What Have We Become?

What Have We Become?

Let me tell you a little story.  Once upon a time, my daughter was ill and required a stay in the hospital for treatment.  She had gone through surgeries and hospital stays before,  so it wasn’t exactly a new thing.  But this particular treatment, while necessary, was something she was adamantly against.  When I had to leave, and she had to do some treatment without me being there to hold her hand, she broke down.  She cried, she yelled, she pleaded for me not to leave her there and begged me to take her home.  The agony I felt in that moment broke a piece of my heart that will never fully heal. And although everything went well, I have never quite forgotten that feeling and have never fully been able to get the sounds of her cries out of my memory. And I know that I will always carry the pain of her desperation and fear during that time with me, even though I knew she was being very well cared for and that I was doing the best thing for her.

If you have children, then you have most-likely experienced times when you have been sad to leave them.  Like the first day of daycare, or kindergarten.  They cry and beg you not to go, and it rips at your heart.  No parent can stand to hear their child cry for them, especially when they are unable to give them the comfort they need at that moment.

Try for a moment to imagine yourself as a parent in that situation.  Imagine what it must feel like.  Now, try to imagine that your child is being ripped from your arms as they are crying and screaming, and you DON’T know where they are going, or how and if they will be properly cared for.  You’re being separated from them and you have no idea when you will see them again.  You can’t tell the person taking your child away that your little one needs their stuffed pink elephant to fall asleep, or that they have to take allergy medicine at night so they can breathe well, or that if they don’t have a night light they become too terrified to sleep.  Knowing the agony I’ve felt in situations where I had to leave my child and the only comfort I had was know thing she was in good and capable hands, I cannot even begin to imagine how it must feel to be separated from your child and have no idea where they are going or what will become of them.  It breaks my heart.  This current situation has been weighing heavily on my heart and soul.  And it should be on yours too.

Which brings me to a very serious and loaded question: What have we become? Is America, a country built on the backs of immigrants, the land of the free and home of the brave, the land of opportunity and success, now really a land where children are being caged-up in empty warehouses?  Is our moral compass now pointing so far south that we not only defend, but celebrate this kind of governing?

I am going to say one thing before I delve more into this: First off, I am in full support of legal immigration.  What I am not in support of is the current process of families being torn apart during their time of crisis. That being said, forget the politics for a moment.  Forget who is to blame, or why.  If you are a person who is okay with CHILDREN being ripped apart from their families and detained in cages, you are what is wrong with our country. This is, as Dr. Colleen Kraft stated this week, government-sanctioned child abuse, and it should not be happening on American soil. This is a violation of human rights. America has fought against these types of human rights atrocities in other countries.  Now we are becoming exactly what we fought against.  It is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese internment camps.  And I know now you might be thinking , “this isn’t THAT,” but, those things didn’t just happen.  How do you think they started?  The similarities should be chilling every American to their core.

Even more chilling is the fact that the President is using these children as bargaining chips in his game to get his wall funded, and to get exactly what stipulations he wants on immigration reform.  Per a recent tweet from President Trump:  “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.  Any immigration bill MUST HAVE full funding for the wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration.  Go for it!  WIN!”  Let that sink in for a moment:  The President of the United States is blackmailing his own government to get what he wants.  If that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.  In addition, notes from a 2017 town hall were recently released describing the President and Homeland Security officials listing separating migrant families as a method to discourage people from seeking asylum.  Hostage-taking, particularly of families and children, is a tried-and-true instrument of terror, which I’m certain the President and his advisors are well-aware of.

The other thing that is extremely disturbing, to me at least, is the posts I keep seeing of people saying “Well, when American parents go to jail they are separated from their kids” or “Think about how the military personnel who are separated from their families must feel.”  Let me tell you something:  Unless the children of those people are being held in cages/tents/warehouses, whatever, around people with strict instructions not to touch them or comfort them, then it is NOT the same thing.  While those two scenarios are sad in their own right, it is not comparable to what is happening with these children and their families.  When American parents go to jail, their children are most often placed with family members, and if there are none, then they go into the foster care system and many times placed with foster families.  Children in military families usually have a parent at home with them or family taking care of them while their parent is deployed.  In both instances, though still sad and valid, you know the children are being well cared for.  It’s not the same thing, and that comparison is disgusting.

For the record, there is NO law that requires separating families if they illegally cross the border. Seeking asylum is every person’s right under international law. The current practice is in place due to the President’s zero-tolerance policy, which could be recinded at any time. The administration won’t give direct answers on why they are doing this, except to blame it on “loopholes.”  The particular loophole they are referencing is the Flores settlement.  It’s a 1997 agreement struck by President Clinton that says the government is required to release immigrant children from detention without unnecessary delay – generally within 20 days- to parents, relatives, or licensed programs.  The Trump administration argues that this means children must be separated from their parents, since they cannot be held in custody alongside their parents who are facing criminal charges.

This further begs the question, why are they being held on charges?  Seeking asylum is NOT illegal.  Crossing into the U.S. anywhere other than a port of entry is a civil, not criminal, offense. Yes, some people may be taking advantage of that.  But when it comes to children and overall human rights, I think the benefit of the doubt is warranted until we know for sure.  In fact, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy explicitly states “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process, you must be physically present in the United States.  You may apply for asylum status REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU ARRIVED IN THE UNITED STATES OR  YOUR CURRENT IMMIGRATION STATUS.”  https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/obtaining-asylum-united-states

There is no justification for this.  There is no way to square this with the way of Jesus.  And at this moment, it doesn’t matter who is to blame.  The fact is, there is no one person to blame.  Immigration reform in the U.S. has been an ongoing and sensitive issue.  What matters is who is in charge now and what they can do to stop this, NOW.  Because this is not who we are.  This is not who we should be.  This is not American. If we lose the ability to be human, to show compassion and decency, we’ve lost everything.   Jesus asked those who had bread and fish to bring them to him so that it could be multiplied and all could share.   If those people had chosen to say “This is mine, I worked for it and I don’t have to share,” imagine how that story would have ended.  Bread, fishes, freedom, opportunity, those are all things granted to us by God and are not just ours to hoard for ourselves.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads: “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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  What is does NOT say is “Give me your English-speaking only, Christian, heterosexual masses.”  At the end of the day, we are all still human. And refuge, humanity, and asylum is what our country was built on.  We can’t close our borders to those of the world who need us.  We need to help them find legal ways to pursue the opportunities we a have all been afforded when our founding fathers, of immigrant descent, fought Britian and made this country their own.

The good news is, we, as American citizens, are not helpless.  Use your voice, and when the time comes, use your vote.  You can call the White House directly at 202-456-1111.  Look up your local representatives.  call them, write letters. Donate to legitimate causes that are there to help these children.  If you have the means and the heart to do so, offer to foster.   And most importantly, pray.  Pray for the families that are suffering.  Pray for the President and his administration to have a heart for positive change.   And if you are a person who believes what is happening to these children is acceptable, I pray that you look inside yourself and find compassion and humanity.

Finally, I will just leave you with this…

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Total Eclipse of the Heart

In case you have been living under a rock, there is a total solar eclipse happening tomorrow.  The moon hasn’t thrown this much shade at America in nearly a century.  (See what I did there?)  My inner nerd is ecstatic!  It’s expected to be the most observed eclipse ever.  Not surprising, as our culture is saturated with social media. But this event certainly warrants an overload of photos.  I wish I could play hooky from work and go to one of the thousands of watch parties, but alas, I cannot. But you can bet I will be taking a break to go step briefly into the darkness!

As I started reflecting on this historical magic, and how it seems to be bringing so many people together, I started to think about the eclipse we are currently experiencing in our country.  In my opinion, much of our country is having…wait for it…a total eclipse of the heart.  I realize that now you may be belting out the Bonnie Tyler hit in your head.  Or out loud.  Hey if you’re feeling it, go with it.

But seriously, I feel like that perfectly sums up the state of our country right now.  So many have closed their hearts, and their minds. Hearts that were once compassionate and understanding, are now eclipsed by anger, fear, intolerance, and self-righteousness. Living in the age of social media certainly does not help. It’s much easier to post something on Facebook or Twitter, judging someone you’ve never met, than it is to say it to someone’s face.  It so effortless for so many to spew hatred across multiple medias behind the safety of their computer screens.

The events in Charlottesville a week ago have certainly put many people in a heightened state of emotion. With good reason. I will just go ahead and put this out there, that no AMERICAN should ever be wearing, carrying, or doing anything with a Nazi flag or symbol, unless they are destroying it.  A world-wide war was literally fought over this ideology.  I feel physical pain in my heart about what transpired there, and the way it was handled by our commander-in-chief.  My disdain for him is well known by those who know me, but that is not where I’m going with this.

The truth is, while yes, the President should have a stronger response than what he did to white supremacy being demonstrated on American soil, I don’t look to him to give me solace about hatred in the world.  And neither should anyone else.  Being angry at politicians for how they handle things like this won’t quell the hate in people’s hearts.  I have to keep repeating that to myself, because it’s the truth. As much as I do not support Donald Trump or anything he stands for, he is not the cause of that hatred.  It was around long before him, and sadly will probably be around long after him.  I actually feel his being elected is the result of this type of hatred.  And it’s up to us as Americans and as people with kind hearts and minds to prevent it from happening again.

There is so much hate and anger in our country right now.  And it’s not just extremists, which actually don’t make up that much of our population.  They just get the most media attention.  I often see it just as much in our everyday lives.  It’s that person on the highway who won’t let you over, and instead honks and cusses at you,  because they think you’re stupid for waiting until the last minute.  What they don’t know is that you just found out found out your mom has cancer, and you were so lost in despair that you didn’t realize that you were so close to your exit.  It’s the parents on the sidelines of soccer games screaming at their kid to take control of the play, and what they don’t know is that the child has no desire to even be an athlete, but just wants to make his parents proud.  It’s the groups of moms drinking Starbucks in their yoga pants that exclude the new mom in town instead of making her feel welcome.  It’s tons of little things that people all over the world do every day, and maybe not intentionally, that show their hearts are closed instead of open. Eclipsed, instead of lit up.

So what is the solution?  What is the takeaway? To me, the answer is as simple as this: Every person you meet is going through something.  No matter how perfect their life looks on Facebook, I’d be willing to bet they are going through some sort of struggle.  This is a saying as old as time, but it still rings true.  And instead of only looking out for ourselves, we should be looking out for our fellow man.  This used to be a nation where people truly cared about each other. Where kindness was freely given, with no expectations in return. Where when someone new moved into the neighborhood, they were greeted with casseroles and muffins.  A country where you didn’t have to lock your front door, where you could trust the people around you.  A place where you could ask a stranger for a hand with your groceries, and they would do it with a smile on their face.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I choose to live with an un-eclipsed heart. I will strive to kill evil with love.  To destroy hatred with kindness.  I will continue to believe that America can be a kind place again.  Donald Trump is not the person to “Make America Great Again.”  It’s up to American citizens to do that.   How do we do that you ask?  By just being kind.  It’s that simple.  Fill your heart with kindness and compassion, instead of hatred and fear.

I for one, will continue to live this way and strive to remain unjaded. I may be only one person, but I will still act in hope and love. I’m going to Facebook less and live more.  I’m going to turn off the news and remember that we are all better than the media tells us we are. I’m going to stop letting social media posts divide me from the people I love. I’m going to continue to open doors for people, and strike up conversations with strangers while I’m standing in line.  I’m going to smile at people as they walk by.  I’m going to contribute where I can, and stand up for what is right.  I’m going to work hard to make the world a better place for my daughter.  And if we could all just try to do that, I believe our world can be a much better place.

The sun may be briefly eclipsed tomorrow…but my heart will never be!