When I was in my early 20s, I visited Germany for the first time and was amazed to discover warmth and hospitality in all of the Germans I met. Why was I amazed? I asked myself what fostered this previously unrealized negativity.
I concluded that growing up in the 1950s provided me with both educators and acquaintances who shared experiences as veterans and civilian survivors of a terrible war against Germany. Apparently, I had absorbed the information and created stereotypes without question.
As an adult I wondered how these wonderful people I was meeting could be associated with a country that first discriminated against part of its own population and eventually murdered over 6 million of them including children. Wouldn’t anyone step up to save another human being? Wouldn’t people unite to stop such inhumane acts?
At some point in my education I already had realized that as much as I loved my country, the United States was not innocent. A closer look at history outside of my homogeneous rural community revealed a country that embraced slavery and either performed or ignored inhumane actions against indigenous people, immigrants, and the poor during numerous periods of time.
Certainly, some people will step up to protect others in most conflicts. There are many stories about those who saved as many people as they could in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Syria—the list goes on.
I remember a shift in the wind in my early life when television news showed dogs snarling at young black children and fire hoses knocking them down. Eventually, a large diversified movement fought against that immoral time period.
Unfortunately, we, like many countries, fall back into inhumane actions—not over night but step-by-step—accepting small slips until we have devolved into something shameful.
So where are we now? In a country that boasts of honor and decency, people trying to gain entry into the United States for legal asylum from terror in other countries are separated from their families and detained in facilities that are questionable at best and inhumane by some accounts.
Will some become the minority of people who do the best they can to help those in need or will all of us apply pressure on our elected officials to work toward a bipartisan effort to correct this bad situation before it becomes something even worse.
I have a three-year-old grandson. All I have to do is imagine him being torn from his parents’ arms and sent to a separate detention center to understand what that would be like for any human being.
I have called elected officials and written some appeals for others to do the same. This is one of them. We must unite in this effort. Let’s step up and be the country described in Emma Lazarus’ sonnet posted on a plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
“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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
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