I was seven or eight years old, fleeing, on foot, from civil war. The best elementary school my parents could afford was in the middle between Christian and Sunni factions in the Lebanese civil war. I was starving, it was before first recess, and my mom came to pick us up when the bombs started dropping around us. We passed by an emergency room’s entrance, where people were in pieces on stretchers. I remember these scenes, more than thirty years later, because I was eating an egg sandwich, which could have cost me my life. A bomb fell close to us, my mother screamed at me to run, and I started sprinting, not caring about the sandwich and nothing else at that point. There were many more of these moments, unfortunately, in my childhood. I did not know true security until I came to the United States.
Children in Syria, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela and many other countries are still living with these moments daily. The United States has simply turned its back on them. Lady Liberty has worn a burqa that shields her eyes from the plight of these children, maybe because of their skin color, or maybe because we no longer want to be the land of liberty. We have simply lost our humanity.
Maybe I am oversimplifying the problem. Our appetite to be the land of the free has vanished. Some of us may no longer look at a crying child clinched by his mother’s arms walking for miles into safety, or riding in a caravan, to reach what she has thought to be the last glimmer of safety in the United States, as non-human, unworthy of our compassion. Maybe we no longer think that these people deserve to be amongst us, weaving into the American tapestry. Maybe we no longer believe that they are protected by our laws.
In a recent ill-advised, on my part, radio interview, another guest, and the host started advancing the argument that people who are here “illegally” lack protection under our constitution. I argued that I make a living convincing government employees of the contrary, that as long as they live in the United States, they are protected, unfortunately, to no avail. I had to cut the interview shortly after because I simply could no longer take it.
I still hold the hope that he is in the minority; however, these voices are starting to overpower other voices in our government. We have moved away from the days where compassion led to the approval of someone’s permanent residence card because he is the father or mother of a United States citizen. We have taken compassion out of compassionate. We detain for the silliest of reasons and deport for sillier rhetoric.
Having grown in a country where “us” vs. “them” is prevalent, where us always trumps the “we”, I see a very troubling trend in the United States, my home. I am hoping that we are far from the days when one calls for the blood of “others”, people who do not look like “us”, speak like “us”, nor eat the food that “us” eats. I can not imagine that some of the scenes in The Siege could become reality, where people of a certain race are hauled into camps because of our fear of the “others”. Unfortunately, we are sprinting into that abyss if our leaders do not stop it.
I refuse to believe that we lost our humanity.
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