Recent media focus has been on our government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
As individuals, we must rise above such actions.
Historical Note About the Phrase, “Man’s Inhumanity to Man”
In 1784, Robert Burns wrote the poem, Man was made to Mourn: A Dirge:
History records the possibility that Burns reworded a similar quote from a writing in 1673 by Samuel von Pufendorf: “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”
Other writers have used the words “[m]an’s inhumanity to man” in their own written works. There are several books using the philosophy of the phrase as an underlying theme. A representative list of includes: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Why Bring This Quote Into the Conversation Now?
The answer is too simple: Our national, as well as international news, has been filled with the inhumanity of the United States government toward men, women, and children seeking safe harbor from inhumane treatment in other countries.
Granted we are not the first nor the only country committing acts of inhumanity against our fellow-man. It seems it happens every day somewhere. The news is so depressing as to make one shy away from watching or listening. But then, how to stay informed about what your country’s government is doing?
Do Those in Charge Even Know What They Are Doing?
A post written by Author Janet Givens, When Words Matter: Refugees or Immigrants?, highlights the issue of how we should label the people attempting to cross into the United States. Givens also touches on why they left their homeland in search of a better place? Be sure to take some time to read Givens’ blog post.
To move toward answering this question, I personally don’t believe anyone in Washington, D.C., or at the border knows who the people attempting to cross the border are or why they are giving up everything and risking their lives to get here.
Most of the people arriving at our southern border are fleeing the violent area known as Central America’s Violent Northern Triangle. The triangle is composed of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three countries rocked by civil wars in the 1980s and now overrun with violence, corruption, drug trafficking, and gang violence.
The men, women, and children attempting entry into the United States are not immigrants or migrants as the news media are calling them. Even the President and his Press Secretary refer to them as migrants. I won’t go into what other descriptors the President uses when referring to these people. Immigrants and migrants they are not. They are refugees seeking asylum in our country because their homelands are rife with gangs and violence that causes them to fear for their lives. Refugees from the Northern Triangle cite gang violence, forced gang recruitment, and extortion, as well as poverty and lack of opportunity as reasons for fleeing their homes and risking their lives to come to our border.
Thanks to our government we are treating these refugees inhumanely.
The U.S. Attorney General, citing the Bible no less, directs us to Romans 13:
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.” (Washington Post, “Acts of Faith,” June 15, 2018, by Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan)
In the same Washington Post article, John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, is credited with this quote alluding to Romans 13 as an unusual choice:
“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked. said John Fea. . . . “One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution.
“The other,” Fea said, “is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. I mean, this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made.”
According to an article in The Root, this stance places AG Sessions in exceptional company: (1) Slave owners used it to justify the Fugitive Slave Act; and (2) Hitler cited it to rebuke Christians who stood against the rise of his Nazi Party.
The majority of the people attempting to cross our border seek asylum, which is legal. When they indicate to border officials they are seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons (see the conditions in their countries above), a court date is assigned (often more than a year) and the wait for an acceptance or rejection at that court hearing begins.
Do the Actions of Our Government Constitute Inhumanity?
In my opinion, our country’s actions in separating families constitute inhumanity. It is the equivalent of declaring these refugees as criminals, ripping their children away from them, and everybody goes to a detention camp but not in the same location. Children are frightened. Their parents brought them to America because of an authoritarian society in their homeland. And now the U.S. government is behaving like an authoritarian government. Parents don’t know where their children are, children wonder what happened to their parents and these little ones are fearful, and our government hasn’t kept accurate records of these refugees.
Even though the government says it is attempting to reunite families, these people are no better off than they were before they left the Northern Triangle. Our reputation as a democratic country is rapidly declining.
What can we do?
We can start by practicing compassion and kindness on a daily basis. Look around you. There are many in our cities and towns without shelter, in need of food and clothing, and agencies struggling to assist them. You can start by making donations of food and clothing, or if you’re able give a monetary donation.
However, scenes in the media bring tears to our eyes and a sudden desire to help the people we see there. In this bigger picture, we can find ways to help those seeking asylum in our country. For example, the children separated from their parents tug at our hearts. As I read through my Twitter feed, I came across a retweet of a post by John J. Kelley, a writer living in D.C.
It may be a small gesture, but sometimes kindness is all we have. Let children separated from their parents know we’re thinking of them and that we care. Send cards to:
ATTN: Cards for Kids
330 C Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
— John J Kelley (@JohnJKelley) June 27, 2018
The Cut, one of several online newsletters/magazines from New York Media, posted What You Can Do Right Now to Help Immigrant Families Separated at the Border. This article lists methods of help which should be available in towns and cities across America. Reaching out to help is what we as caring, compassionate Americans can do. Let’s do it!
If you’ve already become involved in a way to help, please share with us in the comments below.
Featured Image Attribution:
Jordi Bernabeu Farrús: A border patrol agent apprehends an immigrant who illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the U.S. in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 2, 2018. Picture taken April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott USA-IMMIGRATION/BORDER.
Per Creative Commons License: I have not changed the image by making additions or deletions thereto.