, America. Stop celebrating Executive Orders that close our borders. Stop celebrating when ICE deports a mother who has been in this country for 21 years. Start finding your empathy.

  1. If you are not Native American, you come from immigrant stock. Period. Your family didn’t start out as “American.” They were something else, from somewhere else. Your people came here to find opportunity, to flee persecution, to create a life, and when they got here, they did not “belong” the way that you think you do now. And it’s very likely that they were also treated like dirt. Irish? Italian? Didn’t want them. Chinese? Only if they’re doing slave labor out on the West Coast. Hispanic? Absolutely not. (Reminds me, Ted Cruz being anti-immigration is just the epitome of that nonsensical American privilege.) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a richness in diversity and this country is fast-tracking towards impoverishment.
  2. We have a history of paying lip-service to diversity and then turning around and slamming the doors. We refused entry to Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II, relegating many of them to concentration camps and death. That is on our heads. We rounded-up Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps, despite knowing that they posed no threat. And perhaps we don’t want to be reminded of our hypocrisy – of being the “invader other” – and that’s why we have all but wiped out this land’s indigenous peoples (and the ones who are left live in poverty and are dealing with pipelines they don’t want being built across their land). In history, there has only been one time when the immigrants brought death and destruction to our shores, and it was when those invaders were white Europeans, at the birth of our country.
  3. If you consider yourself a Christian and you follow the teachings of Jesus (and actually, those in the Old Testament, too) and you’re anti-refugee, I don’t know what to tell you, I really don’t, other than you’re side-stepping some pretty important parts of the religion. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, biblical stories are FULL OF OUTSIDERS COMING INTO A NEW PLACE and either being treated like crap (which is frowned upon) or by being helped (which is applauded). Like, are you trying to be the Pharaoh? Pro-tip: NOBODY likes him. He’s the bad guy. There’s Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – “When the stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.” IT REALLY CAN’T GET CLEARER THAN THAT, YOU GUYS. Deuteronomy also is in on the action and fairly repetitive: “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 10:18-19. The Book of Jeremiah says “Do no wrong or violence to the stranger.” THERE IS SO MUCH OF THIS. Then you have Jesus who WAS a refugee (a Middle-Eastern one, by the way). “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” Matthew 25:35. And Romans 12:13 identifies the mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…” For heaven’s sake. The Pope has tried to hammer this home, too. If you consider yourself a Christian, and you don’t want immigrants or refugees entering our country, you’re not a terrific Christian. It really is that simple.
  4. “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” That’s all I have to say there. There isn’t an asterisk on Emma Lazarus’s poem that qualifies the message like “except if you’re poor, non-white, non-Christian, and don’t speak English, then you can’t come in here.” I can pull apart the national anthem, too, but it’s pretty easy to see that “land of the free and home of the brave” is kind of inapplicable when you’re too stingy and afraid to welcome newcomers.
  5. If you’re pro-life and you’re only fighting for a cell cluster but not fighting for the lives of disadvantaged children everywhere, you’re not actually pro-life. You are pro-restricting women. You are pro-punishing women for having sex. But if you are turning your back on refugees and their families, if you are being vehemently NIMBY about immigrants, then you are not pro-life. If you are complicit with the United States’ activities that have led to the upheaval in and destruction of Syria but are unwilling to show compassion to those who have suffered from it, you are not pro-life.

If you are anti-refugee and anti-immigrant, you are lacking in empathy and compassion. You are deeply un-American with respect to the lofty ideals this country likes to tout about diversity, tolerance, and being a melting pot. (Although you are likely a true American in the sense that our history is full of bigotry, prejudice, exclusivity, and racism.) If you identify as Christian, you are missing core Christian values, and the label “pro-life” cannot apply to you. You may be scared of the unknown. Many of us are. I hate the unknown. I get weird and anxious about it. But the trick to dealing with that sort of fear is education, not hate and not prejudice. It’s diving in, not avoiding.

The United States of America is really hurting my heart right now. I’d like to think we can do better. We need to do better. The more divisive we are, the more we breed hatred. (There’s a reason ISIS celebrated Trump’s EO.) We can do better, America. Let’s do better.

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