By Alberto Moreno
“Send me your down trodden, your persecuted, your hungry, your huddled masses, yearning to be free!” America used to say. For two-hundred years or more America-the-Free made this promise, this invitation to the world. But in Trump’s America, in this new America, the immigrant has been banished from our shores. Excommunicated, like so many things, including our human decency and compassion.
In fact, America is at a crossroads. America the Great is facing a crisis of conscience. That crisis taking the most tender form of all: our children. Children who even now, are being ripped from their parents clinging, grasping arms and who are being placed in wire mesh cages, like dogs.
Yes, America the great-is doing this. By the thousands. To children as young as six who are somewhere interned, somewhere incomunicados. Children whom we cannot see or view.
But we can hear them. We can hear their plaintive crying. Children screaming “Mama, Mama!” That sacred word. That inviolable bond shattered and torn by de-hooded old white men who now make the Nation’s capital their home. Who throw up their principled feet on $120,000 desks while our children are handed aluminum foil blankets as thin and cold as paper. As thin as our compassion grows.
That we are not disturbed, that we are not outraged by those plaintive screams of children begins to suggest something about us, about who we want to be. About our consent, given. About our estrangement from our humanity.
But it need not be so. We can trouble over it. We can allow our sleeping consciousnesses to feel the prickling discomfort of injustice. And allow this situation to awaken us from our moral slumber.
Our conscience must be so inconvenienced as to find unacceptable the fact that small-minded white men in the Oval Office, have the gall to quote scripture even as they tear children from their mother’s arms. This is happening in America, the Great in this instant, in the complicit shadow of our silence, in the cold vacuum of our passive inaction. This is who we have become. You and me.
As these children scream for their mothers and fathers in the cold of night, we respond with a terrible permitting silence. And we risk becoming a nation, lost. A nation bereft and bankrupt. We risk becoming a nation without its moral compass. A nation which cannot distinguish between human law and divine law, between legality and justice. Here in America the Fearful, in America the Vengeful, in America the Great!
In this moment of crisis, America must answer what kind of nation we wish to be. But you may be saying to yourself, we are a nation of laws and our laws must be observed. Yes, unless the laws are immoral and unjust. After all, we would do well to remember that slavery was, legal; that the internment of US Citizens of Japanese ancestry was legal, that the march of millions of Jews to concentration camps, not unlike the wire and steel ones we use now for these children, were legal too!
So legality cannot the sole arbiter of our humanity, be. It is not our laws which make America great, but our compassion, in repose. The moral paradox is that only in restoring these children to their anguished parents, only in this way can America be restored unto itself, only then can America The Great, regain its humanity, again.