To Congress and Some Presidential Candidates:Your Heart Is Up Your Ass, and Your Brain Has Already Been Shat Out
Part 1: Panic & Putrefaction Toward Refugees in the U.S.A.*
T. T. Thomas
*On the Statue of Liberty: 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. Emma Lazarus
In 1939, it was: Unless you are Jewish.
In 1939, it was: Unless you are Japanese-American
In 2015, it’s unless you are Syrian or Iraqi. Then we will put you in a database and require you to register and advise us when you plan to go all jihadi on us. Oh, wait, we ALREADY require that of all Syrian refugees in this country! Yes. We have an incredibly complex set of security hoops for Syrians to jump through, and the existing system is apparently working just fine.
The so-called America Safe Act of 2015, HR4038*, introduced by House Republicans is an example of the panic after the Paris attacks of 11/13/15. Not only does it duplicate the safeguards we already take to admit ANY refugee, but now it adds the ridiculous ‘slow-down’ caveat that it will take the unanimous agreement of the FBI, the DHS AND the Director of National Intelligence before a Syrian or Iraqi refugee can be allowed into our country. If the refugee plight does not move those among you who are trying to restrict access to America by these desperate people, the Syrians, then you are probably already dead.
We’ve never been very welcoming for refugees. These pie charts do not go back in history to the shiploads of Jews we turned away (sent BACK!) when they attempted to escape Nazi-occupied countries, nor does it reflect the thousands of Japanese-Americans that we put into American internment camps on American soil, also during WWII. We rather suck at generosity of spirit for the truly desperate if they are not White or Christian. There was one notable exception: Americans were only too happy to deal with Muslims who brought black slaves from the sub-Saharan in caravans to be sold, shipped and re-sold during legal slavery in these United States of America.
If you will spend a few moments studying the faces in the following photographs, all the faces, you will see something we rarely see in our insulated, isolated and intolerant country. You will see the face of utter fear and grief-stricken helplessness. One of these photos has made the rounds of many news media, but I found several more from the whole series that was shot by Reuters photojournalist Bernadette Szabo.
They represent a few minutes in the lives of a Syrian family who have risked it all to escape the carnage in their own country, carnage that surely would have claimed this beautiful young couple and their children. Watch as the family tries to breech razor fence between Serbia and Hungary — The determination, the hope, the promise, the despair is haunting.
Photo by Bernadette Szabo/Reuters
There were other photos in the series of the husband being taken away by the Hungarian police…he looked back at his wife and family, but I’m ending it with the photo above because I think it captures the profound sorrow of so many of the refugees who are stopped at borders. I have contacted the photographer, Bernadette Szabo on social media, to see if she knows what became of these beautiful people. I will update this piece if I find out. I hope they made it to freedom and a new life. I like to think they did.
I’m less hopeful about our politics, because capitalizing on a tragedy, leveraging it for one’s own political career, is nothing more then heartless, soulless, brainless politics. And that’s exactly what a majority of our House of Representatives voted to do. President Obama says he will veto it if it gets that far.
I think the citizens of this country, the majority of them, have braver hearts, stronger souls and bigger brains than to allow fear-mongering and political pandering to shape who we are. We are the United States of America. For a great many people, our families originally came from “over there”!
So, in the true spirit of our American right (and duty) to protest, one can only hope to put the euphemistic smelly feet of the unconscionable, self-protective, insufferably ignorant cowards to the metaphoric fire. To that end, here’s a list of the Democrats, with convenient Twitter and Facebook links, who voted FOR HR4038. Thanks to HuffPo for this. And here’s the full list of Representatives who voted For (or Against) the bill. Look at the list of US house of Representatives, Republican and Democrat, who voted to double down on restricting Syrian and Iraqi refugees access to our shores. These are the people you pay to govern. You pay them $174,000 to $194,000 PLUS more benefits than anyone can imagine to speak for you.
Do they they speak for you?
Oh, and the Jews who got sent back to Europe during WWII?
The ship did not return to Germany because Jewish organizations negotiated with four European nations to accept the passengers. Great Britain took 288, but the other 620 were taken by France, Belgium and the Netherlands — countries that would fall to the Nazis when Germany invaded Western Europe the following year. Of those, just 87 were able to emigrate before the invasion. Of the rest, 254 were lost in the Holocaust, and 278 survived. (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)
(T.T. Thomas is the author of five historical romance and adventure novels and numerous short stories. Her author page on Amazon is here,and her other long-form blog is here. This is her first article on Medium.)