It’s flawed, beautiful, striving, sprawling, hopeful and hopeless, and it’s worth saving despite everything that makes me question that premise.
This country was built on the backs of slaves, in the shadow of genocide. That such a monstrous legacy is compartmentalized while denying refuge to those without the skin tone of colonizers is more than cruel hypocrisy — it is moral collapse along the road to species extinction.
My country owes me something, and it isn’t wealth or happiness. America owes me commitment to its own ideals, championed by those entrusted with safeguarding them. America owes me the dividends of an educated and principled populace: scientific advancement, religious tolerance, intelligent policy, progress on human rights, and most importantly, the perspicacious use of historical knowledge.
We all must attempt to choose and shape our destinies. Isn’t that the American dream? The migrants headed this way from Honduras and El Salvador believe in it, and Lady Liberty proclaims as much. But today’s asylum seekers are apparently the wrong color for the grace they deserve. They have the nerve to seek shelter in a nation born of the slaughter and subjugation of non-white human beings who were deemed inferior by mass murderers.
Compassion is in short supply these days in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth. Are you ok with that? I’m not. That public outrage is not bipartisan is as sick and corrupt as any political stance taken by America since her founding.
My ancestors were not born ashore, they were washed ashore, as were yours if you are not Native American. How dare we pull up the ladder behind ourselves. It is easy to make excuses for callousness when you are safe, well fed, and determined to see life as a zero sum game. It is hard to make excuses for callousness when you are able to imagine yourself in another’s shoes. Therein lies the problem.
Any thought experiment that I design in my head involving my own desperate flight across the Canadian border ends in a Handmaid’s Tale-style salvation for me and my family. It does not end with my family ripped apart and caged. Everything ailing this country right now could be cured with some radical love and a rereading of the Golden Rule. The tenet proclaims itself in some form in nearly every single world religion, and it is unmistakably central to Christianity. Or rather, it used to be. I think it still is for real Christians.
History judges harshly those who exploit the most vulnerable among us — our children. Re-victimizing women who have risked their lives to save their children’s lives by seeking asylum on American soil is heinous. I can’t help but see this as monstrous patriarchy and racist savagery, where white men wield their power ruthlessly over desperate brown women and children, be they the men of ICE or the men in Congress and the White House who employ them and give them their hateful mandate. Who justifies this kind of brutality? Who sanctions such morally corrupt actions that prey upon the innocent?
This is not the society I agree to inhabit. This is not decency nor democracy. This is societal breakdown on a grotesque level. If the “adults” running our country cannot make these distinctions, they are herding all of us down a path toward annihilation, because this is not how any healthy beings — human or animal — survive long-term.
Good luck to Keith Richards and the cockroaches. Soon they’ll have this planet all to themselves.
Lori Day is an educational psychologist with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter and the President of the Board of Directors of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. You can connect with Lori on Facebook or Twitter.