Stephen Colbert is a hoot. Except when he’s not. Sometimes he’s so spot-on, his words are a knife of clarity slicing through a sludge of ignorance, misinformation and inflammatory partisanship
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” ~ Stephen Colbert
Although I admire Colbert’s quote, it’s not accurate. We were not, are not, and may we never be, a Christian nation. “Christian nation” is a meme crafted by the Radical Christian lobby, not the Founding Fathers. Our Pledge of Allegiance never said “under God.” That was tacked on in 1954 as a slap against Communism.
Don’t argue with me until you’ve looked it up.
Separation of church and state is paramount to our democracy. If you don’t understand this, dial back to 16th-Century England, when Henry VIII declared himself head of church and state — King and leader of the newly formed Church of England. And oh, the fun and folderol that followed. This was what set the eventual Puritan exodus to America in motion. It’s why Revolutionary War soldiers spilled their own blood and gave their own lives: to wrench us free from British rule. For separation of church and state, and freedom from monarchy. People DIED for that! And nowadays Americans drool all over the Royal Family’s every twitch and quiver! I’d sooner pick my nose than coo and drool over the Queen for a moment.
Yeah, I can say that now, and still keep my head. That’s why democracy matters. It’s why people set out for the “New World.” And, they were greeted with more spot-on words:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Penned by American poet Emma Lazarus, this stanza emblazoned on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty captures the desperation and hope of millions of immigrants flooding to the United States via Ellis Island in the late 1800s. My grandparents were amongst them. They were welcomed in. Allowed to settle in New York and pursue the American Dream.
There were no crowds gathered on the Ellis Island dock, waving American flags and shouting “Send them back!” They were greeted by Lady Liberty’s beacon. But my grandparents had the European stamp of approval. These brown-skinned folks from south of the border? Not so much. If those illegal immigrants streaming into the U.S. from Central America were nice, white Canadians rather than poor, brown Guatemalans, we’d scoop them up and give them a hand while we find a solution. And we wouldn’t call them “illegal immigrants.” We’d call them “refugees.”
To be fair, in the late 1800s, Europeans streamed into the U.S. legally. They signed all the papers and jumped through all the hoops. There are other notable differences. These Central American “illegal immigrants” aren’t looking for factory jobs (those are in China and that walk’s a lot longer) or pursuing the American Dream. They’re mostly children and young mothers with babes in arm, literally running (or walking, as it were) for their lives. What’s going on in Central America that’s so horrific that parents are suddenly sending their children off on foot alone? I guaran-dang-tee ya that none of us have walked hundreds of dusty, dangerous miles in those shoes.
We need to identify the source of the problem. These kids are refugees Not our familiar classic illegal immigrants. They’re not crossing the border to get jobs picking tomatoes to send money back home to their families back in Mexico. As for those illegal immigrants, we’re creating our own problem. We tell them, “Wait a few years and we’ll get back to you.” Except, they’re tired, poor and huddled now. There’s no easy path for entering the U.S. legally. There’s no Ellis Island for Hispanics.
Yeah, I said it. Somebody had to. We don’t want “them” here, except to quietly pick our crops, wash our cars and clean our hotel rooms, and stay out of site and mind, while we get all sorts of goodies for cheap. We can ignore them just fine. But not all those scared, tired, dirty kids, with their dusty brown skin and matted hair — what good are they? We’re screaming and shouting at them, and demanding they be sent back.
Because that’s what Jesus would do. With a high-five from Lady Liberty.
But, we’re not a Christian nation, are we. If Stephen Colbert didn’t clear that up, those flag-wavers in Murrieta, California certainly did. All they know about democracy and American history is “USA! USA! USA!” Their Lady Liberty has set down her beacon, and holds her palm out: Stop!
It’s so much easier to hate than problem-solve, isn’t it.
Not for me.
I say we bus all those kids to Washington D.C. and set up a refugee camp on the White House lawn and put cots in the halls of Congress. Confront politicians with the consequence of putting their own reelection campaigns ahead of our illegal immigration problem, as well as the wisdom of spending trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than helping countries in our own backyard become self-sufficient (and therefore making illegal entry into the U.S. less attractive) for relative pennies. How about enticing our corporations to build factories south of the border rather than beautiful downtown Hong Kong? Heck, maybe some unemployed Americans might cross the border in the other direction to get jobs.
And in the meantime? Feed those kids. Keep them safe and warm. It’s what Jesus would do. Or anyone with a heart.