The world is mourning at what we, as a country, have become. A country without a conscience, devoid of kindness. A country whose crimes, for they can’t simply be called policies, a country who takes the most vulnerable, those trying, on foot, to seek sanctuary here. Those with the clothes on their backs, trying desperately to find safety.
And instead ICE is taking children from their parents, and leaving them in Walmarts, with tent cities planned to house thousands of them. Presumably because of a zero tolerance policy on immigration, but really about racism and walls and the profits of private prisons.
It’s a world so unimaginably bad right now that our instinct is to go numb, to avert our eyes, to think it can’t possibly be as bad as the pictures in our heads. But it is worse.
Will we remain the country who denies those fleeing abuse a safe place? Will we choose to close our eyes while camps housing young children are built in the desert, knowing that not all will survive? Will we be the people sitting comfortably in our homes while people are literally dying for no more than aiming for what we offer, a place of respite?
This week, the Poor People’s Campaign, a notion that began with the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and the core of which is now carried forward by Rev. Dr. William Barber and many others, that Campaign shifted into high gear. Across the country, thousands protested, day after day. Hundreds were arrested, many more than once, as actions stopped traffic, blocked access to public buildings, and demanded the re-institution of just policies.
And while that might sound disconnected from immigrant children being taken from their families, it’s not. The Poor Peoples Campaign recognizes a simple fact – that this country has long valued white people, and those with means, over all others. We find people with brown and black complexions, people hungry and desperate, people scared and vulnerable, somehow we find those individuals to be disposable.
Because as much as what’s going on in our country is terrifying, it’s not new. It’s amped up and far worse, but at the core the racial and economic injustice has been the unspoken policy of this land since its inception.
We have jailed and deported and found ways large and small to separate those individuals of color – and I hate that term but have no better one – since the moment the British landed at Plymouth and started slaughtering indigenous cultures.
We have been putting young black men in prison for years. If that’s not ripping children from their families, then what is. Yes, what is happening now is an unmistakable crisis, but it is not new.
In case it isn’t clear by now, let me be direct. I want you angry and motivated. I want you marching in the streets, calling your representatives, and demanding change.
With enough action, we can stop – I trust – the horrors of right now. I believe that we can draw the line here and say, no, not this, this we won’t stand for.
And when that has been won, I want us to look around and say, “what next?” What is it that are called to do, where am I as a human and a person of conscience called to act?
In my lifetime and perhaps in years, never has the world needed changing more. Take this living faith of ours out into the world. Not words on a page or oft-quoted scripture. Not beliefs in salvation or damnation. Instead take with you the call of our shared faith to build the world we dream of. Nothing less will do.
May our hearts and spirits be ready for the work ahead.
– David Helfer, TWP