For awhile now I have had this inner turmoil about the immigrants coming to our southern border with hopes of finding a better life here in the U.S. only to find hate, guns, abuse, and separated families at the gate. With our nation’s birthday happening in a few days I have been thinking about the quote of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus, found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty
“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!”
I am afraid the “golden door” is no more, it has turned black, rotted through, and replaced with an AK‑47.
Nothing in my experience has prepared me for a father and his young daughter, trying to find a safe haven, drowning on the doorstep of this country. Nothing in my experience has prepared me for the separation of families at the border, children from new-born to teenagers placed in concentration camps where they are physically, mentally, and sexually abused.
As a student of history, I know how the Indigenous people were treated, I know how slavery turned people into non-humans. But I had thought we, as a nation, had grown beyond such bias and racist mentality. Yes, I know, I am wrong. Yes, I know that underneath a very thin façade of politeness there has always been people who boil with anger and hate. But a girl can hope, can’t she?
White people, white old men who were afraid of losing God knows what came out of the woodwork with hate and violence claiming they were somehow better, more valuable, than people of color, the poor, the disabled, and the homeless. They blame anyone different from them for all their troubles. It doesn’t make any difference that what that trouble might be, it’s not their fault.
It is time for those of us descended from white Europeans to stop being hypocrites and accept the responsibility for the historical abuse and death of anyone not white. The privilege we claim as our right was never given to us; we stole it from those who could not fight back.
Since the beginning of time humans have been a violent species, a greedy species, a selfish species. It may be that we are incapable of being compassionate, merciful, and lovers of justice and peace. It may be that hate of those who are different is hardwired into our psyche’s. I most certainly hope that is not true. I am praying that our bloated species can change, find a new way to live in harmony with each other and with the natural world.
Nearly every prophet from all sacred faiths have tried to teach us how to be one with each other. As a follower of Christ, I try to remember what Jesus said to his disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion:
34 . . .‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:34-40
That seems pretty clear to me. It plainly states how we are to treat the disadvantaged, and where did he learn this. Why from His scripture. Because God sent many prophets to teach the Israelites how to treat each other and those who were strangers in their land. Even before the Hebrews left Mt. Sinai God tells them:
“33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. “
– Leviticus 19:33
And did the Hebrew people listen? Of course not and over the centuries prophets came along with the same message. So, a thousand years later, as Jerusalem is besieged the Lord tells Zechariah pretty much what Moses told them:
9 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; 10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. – Zechariah 7:9-10
And did the Israelites listen? Of course not. Jerusalem fell and the rulers and wealthy were packed off to Babylon. This is a small piece of the greater history where one tribe failed to listen and learn. The sad fact is no tribes, communities, cultures, or nations have ever learned from their prophets that treating each and every person in their communities fairly, honestly, with compassion, mercy and justice is how they would succeed as nations. We in the United States are no different.
As a nation, a world, and as a species we stand at a crossroad. Too many nations hold in their hands the means of destroying all humanity, along with every other living thing on this planet. Unless all of us, in every nation change how we treat the least of us so that every living thing on this old earth has what they need to thrive and survive we will face extinction.
Why is it so hard to give out of our abundance to those in need? It shouldn’t be. If our neighbor has enough to eat, a place to sleep, the means to thrive and succeed then we benefit as well. If we learn to live with the natural world treating other species with respect and making sure they have what they need we will benefit as well. If we treat the earth with respect, learning to live in our habitat without destroying it then we benefit. Why is that so hard?
We share DNA with every living thing, human, non-human, and plant, we are them and they are us. We share the building blocks of our cells with the mountains, sea, air, and the soil, we are them and they are us. We are the poor. We are the homeless. We are the other. Yes, each of us is different and that is a good thing. But, we share more than we are different.
I have led you all on a rant and rave, I wish I felt better letting of steam, but I don’t. I am not a fortuneteller and I can’t predict how the world will turn out. I am old enough that I am certain that my fears will not be answered in my lifetime. But they will in my, our, grandchildren’s time and I pray we finally learn to “love one another as we love ourselves.”
Ruth Jewell, © July 1, 2019