Monday, November 23, 2015

Have we learned?

The American public was polled. Over half of us said we didn't need more immigrants, not with all the problems we already have here. Homelessness, joblessness, uncertain economy, rising taxes and costs of medical care. We especially didn't want those immigrants. Why they'd steal jobs from our own people, add a burden to the already struggling economy. We'd have to educate their kids with our kids, and if they lived near us, our kids might play together. They didn't speak our language or share our religion. We were sorry to hear about the craziness and brutality of their homeland, but their need to get away didn't mean our way of life had to be disrupted. After all, they weren't like us. Lord knows, we couldn't help everyone. So we Americans decided to help no one.

That was in 1939. The people in question were mostly Jews and political exiles fleeing Nazi Germany. Despite the astronomical rise in Germans and Austrians seeking asylum in America in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, we did not increase the number of Visas granted. We turned a blind eye during what is probably the most appalling reign of inhumanity in the 20th century, going so far as to physically turn away a shipload of mostly Jewish emigres. They were returned to Germany. Hundreds of them later died in concentration camps.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20. It's easy for us to sit here 75 years later and render judgement. We weren't there. We didn't share the struggles of Americans then. We didn't feel their fear at the potential danger of having Nazi spies mixed into the group. We didn't have these foreigners coming to our neighborhood with nothing but the clothes on their backs, competing with our people for jobs and food and housing.

But the parallel is unmistakable. Here we are in 2015, and again, people are fleeing oppression and violence. They're boarding inflatable boats and crossing a continent on foot to have a chance at a future. And again American polls reveal our attitude. We say, "I'm sorry to hear about your problems, but you can't come here. Some unsavory characters might sneak in."

How dare we call ourselves a Christian nation when we take a position so clearly lacking compassion and basic kindness. Completely un-Christian.

I'm proud of the stand taken by President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. They are sticking by the moral compass outlined for us by our forefathers. They're showing that we Americans have learned something in the last 75 years. Certainly we've learned that an Us vs Them mentality is outdated, and it's safe to say that Americans agree, we function as part of a global community. We all share the same air, the same sun, and yes, the same God, whatever we may call him. We get that. If only the majority of Americans were ready to put aside their fearful knee-jerk reactions and act on those beliefs.

In this generation, at this time and for all time, we Americans need to be firm in our commitment to be a beacon of the hope of freedom for people around the world, even when it makes us uncomfortable. If we aren't that beacon, who is?

An even bigger statement of who we are as Americans is this: if we turn our back on emigres out of fear, then the terrorists have won.

No comments:

Post a Comment