No More Golden Doors

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

January 20, 2017

Last evening I was thinking about history, in particular, the history of our country. In 1776 our founding fathers chose to protest and separate from an oppressive imperial government. They chose to fight what they saw as injustice and for the most part they won that battle. Yes, most were elitist, and some were slave holders, they were, to put it mildly, a product of their time. But for the most part they had a vision of a country where each person would have the right to an equal chance at “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I wonder what they would say about today’s inauguration, I believe they wouldn’t be very proud of us right now.

I know, I know, those writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t have the foresight to include women, people of color, those with different beliefs, or the LGBQT community in their plans, but, the blueprint was there. And, in more than 200 years we have grown and matured as a nation, as a people, and now most of us see each person in our country as important, valuable, to the success of us all.

Throughout our history, we have struggled to open our understanding of who is an American. In the last 100 years, great strides have been made in insuring the poor, woman, people of color, those with differing gender identities, and those with differing beliefs have the same rights as rich white males. We opened the doors of our country and people from all over the world have enriched our society in every way possible. But now those advancements seem to be coming to an end.

This country elected someone who only sees value in rich white men. This man and his followers see the population of the U.S. as a means to an end, an end that fills their pockets. To accomplish their purpose, they duped other white men into believing they too can be ‘rich’ knowing that what they will do while in office will prevent anyone but themselves from succeeding. They have done it by demonizing the poor, people of color, women, those of differing beliefs, and those with differing gender identities in order to hide their true intent, to make themselves wealthy and more powerful. They don’t have the interest of the country at heart, the only thing they think about is how much power over others they have and how much money fills their coffers. Not a very nice picture of our current government.

Our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, they owned slaves, they thought the poor should do more, they didn’t acknowledge women as citizens and they certainly didn’t accept anyone who identified with a different gender. Yet they managed to set aside most of their bias’s and conflicts to craft our government’s documents that had the flexibility to, in time, include those who had been excluded. Not perfect men but wise men.

So, are we returning to an ideology that pre-dates our Founding Father’s? I hope not, but, I fear so. In the last eight years, we have seen the rise of hate crimes instigated by the very people we elected into office. The gains we have made in racial and gender equality are threatened by elected officials who use the fear of being marginalized to demonize anyone who is different. Our so-called representatives have built on misconceptions and lies to produce a constituency across the nation that, while they are well off, thinks they are poor and being discriminated against. Most of these representatives have benefited from the social improvements created since World War II, but, apparently, they believe they are the only ones who deserve to be so honored.

In the next four years, we could lose this country to a society reminiscent of Nazi Germany and that scares me. But I also have hope. I have hope because so many people are speaking out, willing to put their hopes and dreams on the line by standing up and defying those that would roll back the achievements we have gained. Women are marching all over this country and all over this world to say we will not allow our hard-earned rights and privileges taken away. People are organizing to combat hate, racism, and violence. They are banding together to promote justice and mercy in the face of those who would take our health care, our education, our environment, our dreams.

My fear is that if we don’t see progress quickly then many will become discouraged and leave the fight. We cannot do waiver, success won’t be easy nor quick rather it will be very difficult. We will face insults and threats on our lives and lively hood, and that is scary. Each one of us has something we can do, whether it is getting out the vote, writing a letter, or marching in protest. There are small to big tasks, and all are important.

So, do not be afraid, you aren’t alone. Participate at whatever level you are most comfortable with, whether it is writing, financial support, all the way up to running for a government position at the Local, State, or Federal level. But do something, be part of the fight, be part of what we are to become.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 2017

2017, A NEW YEAR?

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A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.

There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.

Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.

Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.

What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.

I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2017