What’s goin’ on?–thank you, Marvin Gaye

I was chatting with a buddy of mine about the events unfolding before our eyes on television. I have to kind of sheepishly admit that, as much as I detest television, I am glad to be back in America to see the nightly news and keep abreast of what’s happening in the world. I read seven newspapers a day online, but nothing can really replace live reporting.

Having said that, I do get sick of the talking heads shouting over each other to get their views across while an ersatz “journalist” tries to ask intelligent questions. There’s give and take on everything, I guess.

Between ISIS and the refugee crisis, the world seems out of control. More than a million refugees from Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and Syria have migrated to wealthy Europe, a place they consider to be their salvation. They hope that, in Europe, they can live peacefully and create lives for themselves and their children away from genocide, religious intolerance, slavery, a whole host of sub-human conditions that no person should have to endure–especially children.

But, with ISIS releasing warnings almost daily on how it’s going to destroy us “infidels” because we dare to be free and believe differently, many people are agitating to shut the doors of freedom to those who most definitely need it. News that one of the Paris terrorists entered Europe on a fake Syrian visa via Greece only serves to fan the fire of reverse extremism.

As an American and as a believer, I’ve been watching, praying, meditating and considering the whole scenario. And, after living in Italy and traveling throughout Europe and actually seeing some of the refugee problem first hand, I’ve come to a conclusion.

Let’em come. This goes to my country, the U.S.A.

I’ve seen refugees arrive in my former home of Alba Adriatica, Italy. More and more were renting apartments in my building. They were doing everything they could to find a way to make money–hawking sunglasses, gum, cigarettes–whatever it took to survive in a new country.

I saw them camped outside the train station in Milan. They were waiting to get into Switzerland and Germany. Their meager possessions were strapped to their backs and they were sleeping in the parkland outside the station. They were seeking safety and opportunity.

I spoke to a Syrian couple in Munich. They were working at minimum wage jobs and couch-surfing as they sought permanent housing. Yet they were upbeat and friendly, even becoming emotional over a discussion of my genealogical search in Europe.

As a nation made up of immigrants, how can we slam shut our doors because of the off-chance that one out of tens of thousands might be subversive? Have we forgotten so quickly World War II and how our national conscience so quickly devolved into wretched abuse to Japanese-Americans? The father of one of my friends was one of those interred Americans who happened to be of Japanese descent.

To automatically judge an entire ethnic or religious group is to sell out to far-right extremism–our version of Islamic fundamentalism–only without the murder of others. Such attitudes against others who look, think or believe differently can easily be used against us. All it takes is someone to light the fire and keep it smoldering.

Does anyone seriously think that, because we here in America are all supposedly WASP and wave the flag and go to church and vote and eat apple pie that these same prejudicial laws can’t or won’t be perpetrated against us by someone at some point in the future? If we don’t fight such ignorance now, we open the door to such behavior occurring in the future.

But that shouldn’t be the reason we allow refugees in. We should do it because it’s the right thing to do. The refugees want a better life. A terrorist does not need to hide in amongst thousands of people crossing the Balkan plane. A terrorist can buy a ticket and come to any city in America under the radar and start his own personal jihad. Indeed, to receive refugee status in America is harder than unseating Tom Cruise as the world’s top celebrity.

There’s a reason this nation has progressed. Even though the birthing pains of progress are painful, they’re necessary and beneficial. We cannot remain with the discredited retrograde attitudes of the past. From a socio-political view, we are a beacon of hope for people all over the world. The minute we start focusing on culture, ethnicity, religion and skin color as a litmus test for citizenship is the minute we are lost.

One need only look into the not-too-distant past to see that America has discriminated against practically every ethnic group–Chinese, Italians, the above-mentioned Japanese. For some reason, because someone is different, we are up in arms. I suppose it’s human nature. Yet no one considers how different we are to them. Despite that difference, refugees are still willing to put their lives on the line to protect their families and come here.

They’re willing to come to a country with knowledge only borne of TV shows. But they are coming and bringing talents, education and a desire to work. And they want to come legally. Are we going to start erasing the words on the Statue of Liberty because some in their ethnic group might be hate-mongers?

As a believer, I have been brought down from my self-righteous cloud to remember that the very words of Jesus Christ, a man I recognize as the Messiah, directly commented on the “alien”–and I ain’t talking little green men. He speaks of taking in those who are foreigners. He talks of those who took Him in. We are to do the same.

Or are we only to help them by keeping them at arm’s length–over “there” where we can feel comfortable that we’ve done what we should by writing a check or saying a prayer? If we are true believers, shouldn’t we believe that we will be protected by following the words of the Man we follow?

This nation isn’t big enough to take in all refugees in the world, but no one is suggesting we do so. We are offering to do our share. My hat is off to Angela Merkel who has the huevos to go against popular opinion and truly reflect the Judeo-Christian ethic that so many in America, especially Evangelicals, espouse for every other social issue that suits their conscience.

Merkel is willing to put her money where her mouth is. Shouldn’t we be brave and follow in her footsteps? In America immigrants have greater opportunity afforded them. In far too many European countries, ethnic hatreds and nationalism keep people on the fringes, preventing them from becoming productive, participating members of society. Here in America, we have always embraced the attitude that everyone is welcome if they want to participate in the American Dream. But we are once again superimposing conditions.

Yes, some immigrants decide to isolate themselves, but, over time, they tend to become assimilated. We are still too quick to expect them to become Americanized immediately. Immigrants will cling together in a foreign, sometimes hostile environment. It can take several generations before they become truly assimilated. We, however, want everything to occur now in our microwave, ATM-fueled society of instant gratification.

In a political year, an unfortunate truism is the pandering by politicians of lesser intelligence to those of lesser intelligence. In order to garner media coverage or any type of support, one must behave in a somewhat subhuman manner. It sells. It also sells out.

So what’s going on? Are we going to do the easy thing and jump on the bandwagon of prejudice and knee-jerk reactions? Or are we going to actually think and continue on the true American path of freedom and opportunity? The right decisions are often the hardest.

 

 

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