When you’re a writer, you tend to see things a little differently, at least I’d like to think so. I want to know how our story is going to be told. How will this age be remembered?
If I can say one thing for sure, the United States will not be seen as heroic, or brave, or moral. We will be vilified-labeled as cowards. In a time when it is more important than ever that we remain the home of the brave, we find ourselves recoiling in fear. We let politicians lie and feed that fear to such a terrifying extent. We hate out of fear. We commit violence out of fear. We allow our politicians talk of breaching dangerous territory– to label people like the Nazi’s did, to close down peaceful places of worship, to place people in camps–it’s all fascism. We are turning away families, mothers and daughters, women and children–all VICTIMS of terrorism. We are allowing our fear to play right into the hands of the very people we are afraid of. They want us to hate Muslims, they want us to shut our doors and close our hearts. Every family we send back is a family that will most likely die.
I speak only for myself- but I’m terrified for very different reasons. I’m terrified of what we have become. This mentality is cyclical, it never ends where it began. When we, as a collective, allow ourselves to dictate who gets to live and die out of a place of fear we lose our humanity. Today it’s every refugee we refuse, tomorrow it’s every Muslim American in an internment camp, joined next by POC, the non-religious, anyone who dares exercise their rights or expect justice and equality that isn’t a White Christian.
Fear can drive good men to do evil things. Fear can destroy our humanity and integrity. Fear can turn us into monsters.
Let me tell you something about these refugees everyone is so scared of. They are brave. They are fierce and courageous. They come from cities and towns and villages that have been reduced to rubble by the same terrorists causing us to shake in our boots. They have only three choices; join them, resist and die (taking their entire families with them), or flee. They fled to save their lives, they fled to save their children. They lose their children on capsizing boats. They get separated from their families by smugglers. They risk it all for the chance to do something we take for granted every single day; to live.
(Yes, this is a dead child–drowned after falling off a boat of refugees. The same age as my own son.)
Every single day Syrians faced attacks as brutal and fatal as what we witnessed in Paris last week. Except they weren’t removed from it; watching it on their televisions screens. They’ve seen their neighbors, brothers, and sisters killed. They’ve woken up to their homes being blown up and raided. They have lived it. They deserve peace.
The facts remain. We armed ISIS, we created this mess. There are over 1.5 billion practicing Muslims in the world, the extremist factions (the terrorists) compose LESS than 1% of that total. It is easier to get a VISA to get into the United States than it is to be granted asylum here as a refugee. Refugees are screened by the U.N. and the FBI and it takes an average of three years to get here. ISIS wants us to deny asylum to the refugees (there goes that notion of them slipping a few in just in case). All of the attackers in Paris were Europeans (not Syrian refugees). There are more terrorist attacks pulled off by American Christian Extremists and White Supremacists in the United States than any other type of terror attack. Since 9/11, the United States have welcomed over 85k refugees from the Middle East and none have been linked to any terrorist attacks or organizations in any way, shape, or form. It simply isn’t happening. We are letting fear dictate how we value the lives of other human beings- exactly what terrorists want- that’s why they are called TERRORists.
What confounds me the most is that this fearful anti-refugee rhetoric is coming from a slew of Christians. I remember, back in my believing days, wearing my good ole’ What Would Jesus Do bracelet. Why? Because as a Christian, I was supposed to emulate the life of Christ as much as I could through my actions. I was supposed to love others as Christ loved me. So when I see a Christian saying “they can’t come here,” “we have to protect ourselves,” or my personal favorite “they need to go back and fight isis,” (because families with children and no access to any weapons or military or ANYTHING are so equipped to fight) I can’t help but think that this is an absolute counter to how Christ (who was also a Middle Eastern refugee BTW) would behave. (Sorry folks, this gets a little Scripture heavy for a hot minute).
Matthew 5: 3-10
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What a great opportunity to show mercy and make peace- rather than hate and intolerance.
42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Give when asked-straight from the mouth of Christ.
Even if someone wants to go so far as to blame all Muslims and call them enemies….
3 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The story of the good Samaritan- how Christ instructs his followers to love their neighbors. Luke 10: 29-37
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Then there is my personal favorite when it comes to how you should treat people… Matthew 25: 41-45
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
In the end, we are all people, some better off than others–but all still flesh and blood. We cannot let fear rob us of our humanity. We have to stand up. If we want to be the home of the brave we have to BE brave. If we want to be the beacon of freedom and light that stands for hope and opportunity we have to be willing to open our doors. More than that, we have to remember that we CANNOT rewrite history–we are a nation of immigrants, unless you are 100% Native American, you are here because someone in your lineage was brave, they sought a better world. And to that same effect, how we respond to this crisis now will absolutely be written into our history. Do we want to be seen as a fascist society comparable to the Third Reich? So full of fear and hate that we turned away the most vulnerable and the most destitute. Because that is where we are heading. We are becoming London in V for Vendetta.
I know it’s been said over and over and over again, but there is a reason it is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”