Over the past few weeks, a number of stories surfaced (and continues to surface) about the treatment of migrant children (as well as adults) in the United States.
In reading these stories, reflecting on the images, and processing how we, as a country, are responding, you can almost see the tears falling out of Lady Liberty’s once hopeful eyes.
While there has been some uproar from the nation, it has not captured an unanimous response of outrage.
Instead, we spend our energy debating terms and pointing fingers. We receive short-sighted justifications and the repulsive repetition of political jargon from those entrusted with power for our nation.
And this is exactly what they want, they being those in power.
We have played this tape before. It is the way-too-familiar “game” that relies on distraction, keeping us from hearing the the cries of the poor.
Yes, it is in full gear under this administration, but true to most political leaders as they move forward their agenda to appease their base to secure another term in power. They distract us with fear, playing on the varying emotions of anger and confusion.
This works, because we, as a society, find comfort in the distractions. We binge watch shows to distract ourselves from our own challenges. We pay athletes and movie stars billions of dollars to “entertain” us for a few hours. We work long hours, indulge ourselves with comforts, and we seek external comfort to distract us from the inner work that would lead us to our true self.
When we see the images of children in inhumane situations on our soil (not to exclude the countless human beings suffering across the world), we are called to examine these distractions more closely. Instead of facing this scenario head on, exploring the reasons why these refugees are seeking asylum, while also exploring our immigration policy, we are intentionally distracted. It is easier this way, isn’t it.
It is also very complicated as these distractions speak to another injustice or emotion. Politicians’ pin these injustices against one another, leaving those on the margins on the margins and those oppressed remaining oppressed.
Those in charge play injustices against one another, leaving us debating, while the poor only continue to suffer as those in power continue to flourish.
We, and these issues, are just chess pieces in their game of power, greed, and bloated egos.
For example: one of the more recent and concerning stories is around the use of the term “concentration camps,” most notably from New York City councilwoman Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez. You can read a well-documented piece about the debate of this term here.
We should not be comparing the worst of our kind, because not only does it highlight the privilege that we possess for being in a position to even “compare,” but it is disrespectful to all human dignity. Inhumanity, true to all these camps no matter what you call them, is inhumanity. They are all bred on the foundation of hate.
The narrative does raise concerns of not just the events of Auschwitz, but it also raises concerns in how Jewish people are still treated today. There is not shortage of hate and terror that lives in our world toward these people of faith and it is unacceptable.
This situation over the past week also invited us to explore the historical use of the term “concentration camps”- which as an academic exercise was just another distraction. While historians explored its use at different times in history, the bottom line is that any of these camps, from any point in history, is sinful, unacceptable, and unjust. And they are happening today, only miles away from many of us.
In exploring this use of terminology, we must also ask ourselves: if we spent the same amount of time comparing how bad camps are throughout recent human history, to seeking a humane resolution to the current conditions in our country, we would be much closer to making real change.
But this is not what those in charge want us to do; rather they want us to debate, distracting ourselves from reality and tapping into real feelings of fear, hurt, and pain to secure their re-election, all while the the suffering only continue to suffer.
We claim who is politically on “our side,” but who claims the children who lack toothbrushes, soap, and their parents embrace?
All we are doing as a nation is distracting ourselves from the cries of the poor.
The debate over terms is purely meant to distract us from the cruel and inhumane treatment toward those who are held in our country, often in unsanitary and unacceptable treatment. It plays to a larger political narrative that leads to re-elections and power for a chosen few.
Let me be clear, in regards to this debate of terms, especially to that of a “concentration camp,” the anti-Semitism narrative remains in our world and it is unacceptable. If the comparison of today’s camps with the term “concentration camp” from the Holocaust is inappropriate and hurtful to anyone, especially those in the Jewish community, it must be heard, it must stop, and those feeling must be honored.
In the same way, we must stand strongly against all terminology and language that are racist, anti-LGBTQ+, against any religious or cultural group, plus all the other negative ethnic and gender-related language that dehumanizes another.
As mentioned earlier, this is complicated. The use of terminology and the culture of hate that breeds on our land is real and it must be addressed and lead to real change. We must remain vigilant to all issues of injustice that are defining us as a people and hurting so many.
Remember, behind every news story there is another one, a deeper one, that someone in power does not want us to give attention. Pay attention!
While both sides of the political parties wish to distract us with these complicated and real, emotional issues, remember that for many, their heart is not for any of us. All they seek is re-election, bloated retirement packages, exceptional healthcare, and greater power.
They are not our voice.
We must remain faithful to the cries of the poor, both in a historical sense as well as in the present. We must stand up to issues of inhumanity, and we are smart enough and strong enough to be people of peace and people of change.
We need to stop being the chess pieces that today’s leaders manipulate for their political game.
We can start to address this by paying attention to how we feel when we read a story that stops us in our tracks, and ask why. Recognize the emotion that surfaces, and spend time in contemplation to honor your feelings. Once you do this, then you can begin to consider how those in charge are tapping into this, not to lead to any real change, but to seek their own personal gain.
Together, let us rise above the jargon, the confusion, and the fear to lead a revolution of love for all.
Let this be what the historians say of us when they examine this time in our human story.
Let the Spirit move through you to not be another cheering voice in the rally or behind your “liking” and “sharing” social media posts, but to be an agent of change for the most vulnerable in our midst.