When I first got my drivers license, I was probably 16 or so, I was prepared. I had been working for a number of years at odd jobs washing floors, a paper route, carrying groceries to people’s homes, that I had saved up enough money for a used car. The car I purchased was a Dodge Rambler. I was assured that although it was old, it would run. And on a cold snowy winter evening in the Bronx, I talked my friends into letting me drive them in my new car. Well no sooner had we gone about 20 miles driving my car broke down on a remote stretch of road in an area we were not too familiar with. Now you have to remember this is before cell phones.
One of my friends looked at me and said, “What do we do now?” We popped the hood, and a couple of them pretended to twist a few knobs, and check the wiring but I knew their vain attempt to impress each other with mechanical machoniss would amount to nothing. Again the refrain, What do we do now. One of my friends insisted we wait stating eventually the police would drive by and help us. My thought immediately turned to the fact that when the car died, so did the heat, and the fact that we left the doors open while we playing under the hood, led me to believe that if we waited too long we would freeze to death. Again the refrain, What do we do now? And so I suggested we get out and walk until we found a pay phone or someone’s house that didn’t look too creepy. (I am not sure how we defined this) My friends expressed numerous concerns about freezing to death while looking for a phone, how far is it, we could get lost, there could be a wild pack of werewolves that could kill us. (Its always something) And I said, I would rather die doing something to save us rather than die sitting around waiting for someone else to come save us.
Sometimes there are events in our country that make me stop and ask What do we do now? Recently there have been a few events in our nation that make me stop and take stock about what our values as a country and humanity as a whole are. One such event I saw a scene on television of white adults and their children screaming, screaming in anger at a bus of refugee children telling them to go home. It reminded me of the 1960s picture of white Americans screaming at African American Children protesting desegregation. (Show pictures) When we look back on those pictures in the 1960s, I often have wondered what those people think about themselves now. Whether they have changed. And wonder if within that question, there might be a clue as to what will cause us to change in 50 years. One such person was Hazel Bryan Massery who is seen here shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the first 9 students to integrate the Little Rock High School in Arkansas. Massery after a few years, did some discernment stating her hatred came from comments she heard from her parents not based on the situation itself. She felt remorse, and contacted Eckford to apologize for her actions. In her life Massery worked with young black mothers-to-be and minority students, in part to make amends for her past actions,
She appeared in speeches with Eckford and even on the Oprah Winfrey show with the students commemorating the 40th anniversary of the integration of the High School. But eventually Eckford and Massery had a falling out. Eckford said,
"she wanted me to be cured and be over it and for this not to go on... She wanted me to be less uncomfortable so that she wouldn't feel responsible anymore."
We always own our actions and our inactions and we are always responsible for the consequences that follow. Our responsibilities do not end.
Our actions or inactions while we are alive will affect not only us, but our descendants generation upon generation still to come, just as we are still responsible for the actions made by European settlers in how they dealt with the indigenous people of this country. Just as we are still responsible for the consequences of this country making the decision to enslave people of color and then allow Jim Crow laws to proliferate. Just as we are still responsible for the consequences of our governments decisions to overthrow governments and supporting brutal dictatorships in Central America to support American Business interests. Only by looking at the larger picture and learning from and understanding those who are struggling can we come to grips with our past and present.
I saw this very interesting science fiction movie “The Giver” this weekend. A good movie (I give it 6 out of 10 stars). I think there was a really poignant point that it made. All of the members of society had no memory of the past at all and due at least in part to that, it left them emotionless. The protagonist’s goal was to get past a certain barrier which would release all the memories. Please don’t ask me for scientific details about how that is even possible, it is science fiction, so accept and think metaphorically.
We do have to cross a certain barrier to experience emotions and empathy for others. So what are the barriers that hold us back. The barrier that tells us we are separate from other human beings. Some line on a map….or in our head. The barrier that tells us difference is less than. The barrier that tells us that we are inherently better than other human beings. The barrier that tells us to fear other human beings and difference. Only when we break through those barriers and are willing to see every other person as just as worthy, only then can we begin to understand their pain, their joy, their suffering, their hopes,
Only when we break through our barriers and see ourselves as part of the larger world, can we truly see ourselves, our pain, our joy, our suffering, our hopes, only when we break through our barriers, can we begin to stand on the side of love and truly be one with others. Standing on the side of love. Many of us have heard that phrase, we have sung the song, (and we will later, but what exactly does it mean?
Standing on the side of love. It’s a catchy slogan. I am on the side of caring for others who are struggling. These children on the border often do not have anyone to help them. In this case, unlike the larger immigration question, these children are coming here from countries that are filled with violence and poverty. They are not coming here looking for work, they are coming here looking to survive. Can you imagine how bad it must be for a family to allow their child to travel alone. Can you imagine how bad it must be for a child to leave their family? These children being forced to flee are the consequence of many actions by many people, including leaders in their own countries, and as I indicated before, whether with the good or bad intentions, many of the problems in these Central American countries have been exacerbated by actions our country has taken over the centuries. But whatever the reason, these children are here.
I have had many people say to me Jay, but we have so many problems here already, we have so many at risk children already right here in this town, so many children here dealing with poverty and violence. Why would we take on more children? I think that is a fair question. I do, but it is also a damning question. It states we know we don’t care for our own children as we should. It doesn’t have to be an either or. We have to ask ourselves, What are our values? And particularly what are our values around caring for children? Are our values compassion or cruelty? Are our values inclusion or exclusion? Are our values love or hate? My religious values call us to help these children. Just as America sent countless Jewish children to their death during World War II by not accepting them into our country, so too would we be condemning these children to death if we do not accept them.
What do we do now? At a minimum we should follow the 14th amendment to the American Constitution which states with precision:
“nor shall any State deprive any person…(it doesn’t say citizen it says person) deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person equal protection of the laws.”
Children are people. This is the minimum that many would abandon. We must end deportations now. If we value children, we should do everything in our power to keep families together by no longer deporting non citizen parents of citizen children.
If we value children we will make sure the dream act is finalized by our Government. And finally if we are to live out our values, values of hospitality, values of compassion, the value of loving our neighbor. values of standing up for the most vulnerable in our midst, We must take responsibility for these children. We must not abandon them. They are our children. They are all our children.
President Kennedy foresaw all of this in 1961 when proposing the Alliance for Progress, a program to help strengthen the lives of Central Americans he said:
“we propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand.
Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of humanity”
Good intentioned, but ultimately flawed, with a lack of any reform, particularly land reform, limited resources and focus due to the war in Vietnam, and monies diverted to American business interests, this dream never came true.
The ironic thing of course is, if we truly had worked in partnership and implemented the Alliance for Progress with Central American Countries, we probably would not have these unaccompanied children in the United States. But that was then, What do we do now. We have to do something to save the soul of our country. The first thing you can do is to join me today in downtown davenport this afternoon at 3 oclock at the irish immigrant statue and show your support for these children at an interfaith rally entitled love without borders. Secondly you can join our Social Justice Team’s Immigration project so we can combine our efforts as a Congregation with Quad Cities Interfaith for effective change
Unitarian Universalism asks us to do something rather than just sit by waiting hoping for something to save us. Unitarian Universalism rather asks us to save each other. Unitarian Universalism asks us to ask the hard questions about the reality in which live, and that by asking the hard questions, we not only come to know ourselves better but we come to know others on a deeper level. Exploring our lives and learning about the lives of others at a deeper level can provide hope, a hope that one day all beings will find a way to walk this journey of life in peace without fear, Let us break through our self imposed barriers, for love has no borders. I stand with love wherever I find those who are suffering, I stand with love wherever I find oppression, I stand with love wherever I find injustice. I ask you to stand with me and I will stand with you and we will shoulder the responsibilities together. Please stand with love, live with love in your heart, and act with love in all that do. Nothing less than the future of humanity is it at stake. May it be so.