SEABROOK SAYS: Maybe you have been attempting to form your conclusions on this subject. It is very difficult. Now, it would seem to be an imperative that you give study to Mark Epstein’s comments. Do more than “think” them – write them. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
My family were once refugees, some of them long ago, some of them just a few generations past; true of most all reading this post. They were once immigrants to the United States, most of them legal, some probably not; many were children when they made a journey unfathomable to most of us today (my grandfather came from Poland at age 17, with only his sister, 14). Some just wanted to improve their lot, others were fleeing for their lives. Of my family, their immigration to the United States was once prohibited because they were perceived as a grave threat to American sovereignty and its way of life (1924 Immigration Act; in the 1930’s under pressure from the America First movement). Elsewhere they were once forced to register as a member of a religious minority. They were blamed by their country’s leadership as the source of its problems, a fearful but false narrative that was nevertheless embraced by its citizens. Laws were passed restricting their liberties; they became a focus for law enforcement. Their houses of worship were defaced; some were attacked. Some were rounded up, taken from their homes, and deported. Some were sent to internment camps, or locked into certain neighborhoods of towns and cities. Some died there. Isaac, his wife Chaya, and their 4 children Herschel, Yeshianu, Kraysal, and young Miriam were gassed at Treblinka on a cold November morning, 1942. My mom’s great-aunt/uncle, and her cousins. May their memory be a blessing.
Sympathy not sought; they were victimized yet no victim mentality here. But: in an era when one would think the lesson of history has been learned, nevertheless a religious registry, surveilling “certain” neighborhoods, “national stop-and-frisk,” a Deportation Force, and internment camps are being brought to the national dialogue by serious-minded and influential people with the ability to influence if not create actual policy. The first step, an immigration ban focusing on religious affiliation, has already been undertaken. In the public domain, mere mention and discussion of these things makes it tempting to consider them passably normal and worth considering – when in actuality such talk – much less actual policy – is a corrosive national poison that violates the most inviolable of American values. That no one predicts it ends in industrialized murder here, doesn’t mean that where it starts is not insidious and destructive to who we are, and what this country is, what makes this country great, what Has. Always. Made. America. Great.
Arguments that such steps may be necessary in the name of national security and public safety should make the American hairs stand up on the back of our American necks, and send a collective shiver down our American spines. To consider these things is not just to be afraid, but to be governed by fear, when famously it is fear itself that is most dangerous of all. When any act of government, any act at all, can be justified in the name of security and safety, “to save even one life,” history is clear about the outcome, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t the United States, and in the extreme there is a word for it: Police State. History should make us know better than to even consider this path. But by God if we have not stepped on it.
My faith tradition is not only very clear about how to consider those amongst us who are different (not only to love them, but to accept them as a native, to share my lot with them, to not wrong them, nor oppress them, nor detest them), it is also clear about WHY…even if in history they may have once wronged me. It is because I myself have been seen as different; my family was once oppressed and considered the stranger, not native, and detested (and still is by some, sad to say). Ex 22:21, Lev 19:34, Deut 23:7, Ez 47:22-23, many more.
Thus should a religious registry come to the United States, register me first, as Jew or Muslim, I’ll take either one. If there are internment camps, find me there as my family once was. Deportation Force? I will aid DACA or Muslim children, just as courageous Righteous Gentiles (Christian and Muslim), at their far greater peril, once aided children in my family.
It is clear the 2016 election was about much more than these issues, but these issues are nevertheless a consequence of the election. Agree or disagree as we might on many things, as Americans, and people of faith, it is required of us to be vigilant against the corrosive forces of fear that can inadvertently, but without diligence invariably, decay moral and legal violations of our Constitution and our Scripture and the values both encode.
Mark E. Epstein