My grief is real. The nation I love, the only place I have ever lived, a country I once thought was beyond a doubt the greatest country in the world, today is unrecognizable to me. I have gotten on-line the last few weeks and my news feed has been full of ugliness. Who are we? What has happened to the country I once believed would stop at nothing to be better, do right, and be the hope for the rest of the world?
Our Congress, which should be filled with the most informed minds in our country, wants to shut our doors to those most in need. Why? How can they ignore the fact that a person is more likely to be shot by a toddler in the United States than a terrorist? How can they ignore the fact that getting into this country as a refugee is considerably more difficult than arriving as a tourist? How can they ignore the fact that WE are at least partially responsible for the mess in the Middle East in the first place? In what way does turning our backs on the world, reflect the freedom, moral integrity, and common decency we claim to uphold?
Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidency race, is the loudest voice in the madness played out daily in the media. He thinks surveillance on “certain mosques” in the United States is perfectly reasonable. He sided with the bullies who punched and kicked a Black Lives Matter protester during one of his rallies, suggesting, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” He approves of torture, despite evidence that it is ineffective and creates more hostility. The man’s rhetoric gets more brazen by the day and what’s worse–average citizens–unwilling or unable to understand how such thinking undermines the integrity of our Constitution follow right behind him. Are we truly willing to elect a gangster as our president?
Dr. Carson, another top Republican candidate is not much better than Trump. Carson declared the mere fact a person is a Muslim should disqualify him or her from becoming the president. Furthermore, he equated the Syrian refugees with “rabid dogs” and brushes off the criticism about his analogy as quibbling over semantics. Yet, he has had to back peddle on more than one occasion. Most recently, Carson joined Trump in stirring up anxiety by claiming to have seen video of Muslim-Americans celebrating the tragedy of 9-11. Later he walked his statement back by saying he didn’t know the media had an agenda in asking the question and he wasn’t sure where the celebration took place–although the original Q&A was crystal clear.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Ted Cruz surged past Carson in the Iowa caucus poll. Seen as more knowledgeable on foreign policy, Cruz minced no words when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis. All displaced Christians but no displaced Muslims would be welcomed in Cruz’s America. Remember, this is a man who must swear to uphold the Constitution, the same Constitution that guarantees the government will not single out an individual or group based on race, or religion.
The following clip from the HBO series, “The Newsroom”, explains what seems to have happened to the country I love.
The America we have seen in recent months has grown afraid. And, fear is a powerful force once it is let in. It overwhelms its victims causing them to behave is ways that otherwise would be unthinkable. In 1933, during his First Inaugural Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned America that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” The nation had been in a tailspin since the stock market crash of 1929. The unemployment rate had hit 25%. Americans had lost their savings, their homes, and their livelihoods. Adolf Hitler had just become Chancellor of Germany. Still, FDR assured America the only thing we had to fear was our own fear.
His words are just as true today. We must, if we are to preserve what is great and good about America, grab hold of our courage to stand and face fear head on. We must resist the degenerating symptoms of fear–bigotry, greed, isolating self-interest, and unwarranted blaming. We must trust that united we are better, united we are stronger, united we more innovative, more resilient, and more determined than any force which might be wrought against us, because united–rich and poor, male and female, black and white, Gentile and Jew–we better reflect the face of God than we do when we are divided.
In the clip Will McAvoy almost whispers the words, “We didn’t use to scare so easy.” I hope it is not too late. I hope, like the Americans who sat by their radios as their newly elected president spoke back in 1933 we, in 2015, choose to confront the only enemy with the power to defeat us. I pray we pry our hearts and minds away from the grips of fear and choose to face our truer enemies together.
Personally, I refuse to give up on the country I love, despite the sickening headlines and the fear-filled verbiage of those who want me quaking in my boots. But it will take more than the one vote I have to cast in the next election to cast out fear. It will take looking at the ways in which I treat others as less than and changing my behavior. It will take teaching myself, and my children, and my students, and the people around me that difference isn’t the enemy. It will take sifting the chaff of lies from the grains of truth and remaining steadfast in my desire to break bread together with those who also hunger for what is right and good about America.
Just in–a link worth reading: http://centraleuropenaz.org/2015/10/11/three-great-reasons-to-reject-refugees-and-starbucks/#comment-2348