“[Don’t] Give Me Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free”
Under the Obama administration, I enjoyed arguing about politics with people who had disagreements with me. Most of my friends are conservative, and we would go back and forth for hours about issues like the Affordable Care Act, or the EPA, or welfare programs. Arguments about politics were fun, because at the end of the day I had faith that the government was acting in a principled and moral way.
The past few days have provided me with a painful dose of reality.
On Friday, President Trump barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for at least the next 90 days by executive order, which a senior White House official said later Friday is likely just a first step toward establishing a broader ban.
All of a sudden, arguing about politics wasn’t fun. Instead of talking about policy, we’re talking about people. 134 million people, many of whom live in war-torn areas. Millions of families, women, and children. The reaction by some of my closest friends shocked me. Many of the same people who proclaim themselves to be pro-life and hold conservative, Christian values didn’t care at all about these people. They only cared about their own perverse perception of reality: one in which you have to choose between protecting yourself and helping people who don’t look like you.
Many of these people wrote impassioned Facebook posts about how the people who participated in the Women’s March on Washington were heartless because they were ignoring the plight of women worldwide. Yet, as soon as Donald Trump signed this executive order, they were willing to turn their back on 134 million people, many of them women.
In third grade, my class studied the Holocaust, and the atrocities which took place under the Nazi regime in World War II. Every year afterwards, we studied it in some form, and every year my classmates were shocked. We learned about the United States turning away thousands of Jewish refugees who could have been saved because we were scared that they could be spies.
Do you remember this photograph? It’s a picture which depicts a young child who died trying to flee a warzone, and sent shock waves around the globe in 2015. There are millions of other refugees like this child, who are escaping from violence which is unimaginable to most of us in America.
Just as my classmates were angered and outraged by our inaction during the Holocaust, my Facebook friends were angered by the photograph that appeared on their timelines. And yet, most all of these people are fervent Donald Trump supporters, taking to social media to defend his actions to ban refugees from “terror-prone” nations. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.
I woke up this morning to news stories about refugees being detained at airports all across the country. Mothers and fathers who went through a brutal two year process and were vetted by over 20 international agencies thought that their families were finally safe, only to be turned away once they landed inside the United States. Can you even imagine that?
Did you know that the first two refugees which were turned away were Iraqi citizens who helped our soldiers during the Iraq war? They were being persecuted in Iraq because they were viewed as traitors, so we brought them to the United States to protect them and repay them for their service to our nation. They’re now on a flight back home. An MIT student who went home for the holidays is now stuck in her country, and will likely be unable to return to school. The stories go on and on.
I don’t believe that those who align themselves with Donald Trump are evil people. On the contrary, I think that they are good people trying to do the right thing: protect American citizens from terrorist attacks. But the reality is that not a single attack has ever been perpetrated on American soil by a refugee. The fake news and the fear which has been shoved down their throats by politicians motivates them to be afraid of those who are different, even though that isn’t backed up by anything rooted in reality.
Someday, I hope to live in a world where people try to see their own hypocrisy, rather than angrily lashing out at anyone who questions their views. Someday, I hope to live in a world where borders are seen as lines on a map and tools to make governing easier, not a divider which should determine who lives and who dies. And someday, I hope to live in a world where we apply Christian values to not just our neighbor down the block, but our neighbors around the world.