Changing seasons are markers in our lives. With September, we begin to think of the end of summer and the advent of autumn. School starts up in many places. And routines at home change to keep with schedules required for school and work and more. In Oregon, harvesting apples and grapes begin. And the cider and winemaking processes start. Farm stands show off pumpkins along with fall-colored mums.
But the September to October transition has been different this year. In seasons past, October weather gave warm days with cooler nights. The rain began to drizzle and then strengthen as October progressed. But not this year. There are days when it feels like winter.
Weather patterns are changing all over our country. In Oregon, we have snow in the mountains. Today Timberline Lodge reports an 11″ base on Mt. Hood. Often the operators of the ski lift at Mt. Hood hold their collective breath into November. The wait for an opening date for the season is long sometimes. History also shows seasons when the snowfall was light enough to close the season early.
Record snowfalls hit across the midwest last week while a heatwave struck the east coast. Current conditions here and around our country and the world need us to question why.
What is going on in our world to cause these climate changes? I don’t know if anyone has the answer.
Yet, Greta Thunberg, a young climate activist, seems to have a message. Thunberg hopes government leaders of the world and we as individuals will listen. Her words may hold something close to the answer, if not the answer.
If you’d like to hear Thunberg’s message, you can listen to her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 here:
I am not endorsing everything Greta says. But I do admire her courage, intelligence, and willingness to speak up. I do believe we have endangered our earth and its residents, both human and otherwise. We have not been good stewards of this earth. But I also believe our Mother Earth has gone through changes in previous times. Times when neither you nor I were alive to witness it. That doesn’t mean I wish to witness a cataclysmic change in our world.
If government and world leaders, including our own, choose to ignore what’s happening, then the words of a 16-year old young woman are important to hear. Personally, I hold my heart and hands up to a Higher Power for direction in my life. Yet, it is also important that I make myself aware of what I can do to preserve this world for generations to come.
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 aMockingbird 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 #cardsforkids
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.
As we move from summer to autumn, changes appear all around us. We notice changes in tree colors, smells in the air, cooler temperatures, and the length of days. We even note changes in how our bodies feel.
A larger scope allows us to see larger and often destructive changes all around us. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and raging wildfires across our country left much destruction. In our treatment of each other, we sense the destruction of community.
So many things are changing
The list could go on, but this gives you an idea of what’s coursing through my mind.
A look at the weather
We moved from Tennessee to Oregon in 1983, arriving a day or so before July 4th. Imagine my surprise when Bob suggested I grab jackets as we left our hotel in the early afternoon. We were visiting with friends for burgers, and fireworks in the later evening. But gosh! It was the 4th of July! The day couldn’t possibly cool off that much.
Hold on just a minute. Believe me when I say this. I was actually in disbelief when I asked Bob to go to the car and grab my sweater around 7:00 that evening. The sun was still bright in the sky, but a wind had come up and was casting chilly breezes around.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017. The hottest summer on record for our area. Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, and all the Willamette Valley registered temps well into three digits. This lasted several days and lingered in the 90s for the rest. No rain for over 90 days. The parched ground cries for water. What is usually covered with green grasses is brown and ripe for the flick of a flame to start a fire.
Many landscapes in our world are transforming, whether by Mother Nature’s normal routine. Or is it due to global warming, or perhaps unwitting actions we take?
If August’s heat wave wasn’t enough, September 2nd provided the next shock for Oregonians. News images left people in disbelief. One of Oregon’s greatest natural treasures was engulfed in flames. The Eagle Creek Trailhead and Campground erupted in flames that afternoon.
As of Sunday last, the fire had reached 48,000 acres and was 32 percent contained. The landscape of this sacred place has changed.
As the fire burned, it grew closer to Portland. The smoke filled the valley’s skies and air quality created breathing issues for some. I have never lived where smoke from a large fire came so close that ashes fell to the ground and the air became heavy. The fire was 22 miles from where we live.
Remembering Harvey and Irma
Let’s not forget Harvey and Irma. Harvey left inflicted immense damage on Houston and surrounding area. A great deal of the State of Florida were in Irma’s wide and sweeping path. These people now look outside and see a landscapes changed drastically.
Changing attitudes toward others
News reports involving the Eagle Creek Fire suggested young boys were responsible. Social media took up its standard and attempted to crucify these young fellows. At this point, authorities had not charged the boys with anything. Nor were they commenting widely in the news media.
In my opinion, the boys may be found responsible for throwing fireworks and starting the fire. One eyewitness reports seeing them. Perhaps someone failed to teach these boys respect for public trails and nature’s beauty. To damage these areas is to hurt more than just the brush and trees along the way. It deprives others of the pleasure of using the trails and camping areas.
Another sign of a changing landscape in our world today. Living among us are people too quick to judge and accuse others, even before they know the facts or truth of a matter. What bothered me most was the finger pointers and accusers called themselves Christians. They had children of their own. I wonder if they stopped to think how they would feel under similar circumstances.
* * *
Signs of changing times, or did I just imagine that we’re back in the 1960s? Of course, we weren’t talking about global warming or climate change then but we weren’t being good stewards of our country environmentally. Our attitudes toward our differences in skin color, religion, ethnicity were under scrutiny, but personally I don’t believe we’ve come far enough to make a difference.
What have you noticed around you–in your family, your city or town, your church or school, your neighborhood, your various landscapes–that is or has changed recently? Would you be willing to share with us in the comments? I hope so.
Before beginning this book review, I want to point out that my scheduling of this book for review was well in place before the Executive Order signed on Friday, January 27, 2017, went into effect. However, Divine Providence likely knew of the events to come, and as D.L. Mayfield’s memoir shares the author’s experiences working with and living among refugees and immigrants in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, it is definitely a good time to look at what Mayfield’s thoughts and reactions are to her experiences. AND this is a good time for all of us to begin to search for ways to help the marginalized among us, no matter who received your vote in November. We are needed now more than ever before to stand up and share the goodness and generosity that made America great in the first place.
A social justice activist and writer shares her personal experience working with refugees and the ways her faith has been challenged and strengthened—leading her to experience the power of God’s love and find her true spiritual calling.
Determined to save the world, one soul at a time, nineteen-year-old D. L. Mayfield left her conservative Christian home to become a missionary to Somali Bantu refugees in Portland, Oregon. But after a decade proselytizing, she realized that she had not converted one single Muslim. “I am pretty much the worst missionary ever,” she despaired.
Yet in her time working with these displaced people, Mayfield’s eyes were opened to something much bigger. “I started to read the Scriptures with new eyes, informed by the people who the Bible was written by and to—the people at the margins of society. And it was so much better than I could have believed. The blessings of Jesus were to be found in the most unexpected places. The kingdom is real, alive, and changing everything—liberating, setting free, healing, and preaching news that is actually truly good, in the here and now.”
Assimilate or Go Home is the story of her awakening. Mayfield shows us how God’s love is transforming lives, and makes clear that instead of saving the world, we can join God’s party by loving all of our neighbors—especially those on society’s edge. With vulnerability and a touch of humor, Mayfield reflects upon how her faith was challenged, and urges all of us to reconsider our concepts of justice, love, and being a citizen of this world—and the kingdom of God.
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield Published: Harper One (August 16, 2016) Source: Purchased Format: Paperback, 224 pages
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“I used to want to witness to people, to tell them the story of God in digestible pieces, to win them over to my side. But more and more I am hearing the still small voice calling me to be the witness. To live in proximity to pain and suffering and injustice instead of high-tailing it to a more calm and isolated life. To live with eyes wide open on the edges of our world, the margins of our society.”
The quote above sums up what D.L. Mayfield shares with her readers in a collection of essays on her life as a missionary serving refugees and immigrants in Portland, Oregon. Mayfield’s experiences are many and at times stun her into wondering why she is doing what she is doing.
Mayfield struggles to communicate with non-English speaking people, and she herself does not speak any of their languages. How do you help those who don’t understand you when you ask if they are hungry, or thirsty, or feeling sick? How do you cope with the feelings of uselessness you feel when you can’t understand these people or treat their needs.
All of these things are the subject of Mayfield’s memoir which explores her feelings of failure and inability to do what she has believed to be the work of missionaries since her childhood.
Mayfield’s writing is pleasant and at times lyrical in her storytelling. Some of her essays even hold a bit of humor and charm in them. However, the underlying facts are brutal to those of us who have never experienced extreme hunger, health needs, or poverty. I think the harshness of these needs also struck Mayfield harder than she ever expected.
The transformation Mayfield experiences during her time serving the Somalis in Portland is clearly one she found filled with an increased faith of her own. Her wisdom is ancient, found in the daily grind of life, and shared as the way she lives her days.
Mayfield teaches us that the benefit of working with those less fortunate is actually a two-way partnership. What she learned from her Somali neighbors and friends was a story of resilience and courage. What they learned from Mayfield was acceptance and kindness. What a lovely story in the end; what a difficulty journey to get there.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who believed as a young person you were going out and change the world. Read Mayfield’s Assimilate or Go Home and you’ll learn just how hard it is to do that. And she’ll show you just how much you’ll be the one doing the changing.
About the Author:
D. L. Mayfield lives and writes in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. Mayfield likes to write about refugees, theology, and downward mobility, among other topics. She has written for places as varied as McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Image journal, and the Toast. Her book of essays, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is forthcoming from HarperOne in August 2016.
Always you’ll see a news item involving one or more of these emotions or themes. Racism, hatred, bigotry–it seems they will never go away.
Do you ever wonder why that is? We’ve even stopped watching anything other than the 11 o’clock local news to avoid some of the media coverage.
Friday night we even decided to go out for a change.
WE LOVE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICALS
As luck would have it, something was available we both enjoy. We attended a high school performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, a timeless and beautiful Broadway musical debuted in 1949. Based on James Michener’s book, Tales of the South Pacific, a collection of wartime stories, the musical played a large role in constructing America’s post-war patriotism and deconstructing racial prejudice.
Was this intentional on Michener’s part, or was it something Rodgers & Hammerstein chose to do?
If South Pacific assisted in deconstructing racial prejudice, why then are we experiencing violence all around us, some racially motivated and some not?
AS AN EXAMPLE
The following night, Saturday, a gunman in Kalamazoo, Michigan, shot and/or killed six innocent people in yet another shooting. The ethnicities of the six shooting victims here are unknown to me, but only hatred or mental health issues could drive someone to commit such heinous acts while driving others to their Saturday evening destinations.
BACK TO THE MUSICAL…
Two high school students performed admirably in the roles of Emile de Becque, a French plantation owner on the island, and Lt. Joseph Cable, a young American soldier stationed there temporarily. There is only one problem, or two I suppose:
Emile de Becque has fallen in love with Nellie Forbush, a lively nurse from Arkansas, who is happily considering married life on the island when Emile shares with her he was formerly married. Married to a Polynesian woman, now dead, and the two young children living with him are the result of that marriage. Nellie begins to think about the folks back home in Arkansas. What would they say about her stepchildren and the color of their skin?
Likewise, Lt. Cable, madly in love with Liat, a young Tonkonese girl, begins to think about the consequences of his marriage to a dark-skinned girl when he returns to the U.S. Will his family and friends accept her?
During this sequence, dialogue between Emile and Joe goes as follows:
Emile:What makes [Nellie] talk like that? Why do you have this feeling, you and she? I do not believe it is born in you. I do not believe it.
Joe: It’s not born in you! It happens after you’re born…
And here Joe launches into a song I’d never paid attention to before, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” Here are the lyrics and a YouTube video (John Kerr singing in a 1978 production):
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year, It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a different shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Think about six small words: “You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
South Pacific had two love stories in it. They both concern, in a different way, race prejudice.
Later in the interview Hammerstein touches on Nellie Forbush’s reaction to Emile’s revelation about his past. Hammerstein sets up the following quote by describing Nellie’s reaction when she learns Emile is in danger. Suddenly, her feelings change and her priorities shift so their relationship rises to the top. Hammerstein explains it thusly:
What we were saying was that … all this prejudice that we have is something that fades away in the face of something that’s really important.
SIX SMALL WORDS
What resounded with me on hearing this song performed the other night were those six small words. Even though some acts of prejudice occurred in my childhood home surrounding the “help,” I did not learn to own these feelings and opinions. In fact, as I grew older my memories of them turned repugnant.
Hatred, racism and bigotry are not always taught by our use of words. They can be learned by observing our actions.
How often is the man or woman standing a street corner talking to him- or herself stared at by others?
How often in our childhood did we see a neighbor snubbed by another neighbor, maybe one of our parents?
In school, did we watch our teachers to see how they treated other kids? What about in Sunday School or Church?
Did anything happen at home that was unkind or ill-tempered by siblings or your parents?
All of the examples above are simple, teachable moments. Accidentally teachable moments. Not because anyone intended to teach someone else to be unkind, but simply because someone, often a child, saw the act committed.
Did you ever wait to see or hear what kind of punishment the person who mistreated another person received? There was teaching here too. If the person doing the harm didn’t receive punishment, a clear message was sent the behavior was permissible, A-OK.
The tragedy is that over time acts of hatred, racism, and bigotry don’t shrink and disappear. Unfortunately, left alone and without repercussions, they multiply or are taken for granted. This will continue generation to generation if something isn’t done.
To those of you reading this, I hope you will begin to look around and take note of some of the acts of hatred, racism, and bigotry–large or small–you see in your community, workplace, schools and churches, your own family. [ctt title=”Look for ways you can make a difference in silencing hatred, racism, and bigotry today.” tweet=”Look for ways you can make a difference in silencing hatred, racism, and bigotry today. Via @Sherrey_Meyer” coverup=”124vV”]
We must be the change makers. If not, there will be more Kalamazoos, Roseburgs, Sandy Hooks, and Columbines, not to mention mall, theater, and church shootings. Is this what we want? Do we want to leave a legacy of continuing tragedy?
What can we do? Share some ideas about how changes might reshape our country and our world on these issues.
Has your town or your child’s school been the object of a shooting? Share how your area is responding.