It Can't Happen Here?
Our President has been consistent in expressing his beliefs that his opponents want open borders, ostensibly so drug dealers, rapists, and terrorists can enter our country and hurt decent white Americans. And, let’s face it, he’s probably right, which is why those children—future criminals all—need to be separated from their parents and caged without adequate care.
Recently, I was struck by a Pew Research Center survey that found only 25 percent of white evangelicals in the U.S. said that the our country has a responsibility to accept refugees. This seems a remarkably callous attitude by people professing to be Christians but maybe they have good reason for their lack of concern for all those brown immigrants. After all, none of us can ever be sure that some toddlers (especially ones in dirty diapers) will destroy our economy if we treat them as Jesus told us to. That whole thing about suffering the little children to come unto him (Luke 18:16) couldn’t possibly be applied to the U.S. southern border, could it?
Somehow, in their belief system, the Nazarene didn’t mean for evangelicals to take his words seriously. Imagine how challenging to their faith it would be if they let too many nonwhite kids stay with their parents until we sent them back to starve and be murdered in their own countries. And, in all fairness, what’s a bit of spiritual teaching from a carpenter’s son when one of those refugees could possibly take his job when he comes again?
As to the notion that we might have any role in the plight of those people currently seeking asylum, I would direct doubters to the actions our country took on behalf of the United Fruit Company in the early ’50s when we backed the horrendous and corrupt virtual dictators that sought to suppress any socioeconomic reforms in their countries. All we had to know was that we thought they were anti-communist for us to send money and weapons to support them. The results over more than a half-century of our policies in and toward Central American countries is what is causing the kinds of fear and misery driving the large influx of asylum seekers today. That and Mr. Trump’s racist polemics that have created so much fear and a sense of urgency among people who worry they may no longer have the option of entering the United States legally.
Words and labels comparing current politicians and their practices to Nazis are often overblown, melodramatic, and largely ineffective because they don’t seem valid in comparison to the horrors inflicted on the world by fascist regimes. But it is important to reflect on how Hitler, Mussolini, and others of their ilk began gathering power. It took time and began with a small group of dissidents stereotyping and blaming minorities for the problems of the common, “true” citizens. The people being castigated were steadily seen as enemies of the state, and those persons opposing the targeting of “Der Further” and “Il Duce” were included in the ranks of those who were enemies of the people.
It can’t happen here? Check out the mobs at a Trump rally as they follow their dear leader’s cues when he attacks his political enemies with chants like “Send her back.”
It is time for all of us to start worrying because when loyalty to a person over loyalty to the principles enumerated in our Declaration of Independence becomes widespread, our democratic republic is in jeopardy of collapsing into an autocracy. We must stand up to President Trump’s overtly racist comments about people who do not support his white supremacist rhetoric and policies—and this goes especially for those congresspersons and the people who continue to elect them as their representatives because they are Trump’s enablers—I would suggest they take time to heed the words of Martin Niemoller.
For those unfamiliar with Reverend Niemoller, he was a Lutheran minister and survivor of Nazi concentration camps. His oft cited observation about Nazi Germany is goes follows:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I think we are at a point in our history where the direction of our nation is going twill be determined by how well we Americans heed Niemoller’s cautionary words—with one contemporary addition:
“Then they came for the Central American immigrants, and I did not speak out—because I was not a person of color from south of our border…”
A majority of people in this country still self-identify themselves a Christians. And many those consider themselves to be Evangelical. But, let’s face it, there is more than a little irony in the behaviors of those who believe their Savior sacrificed his life for them yet remain unwilling to commit to the humanitarian practices he spoke of because it might cost them something economically and politically.
It seems to me that Jesus must still be weeping.