Friday, June 29, 2018

It May Get Worse Before It Gets Better

There's a lot going on in the world, isn't there? And I am constantly torn between writing and talking about those big things and trying to manage the here and now of my life. I sat here writing a list of all the household projects I've got the supplies to do (and thus should do before asking the landlord if I can rip out some carpet and paint some walls Stiffkey Blue) whilst also thinking about how the dehumanization of immigrants is very similar to the dehumanization of the Jews in Germany in 1933 and onwards. So I'm going to talk about that second one first. And maybe sometime I will regale you with tales of cans of paint and what they are meant for. I think we can all agree that the second thing is more important.

A lot of people feel it is hyperbole to say that the USA today is like Germany in 1933, as it ramped up to concentration camps in which the Nazis would systematically kill people they didn't deem good enough to spare for the purpose of doing work for them. There were many Jews who had lived in Germany their entire lives and considered themselves to be very much German, and Hitler and his ilk set out to make them the "other." They weren't "true Germans," he said, but enemies. They should be treated differently, because they were different. Lesser. And so it went, and so it continued, until there were mass graves and piles of bodies that were barely skin and bones, and we who considered ourselves the "good guys" had to be in league with armies that, after liberating those in concentration camps, marched through and systematically raped German women who'd had nothing to do with Hitler or his ilk. We know how bad it got, and it seems unfathomable, which is partly why we think it won't happen today. Aren't we better than that?

Well. Let's see.

Now we see a policy of putting immigrants in cages and tent cities (uh, camps, if you will), and of seeking out immigrants who have done no wrong and deporting them under technicalities of the law. We see a policy that will attempt to denaturalize those deemed unworthy. They are not "one of us." They are not "American." They should be treated differently, because they are different. Lesser. This is with a firm history behind us of othering people as a nation. When they say "Make America great again," just what are they talking about? When indigenous peoples were driven off their own land? Slavery? Jim Crow? America has only been consistently great for only one group of people, but no one else, and if we deny that, then there is no hope for us to move forward in the future.

We must take the things that happen at this time seriously. We must not assume, as many Germans did when Hitler was elected, that this is a fluke and that nothing worse will happen. Worse things keep happening. How bad will we let it get before we admit this? And then once we admit it, how long before we actively do something about it?

It feels overwhelming now, but here are some ideas of things to do. First, do not discount voices of those who have traditionally been marginalized (Maxine Waters, for instance) while allowing the voices of the powerful to loom large. This question of civility is meant to silence people. They are saying that the only thing we are allowed to do is vote. That is "civil." No. If we see someone who is hurting others, we are allowed to speak up. I would say we are obligated. Do that. Would you speak up if you witnessed someone harming a child in a park? Well, just because members of the administration are not directly touching those families who are being traumatized doesn't mean that they aren't hurting them. Speak up for the powerless. If people are uncomfortable, then that is their problem which they have created themselves. We should not seek to make those who are harming others more comfortable, or allow them to remain comfortable.

Second, donate to the campaigns of those who are in districts and states that have been bought off by big money. Support candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who knows the people she will represent and truly cares about them. If you give just $5 per week to campaigns like hers, you can help elect people who truly care, who will do what the people want instead of what the corporations and PACs who finance most campaigns want. If you can, go out canvassing and letting people know that we can change things.

Third, talk to people who have not yet understood how bad things are. If they are Christians, gently but firmly remind them that Jesus was taken as a child refugee to Egypt. Remind them how he treated people who his culture deemed should be treated differently. The Samaritan woman and the leper were welcomed by him, despite being shunned by the people who were the religious leaders of the day. He made it clear they were not lesser. He made it clear that they were valued, that they were loved.

Finally, take care of one another. If you know someone who is in a group that is being affected or may be affected by these policies, offer them comfort. Make a plan for how you might be able to help if things get worse. I hope and pray that they don't get worse, but history tells me that it is possible. Let's be ready to do what we need to do.