With the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA), another statement has been made by the Trump administration about the kind of nation that they want this to be. This has been the program that has been developing from the beginning: keep Muslims from coming in, use ICE to round up people suspected of being here illegally, dog whistle to those who think that white people are an endangered class, and, now repeal protections for those who came into the country as children. Let’s not forget rolling back sentencing limits for people arrested on minor drug offenses as well as limitations on access to military grade weapons to police forces, actions will disproportionately affect African American communities. Oh, and the military transgender ban and removal of Obama era LGBT workplace protections. That’s to say nothing of the attacks on healthcare, environmental protection, and saber rattling with foreign leaders.
This is the America a lot of people voted for. That can not be overstated. This is what many in this country wanted. They imagine a return to a country where the heterosexual, white, Christian, nuclear family is once again held up as the model of normalcy against which all other people are judged. They imagine a country where we don’t have to be “politically correct”… meaning that we can be as crude at categorizing the “other” as we so desire. This is an America where “good” people are protected from the scourge of crime and blight that plague our urban centers and “bad” people are locked up simply for causing fear in the hearts of said aforementioned good people. Notice here that “good” and “bad” become racialized terms in this scenario. What’s imagined is that this country can return to a time when the concerns of marginalized people weren’t force fed down the throats of the general populace, where compassion was limited to helping “good” people when they get stuck in a jam, and anyone outside of the mainstream could be either ignored or ostracized. It’s an America that values homogeneity because it makes life “simpler”. It’s an America that’s tough; tough on crime, tough on terrorism, and tough on people who disrupt the ebb and flow of “normal” life.
What I have just described truly is the ideal for a large portion of this country. It’s an ideal that wraps racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia in codified language of “freedom”, “security”, and “values”. It’s an ideal that sees America with a “whites only” sign on it, with occasional exceptions made for the “good” minorities who know their place and aren’t “uppity”. It’s an America whose Christianity, such as it were, is forged in the model of Constantine, the Crusades, and colonizers, a Christianity that only exists to reinforce the legal strictures of empire. It’s an America where the only form of “service” that is recognized as having value is military service, because willingness to fight and die for the empire is noblest of endeavors. It’s a nation where facts come from theologians, not scientists and where a pre-scientific understanding of weather (i.e. – the hurricane is because of your sexual immorality) is more accepted than a scientific one (i.e. – the hurricane is because of our environmental immorality).
Surprising no one, this is not my dream for this country and it is time for us to do some real soul searching about the kind of nation we want to be. As a parent, I always begin this internal conversation with the question of in what kind of world do I want my kids to grow up. While “safe” is high on my list, it’s not at the top. I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation of the differences that exist in other people. I want them to develop empathy and compassion. I want them to be able to get outside of themselves and see the world as much larger than they can imagine. I want that to fill them with wonder, not fear. I want them to grow up in a world where they feel some discomfort because they don’t speak a language or don’t know a custom. I want that to drive them to learn more and appreciate more. I want them to live in a nation that makes provision for the most marginalized among us because we value their humanity. I want them to live in a nation that welcomes the stranger, not just because they have something to offer to the culture, which they most certainly will, but because welcome and hospitality are the hallmarks of a compassionate nation. I want them to live in a nation where people who hold on to the prejudices of the past don’t feel comfort in speaking their vitriol aloud because there is no place for their words to find an audience. I want my kids to grow up in a scientifically informed society that understands the ramifications of burning fossil fuels, large scale agriculture, and rampant consumerism and begins to make changes in the ways we work, eat, and live. I want them to grow up with an appreciation of the unique expressions of gender and sexual orientation that exist in the world so that they may be free to be who they truly are and love who they truly love. I want them to grow up in a nation where the few who have to go to prison go into an environment where they can be rehabilitated and I want there to be systems in place that welcome them back into society. I want them to grow up in a nation that doesn’t see the poor or disabled as mooching off of the system, but as brothers and sisters that are our responsibility to care for.
I want our national religion to be compassion. It can be Christian compassion, Jewish compassion, Muslim compassion, atheistic compassion, agnostic compassion, secular humanist compassion… whatever. I want our national religion to be compassion. I want to see justice, restorative justice not criminal justice, be the law of the land. I don’t think any child in this country should go to bed hungry. I also don’t think any child in this country should go to bed with a fear that they or their parents will be deported the next morning. I don’t want any couple in this nation to fear holding hands as they walk down the street. I don’t want any qualified person in this country to be denied a job or housing or a loan because of their skin color. I don’t want a police force that treats those they are called to serve and protect as the enemy. Our nation should lead the world by feeding its hungry. Our nation should lead the world by welcoming its refugees. Our nation should lead the world by recognizing the impact that our consumptive lifestyles have on the entire globe and making crucial changes. Our nation can only be great to the extent that our nation is willing to serve. That’s not me saying that. I’m just echoing Jesus. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). The same must be true of nations as well as individuals. Our greatest won’t come from who we exclude but who we include. It won’t come from whom we deport but who we welcome. Our greatness can not come from fear. Our greatness must come from love.