And the Hate Goes On …

enhanced-buzz-wide-28244-1347483313-2It’s hard to be quiet after you turn on the news and listen to some of the surreal reactions to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Lebanon. For starters, members of the very same political party that once used the word treason to describe any one who disagreed with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq,  on the grounds that they were criticizing U.S. foreign policy at a crucial time, have now doubled down on criticizing the current president to the point of making his job unduly difficult. And they are doing this primarily to advance their own political careers. Hypocrisy only begins to describe the situation.

But what they are saying is even more disturbing.

Governors of some 30 states have now said they will not accept new refugees. Tennessee House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada believes the time has come for the National Guard to round up any Syrian refugees who have recently settled in his state and to stop any additional ones from entering. His words: We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers cited the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to his city in Virginia and requested that all Roanoke Valley agencies stop Syrian refugee assistance. His words: I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.

Let’s take a breath and look at the facts.

growing bolder 5Syrian and Iraqi refugees are already the most heavily vetted category of people to enter the U.S. Their screening already includes background checks by the FBI and DHS, and seven other federal agencies. Furthermore, the U.S. has taken in only about 2,200 Syrian refugees out of the more than 4 million fleeing the war-torn nation. In the Middle East, America’s ally Turkey has done three orders of magnitude better, taking in more than 2 million of its neighbors. Tiny Lebanon is trying to absorb more than 1 million Syrians, and Jordan has more than 650,000. And by the way, only 30 of those Syrian refugees settled in the nervous state of Tennessee.

President Obama has called for us to take in at least 10,000 more refugees over the next fiscal year, compared to Germany’s 800,000, and brave France’s commitment to accept another 30,000 even after the attacks. An embarrassingly wide array of our politicians are throwing public tantrums about allowing even this small amount of highly vetted and desperate people to come into our allegedly welcoming and compassionate country.

Do the American’s saying these things listen to themselves? Do they not realize that they sound like the villains in a barely believable movie?

My novel z2 contains a lot of information about the history of immigration law in the United States but no one story moved me as much as this:

In 1939, the United States denied entry to twenty-thousand Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany, even though families had already been found here to care for each and every child. The reason for denying these children asylum? Admitting them would have forced us to exceed our set total quota for immigrants for that year, and the rationale in Congress, where the granting of the exception was refused, was that we couldn’t just go around bending the rules every time it was convenient.

walk talk 1Let’s stop this nonsense now. History does not have to repeat itself.

Apparently political philosopher Edmund Burke never actually said the words “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” although he expressed the sentiment in lengthier quotes. If you prefer a pithy summary of a call to action, listen to Plato. His words: The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Or Albert Einstein. His words: The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

You and I need to speak up. Use social media like #stophatespeech and let your voice be heard. We are capable of being the good guys. Let’s start to act like it.

(For more on this subject see “I Live Here” on my “Face Painting for World Peace” blog.)

Good luck charms and dancing Indians

sunsetI’m not a very good tourist in the sense that taking city tours and visiting museums and churches falls low on my priorities. Last week I got to visit New Mexico. I enjoyed amazing sunsets and wonderful food and time with friends and bought a little local Navaho jewelry and I was ready to go home. None-the-less, there I was at the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art.

Okay, it is a wonderful museum in a beautiful city. While my husband wandered off in search of the history that fascinates him, I looked for something that would interest me. Ah. The marquee pointed to an exhibit on good luck charms from around the world. That had promise.

charmsI spent a little time inspecting carved figures from Brazil and Russia and Ethiopia and India before I began to notice what was the whole point of the exhibit. Humans, of every continent, race, and religion, hope for good fortune. They want to live long and healthy lives, safe from danger. They will ask their gods and beg the fates to protect their children. They want love.

I stared long and hard at the charms from Syria, and those from Iran and Pakistan as well. It is so easy once the drums of war begin to forget the humans who wear these charms. If only we could watch as they pressed them into the hands of their sons and daughters, knowing the silliness and futility of a tiny amulet and yet hoping against all odds that it might somehow tip the balance in a cruel and unpredictable world.

My husband finds me photographing the exhibit. He raises an eyebrow, but lets me be when I explain “blog post”. We wander outside as we hear music.

The adjoining Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is offering a live program and we sit down to watch. We enjoy the native American drummers, and we are delighted when they are followed by three young dancers who do their families proud as they perform a traditional dance involving corn.

dancersNo one in the crowd finds the three children and their dance anything but adorable. That is wonderful. My mind wanders back in time to when native American children would not have evoked such a response from a crowd of largely European descent. Is it a good thing that not only does our animosity fade over time, but our memory of it mostly does as well?

Of course it is. Centuries of hate that neither side can let go of yield the worst of circumstances for all parties. No matter how horrible past atrocities are, or how unfair historical outcomes were, continued hatred is never a better a situation for any of those moving into a more fair and peaceful future.

I think of the good luck charms from Syria. The one piece that we do, desperately, need to remember, I think, is that the fears and angers of today will pass as well. At least they will if we are lucky. Perhaps we can behave with more compassion and understanding  if we remember that cultures that are all too easy to vilify now as we steel ourselves for a fight will once again seem interesting and benign another day. It is our good fortune that things change.

We need to remember the people, all of the people, holding on to their amulets wishing for good luck.