When we enable our leaders to dehumanize any person or group, we lose our humanity.
John Donne wrote,
...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.(1)
When our leaders dehumanize a class of people, we allow waves of hatred, like the incoming tide on the beach, to wash away the sandy ramparts that protect our fragile humanity.
As grandparents, we weep to hear the cries of children torn from their parents' arms.
As people living with disability, we know the pain of disrespect and bullying on a daily basis.
How can an immigrant infest America? They are human beings, not vermin; “infest” is a term used to describe vermin and thus dehumanize a population and has been a precursor to murder and genocide.
How can a refugee from war, natural disaster, someone fleeing from rape, gang war, or chaos be a threat to America? Are not most of us immigrants or the descendants of refugees and immigrants?
The threat to America lies in our acceptance of brutality and the denial of humanity, the attack on the human rights of any person or group.
It is said that a nation gets the government that it deserves.
We, the people, are the sole source of legitimate power. We, the people, must not permit the fundamental values of our country to be eroded.
We, the elderly, the grandparents, and we who live with disability know too well the pain and suffering caused by the refusal to see and respect each of us as fully human.
We know what bullying and mobbing are: to harass by demeaning, disrespecting, and targeting others, and seeking to get rid of and exclude them.
Writ large, such actions become ethnic cleansing and the holocaust.
The alarm bells ring loudly when my President tweets,
... They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country...(2) [emphasis added]
One of the most notorious anti-Semitic films produced by Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda was “Der ewige Jude” (“The Eternal Jew”), with input from propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says that “One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.” (3)
America sometimes wears the mask of evil, seeking to destroy the original Native American inhabitants, enslaving black people, interning Japanese Americans, and even today segregating black people, poor people, immigrants, treating Muslims and other minorities as threats, and now imprisoning men, women, and children seeking asylum. We have done this many times in our history. (4)
We have another face, that of the lady holding aloft a torch to guide refugees and immigrants to a safe harbor.
Each of us is responsible for the acts of our government and our elected officials.
We will not stand idly by while the country continues on a course that will diminish the lives of our children and grandchildren. We will not stand idly by while families seeking asylum are cruelly put into chains and torn apart, or held in camps.
The Atlantic newsletter (June 20, 2018) reports that
President Trump signed a new executive order on immigration that, while preserving the “zero tolerance” policy that has resulted in the separation of hundreds of families who entered the United States illegally, calls for parents to be detained together with their children. What exactly the order will change is not yet clear.
Although the President has reluctantly been forced by a public and political outcry to finally eliminate the separation of children from parents, the new policy seems to be the creation of concentration camps, as if every refugee who applies for asylum or seeks entry were a dangerous criminal.
And the tone of hatred, fear, division, and disrespect continues.
The bell tolls now for each of us and for America. What shall we do?
(1) John Dunne, NUNC LENTO SONITU DICUNT, MORIERIS. Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.
(2) Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
(3) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Der ewige Jude, https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10008228
(4) RUSSELL CONTRERAS, AP Explains: US has split up families throughout its history. https://apnews.com/375da2b8b1554418a8edad1dd383d707
Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 9066 led to the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent---including approximately 80,000 American citizens---during World War II. Internment photos
War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement. The photos by Dorothea Lange of the evacuation and resettlement into what can only be called a concentration camp show that the evacuees were citizens who were farm workers, prosperous dentists, farmers, shopowners, and professionals, as well as men serving in the military.
Received after posting the article above:
June 20, 2018
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
We write to you as a united and bipartisan group of Massachusetts State Senators, to denounce the immoral policy of separating children from their parents when they seek asylum at the United States border with Mexico. We believe this policy is toxic to our reputation as a country and, most importantly, damaging to the families it impacts. This policy has already separated over 2,300 children from their families; the federal government has an affirmative duty to reunite every family that was separated by this policy.
Further, rising public knowledge of this new un-American practice by your administration has created outrage and deep sorrow across our country. In a time when politics regarding immigration policy has become more divisive than ever, response to these actions has united Republicans, Democrats, independents, family advocates, and business groups – all calling for the common sense practice to keep families united.
In recent days we have watched closely as Secretary Nielsen, Attorney General Sessions, and others in your administration have sought to explain and give context for this reprehensible practice. It is clear based on these contradictory explanations that this policy, at best, is ill-advised and is being poorly implemented. As was written in a New Yorker headline this week, “The U.S. Has No Plan for the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing Apart”.
The significant challenges facing our nation when “unaccompanied minors” arrive at the United States border and are detained are not new. In Massachusetts, we gained firsthand experience with some of these issues in 2014 when the Commonwealth (and other states across the nation) offered to temporarily house such minor children in secure facilities in our state while they were processed by federal immigration officials. This became necessary because of the significant increase in “unaccompanied minors” crossing the border with Mexico without their parents or other adults, leading to overfilling in federal holding facilities in border states.
In this case though, this policy is creating a significant and costly humanitarian crisis for thousands of children by your administration’s own choosing. The policy – established by your administration – to separate children from the custody of their parents created this crisis.
As we understand it, this current crisis stems from a policy decision that Attorney General Sessions made in recent months to begin a “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting every adult illegally crossing the border into the United States. In such cases in recent months, children have not been allowed to be held with their parents who have been arrested and charged with a federal crime, creating this current nightmare. This change in practice and policy was forecasted by your administration, including by your current Chief of Staff on March 6, 2017 when he told CNN he was considering implementing (then as Secretary of DHS) such a practice to deter illegal border crossings.
It has been reported that nearly seventy separations of children from their parents are occurring per day, an unacceptable and frightening statistic. Clearly, this new practice has created chaos and needed to be revoked immediately. Every day that this policy was in place, we created another generation of children who will face severe challenges in the future.
We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have bipartisan consensus that rejects this policy. Governor Charlie Baker has referred to this policy as “inhumane treatment of children” and senior Senator Elizabeth Warren has labeled it an “outrage visited on the American people”. Among the many other voices that have spoken out across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in recent days. They remind us that when the United States has turned our back on children in peril, it has remained a stain on our nation’s promise and spirit.
We ask you to take swift and decisive action to reunite every family that was separated by this inhumane and un-American policy. Please support pending legislation that would ameliorate the current circumstance through Congressional action to make sure this never happens again. We urge you to take action on this pressing matter as soon as possible.
The Massachusetts State Senate