Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Response to the Political Madness of These Days

photo by Evan Bench / flickr

As I sat reading the newspaper this morning--I suddenly found myself overwhelmed. Between the papers, social media and TV--it looks liked everything that has been nailed down is coming loose. Quite a honeymoon Mr. Trump. You promised and pledged to be the President of all the people and yet this last sad week the marches, the tears and the confusion is everywhere. We live near a great University. Graduate students from foreign countries can't get back to school. Or visit ailing parents abroad--because they know they cannot return now. In another case, one translator who has spent years translating in Iraq for our soldiers putting his family at great risk.  He was promised by the US government that he could come here and find a place of safety and promise. So he and his family sold everything and placed what belongings they had left in  suitcases and boarded a plane for America. They were stopped in Egypt and told they could not enter this country. What are we saying to these people and all those that have fled Syria who find the door to America shut tight. What must they think of us? These stories could be repeated hundreds of times in the last few days. As we bar people from foreign countries longing for freedom and safety--we are saying not only to the Muslim world--but to the world at large--your dreams to come to America are only dreams. Some have found these dreams turned into nightmares. 

We hear the term "extreme vetting." What does this mean? You would think up to this point we have just opened our doors and said come in. It takes over two years to wade through the paperwork, the questions and the investigative process. We have been responsible in masking sure our country is safe.

After September 11th when we were all afraid and in deep grief--President Bush told us that the Muslims were not our problem. Without any major attacks here since then--our reaction to Mexico and the rest of the world is to make us defensive and fearful. Strange response. 

Mexico will be forced to pay for a wall they had nothing to do with. Our President has said of the Middle East "We will go over there and take the oil." From a sovereign nation? Dear God, surely we will not put up with this. I share with you two very fine items. One is from Madeleine Albright former Secretary of State. This was her response to the last few days in Washington.

"By now, I'm sure you've heard about the executive order on immigration and refugees that the President signed on Friday. It bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halts all travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

This is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America's core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country's generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria.

There is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order's attempts at "extreme vetting" will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts -- or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country's long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a burden or as potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees -- including my own -- did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

By targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there's no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child. It proclaims "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.

This executive order does not reflect American values. If you agree, make your voice heard now." 

The other fine piece comes from Ken Sehested who has been in the struggle of freedom and justice for years. His blog is worth reading. And his setting the words of Holy Scripture down beside the sad reality of today's immigrants is worth pondering. 

As I see thousands and thousands marching for freedom and justice--I find some hope. We all must raise our voices and not become numb with the hurricane of hatred and downright injustice that we see beginning in Washington and moving across our country. 

photo by Matt Brown / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

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