“Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They’re allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they’re robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”
— Anne Frank
I know immigration is a difficult thing to tackle. I get that we need laws to regulate and control immigration. My brother-in-law has to go through an expensive and complicated process to keep his green card. But I also see the fear in the eyes of people fleeing violence in their countries; I hear the desperation in their voices as they describe the dangers they and their families were facing, and their desire for a better future.
The footage of this past week’s ICE raids in Mississippi, the kids left sobbing at schools, not knowing where their parents were or who, if anyone, would be there to take care of them—those scenes broke my heart. I have to admit, I was heartened and touched to see their neighbors step in to try and comfort those children and try to help make a horrible situation a little better.
There’s legal, and then there’s right. Those are not always the same thing. Slavery was once legal. Interracial marriage was once illegal. Segregation was once legal. There’s a clear discrepancy between what’s right and what’s legal. And the concept of “legal” changes over time.
In a time when ICE and CBP staff are being overwhelmed with the people trying to get into the U.S. at the southern border, was this really an appropriate time to pull staff to perform a massive raid, rounding up people who, though they may have been here illegally, are otherwise hard-working, contributing to their communities, raising families, trying hard to make a better life for themselves? Especially given the added trauma of the mass shootings last weekend that targeted the Latino community. There was a element of cruelty to this raid that cannot be ignored.
I am at a loss to understand how any of us descended from immigrants—and that’s most of us—can condone these actions.
My father’s family immigrated from Germany just two generations earlier. Many European immigrants who settled in the plains chose towns that were populated by others from the same country. My dad’s entire small town in North Dakota was German. He didn’t speak English regularly until he was in high school (we’re talking the 30s and 40s here). The priest was German; my dad’s classmates were German. Everyone spoke the same language. There were tons of towns like his scattered across the Great Plains: Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Russians. They all clung together, hanging on to their language, their culture. Eventually, they assimilated, but it took a few generations.
But this isn’t really about immigration, is it? It’s about hatred—hatred of people of color, poor people, people who don’t speak English and aren’t of European descent. That’s what this is really about.
Holocaust survivors warned us in 2016 that the rhetoric they were hearing from the republikkkan campaign was eerily familiar, and the similarities have only grown. Earlier this week, when I first saw the quote at the beginning of this blog, I thought it was pulled from a current news story. When I saw that it was written by Anne Frank, it hit me like a punch in the gut.
I’ve been writing since November of 2016 that we have to keep fighting, feeding the right wolf.
I have tried to remember that some fights take time, that we can be like drops of water inexorably wearing away at the stone that anchors us, trying to crush us.
A few weeks ago, in a Facebook conversation with a friend who was feeling emotionally drained and exhausted, I likened where we are now to a choir. When a choir needs to hold a sustained note, they take turns breathing, spelling each other, resting their voices for a moment, and then coming back in. But the whole sound is sustained, uninterrupted, unwavering.
That is us now. We are tired. We are emotionally wrung out. But we have to hold each other up. Take rests when needed, and then come back, stronger than before. Together, we can take back our country. We can bring back a sense of rightness to our government.
We cannot accept what’s happening without a fight. Rest when you need to. Breathe. Hold someone you love. But come back. We need you as we head into 2020 and the upcoming election.
Terrible things are happening, but we will, we must stop them.