“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Protestant Pastor and survivor of Nazi concentration camps in WWII
My wonderful writing partner reached out to me early this week. She heard the story of a man who was being deported. She was extremely upset by the story. I did my best to console her and remind her that the democracy of our country isn’t promised. Democracy is something we have to work at. Over the last year and half, she has reached out to me a few times. She sees a troubling world that seems to be narrowing its sights on her. As a Latina woman, what ifs cloud her mind when stories like the mans’ come her way. She understands the reality of the quote listed above and is working hard to never be complicit in systems of hate and oppression. Our conversation sent me on a mission for more information.
Someone I care about deeply was feeling scared and worried and hopeless. I wanted to understand better what was so upsetting. I am not a Latina and wanted to try to better understand why this strangers’ story so effected my close friend.
I did a long deep dive into many articles and went down a few rabbits holes. One of my efforts to be a better citizen has been to be more diligent about questioning where information comes from. So I try not to take things at face value and ask a few questions before I read something. Who is this author? What authority do they have to be sharing information with me? To help you as you may ask these questions, I have included links to all the articles I read below. To be fully transparent, I did not read the full Disappeared reports. The information was becoming painful.
After reading and searching through a random assortment of articles, videos and reports all I could see was gray. Immigration it seems, like many issues, is nuanced and complicated.
I think our issues as a country with immigration and migration speak to the heart of our current identity crisis. We want to be a country of immigrants and prosperity, but it would be better if all of those immigrants looked and acted just like us.
As I was reading the various accounts of people trying both legally and illegally to enter this country I kept thinking about a play I saw. It’s called “The Art of Bad Men” by Vincent Delaney. The play focuses on a time when German POW’s lived in the mid-west and helped local farmers. After the play, I was lucky enough to go to a Salon talk-back style event. One of the historians at the event talked about the motivations for treating the POW’s so well. He shared that this practice of taking care of the POW’s was done because that is who we wanted to be as a country.
His words kept ringing in my ears as I was reading today. We wanted to be a country who took care of people. Who shared our democracy freely. Who hoped that by doing this, these POW’s might be changed somehow. This was happening at the same time that we as a country were interning Japanese-American citizens.
Who are we going to be as a country? I wonder and after spending an afternoon on my day off diving into one of the hot button issues facing us, I truly don’t know. I don’t know that we can continue to spout the myths of Ellis Island while building an ineffectual wall with one of our friendly trade partners. I don’t know that we can continue to be a place where we treat POW’s better than we do citizens. I also don’t know that we can continue to live comfortably. I don’t know that we can continue to focus only on our localized problems, ignoring our national community.
“An injury to one is an injury to all”
I love this chant. As an extremely empathetic person it encapsulates how I see the world. Why I don’t understand how people can dismiss human life so easily. Why I spent my day off researching to try to better understand the pain of someone I love.
I don’t know that I will ever fully understand the fear of deportation. Or comprehend the everyday stress that comes from worrying about being rounded up and detained. I do think I understand just a little why my friend was so upset. I think she wants to believe in a country that cares for her, even when all the evidence doesn’t support this. When a story like the story of Jorge Garcia comes her way it’s a reminder. As much as she may want it, we are not fixed. We are broken. It is really only our brokenness that we can agree on, but maybe that’s a start.