"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper……. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.
I never gave much thought to what that meant…... See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth.
The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin'….. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.”
Jules – Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)
So let me see if I’ve got this straight….
Over half of our nation’s governors have stated that they will refuse to let Syrian refuges into their own states because they are worried that some may be members of ISIS or at the very least, supporters of religious jihad against Americans. Even though those same governors cannot do a damn thing about stopping refugees other than voicing their displeasure - we're dealing with a federal program carried out under the authority of federal law - refugees arriving in the United States are protected by the Constitution as well as federal law. But ask any number of people and they’ll tell you they are in favor of closing our borders because it’s a good idea to keep out Syrian refugees.
There’s a statue in New York Harbor with an associated poem that says in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”
One of the tenets and principles of this nation (a republic in case anyone missed that in high school civics class) is freedom for all. We are a land of opportunity and a land that opens its doors to all who need freedom from persecution – there are no qualifiers about that. No gray areas. As a nation, that’s not what we’re about. I understand our collective mentality to worry about another 9-11, and that by opening our borders to Syrian refugees we might give potential ISIS terrorists safe haven without prudent screening procedures. But just so we’re clear: the 9-11 terrorists came here on personal visas, business visas, and a student visa – that says volumes about our ability to police anybody crossing our borders legally. There is a very lengthy protocol already in place that screens refugees and is designed to vet anyone who is a threat to our national security. I worry about another terrorist attack too. I worry about anything that poses a threat to my family and the people who matter to me – people I love fiercely. Mostly, I worry about things that might actually happen – like some idiot going out for drinks after work, having one too many glasses of wine or tequila or vodka, and driving head-on into my family on the highway. Or somebody getting sick. Or being sexually assaulted or becoming a victim of domestic violence. Those things are real possibilities – more realistic than hunting for the ISIS boogeyman in the closet.
This month we’re closing the borders to Syrian refugees. Last month it was Mexicans and people from Central America. Before that Cubans. And Haitians. And in the 1970’s, the Vietnamese. During World War II between 110,000 and 200,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in internment camps (60% of whom were American citizens). In the late 1930’s it was European Jews. We are supposed to give a shit about people – all people – especially people in crisis - but we don’t. We have a history of trying to shut our doors and lock out anyone who scares us, especially people of a faith we don’t understand and one that is different from our Judeo-Christian ethical values, even though our fears are always misguided. Nobody was afraid of those good young Christian boys at Columbine. Or Timothy McVeigh. Or James Holmes. Or Seung-Hui Cho who was raised with strong “Christian values” and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. If you ask me, the religious brush we’re using to paint the Syrian refugees has been dipped in the wrong can of paint.
We worry about ISIS and Muslim extremists – we should be worrying about Boko Haram, who within the past year have murdered over 6,600 people through terrorist atrocities that get little play here in the US (seriously – only Stephanie Wright at wrighterly.com, regularly calls attention to the girls Boko Haram kidnapped 581+ days ago). I’m more worried about the fat Christian guy exercising his 2nd Amendment rights by carrying a loaded handgun in a public place, who gets pissed off because the minimum wage kid at Starbucks got his iced soy latte pumpkin expresso order wrong and feels it’s his God-given right to blast a couple of rounds in anger. I worry, because when James Holmes shot up that theater in Aurora, Colorado one of my daughters lived there and had talked about going to see the new Batman movie that night – you don’t know real fear until you sit 2,500 miles away, watching news coverage of the carnage while waiting and praying for the phone to ring so you can breathe again. I worry because three years ago over twenty children were killed in a school in Connecticut and we as a nation did nothing. NOTHING. NOT A DAMN THING.
I worry about the very real danger of my kids and loved ones being in a public place where someone can pull out a gun and start shooting. Worrying about Syrian refugees looking for freedom and a better life – not so much.
I’ve come to a fork in my own personal journey where I understand that I am not a good guy – not at all as nice or as kind as I could have and should have been, no matter how much I’ve tried to pretend otherwise. I haven't done enough to make a difference. Sadly, for too many years I have been Jules from PULP FICTION. You don’t get to come back from causing damage unless you start caring about people other than yourself, and start making a difference in the world, and I'm trying real hard to make a difference. We’re a nation filled with people of all backgrounds who are supposed to care about all people– not just those who share the same POV or religion or skin color or heritage. Closing our borders to people in need? To people who have nowhere else to go? Not helping when we have a chance to make a difference? That green fucking statue in New York Harbor is supposed to symbolize something. We’re better than closing our borders. Better than hiding under our beds in fear or chasing boogeymen every time the lights go out.
This is America – we’re better than that.