I write about human beings in every one of my columns. To read more of my work about issues like immigration as more than numbers and pejoratives, you can buy a subscription here: There was a headline in one of the major newspapers today – I won’t say which one, because other papers have posted similar headlines before, and they will all post them again: “Illegal border crossings fell sharply in January, U.S. figures show.” Those figures! They’re always rising, or falling, or up slightly, or close to last month’s.
This piece is why I subscribe. Immigration, legal or not, is all about people just trying to lead quiet, safe lives. I never could have written what I've been thinking for years as passionately or eloquently.
I wish I could post it, but the image during the Trump years which will always stick with me is that of the drowned father holding his drowned baby daughter washed up on the bank of a border river. That is the result of the innate cruelty of the Republican Party---stupid, cruel, and psychopathic.
Back in 2011 I went to Amman, Jordan and joined a small NGO that provided emergency aid to refugees who had fled Iraq. Americans have no clue as to the horrors and misery, and the total despair, that compels people to leave everything and flee. Being granted asylum is one of the hardest parts of the journey - you hand over your passport and will never see your friends, family and country again. The trauma of the whole process is unimaginable. Where is Americans' humanity?
Yet Andy Biggs claims membership in a religion which includes in its title the name of the man who said, “I was a stranger, and you took me in.” He must not have read to the end of the passage, in which Jesus continues, “Depart from me, you accursed, into everlasting fire, for…I was a stranger and you took me not in…inasmuch as you have not done it to the least of these, you have not done it to me.”
If you see Jesus coming down the street, you might not want to be standing next to Andy Biggs.
As one reader already remarked in a slightly different way, This one was from the heart. "Mazel-tov," as WASPS don't say, on a stellar, not to mention humane essay. Your insights were nothing arcane, but I had never seen things the way you did -- and of course your cri de coeur made me feel remiss. If there was a Pulitzer category for Substack writers, you'd be nominated and likely win for today's column. (And Thoreau wouldn't mind at all ...)
Thank you, Lucian. The lack of kindness and charity I hear around this is mind boggling. There but for the grace of God, go I. Anyone who forgets how quickly a life of peace, security, love and family can be destroyed is a fool.
All of our families came here looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Why are some people so hell-bent on denying that same opportunity to other people just trying to do the very same thing?
Thank you! Immigration is about people. Makes it more convenient to deny them basic human rights and decency if they aren’t people. Or, even worse - those people.
Thank you, Lucian, for beautiful and eloquent writing that brings our attention to the very simple truth that we are all "people".
They also have certain specific rights once they are on U.S. territory, irrespective of how they arrived --- some rights to due process and a "credible fear" hearing to determine if they qualify for asylum. There are treaty obligations and provisions of international human rights laws that are designed to protect them, albeit `honored more in the breach than in the observance.'
Yes, thank-you for this piece.These people are in fact, people.Humans.From what I keep seeing is their humanity is being diminished.It is alright to treat them with disrespect and disregard because they are “less than”.How long has this mindset been going on?Try hundreds of years when all of the other” others” were dehumanized.The Africans,the Native Americans,the Chinese,the Irish, the Mexicans and the list goes on but all of these people were marginalized as less than when we thinking folks know that they are PEOPLE.It breaks my heart at the cruelty of all of this and it seems we have learned nothing-zero-from our past.Just right now we have the Florida Governor trying to vanish blackness.I am wringing my hands once again.
This was beautifully and succinctly put. The treatment of these people is heartbreaking. Is there anything that we can do before Lady Liberty jumps off her Emma Lazarus pedestal and drowns herself in the harbor? How can we be this cruel?
This article reminded me of Man was Made to Mourn by Robert Burns. Here a taste if you're unfamiliar,
"Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!"
This then drew me back to Sunday School, first learning of the Holocaust and my utter inability to understand man's inhumanity to man. "We're people, how could they treat us this way." It became a bit of a morbid obsession. Then in a youth chorale we performed works by children in the camps from a collection called "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." We even performed it in Israel. And my heart ached more in my lack of understanding man's inhumanity to man.
Then, in the Army while tripping on LSD, it began to dawn on me with a bit of wondering. "I bet if I killed a Russian his mom would be really bummed. I know my mom would be crushed." See, to me at the time that other soldier wasn't really human. He was just a Russian to be killed. He was other. Until then I would have been a willing participant in man's inhumanity to man. My capacity for empathy, though capable of great depth, was also selectively felt. I couldn't re-enlist.
It seems that mostly inadvertently, though often deliberately, we forget there are Human Beings behind the headlines who make up the numbers reported. Like our wells of empathy are running dry.
I know Trump unleashed what had been repressed in his followers. But, I guess I still don't really understand. And, I guess I don't really need to as long as I remember to not play that game. Even as regards to our friend's on the other side of the aisle. While Karl Popper reminds us we are obligated to not tolerate intolerance, Mr. Truscott reminds us today we must not dehumanize people either.
Excellent writing from the heart, and into the minds of others.
Hope - often difficult to have with the likes of Far Right Republicans. In the 30's in Germany they went after Gypsies and the Jewish people. there is that word again - people.
Bravo to you Lucian for saying so well what needs to be said so desperately. Nothing gives the lie to these performative (non) Christians more than their attitude towards and treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers whom they don’t recognize as people. They are the ‘other’, much as all Americans’ ancestors were most likely treated as the ‘other’ also when they first arrived on these shores. Not much has changed. We are a nation of immigrants, just ask the remnants of the native indigenous tribes that the original invaders genocided almost to extinction. But the ‘take up the gangplank’ attitude - “I’m here now and you can’t come” - soon took over and persists. Of course people need refuge and safety, and we need workers desperately, but the color of their skin is a problem for our home-grown fascists. It was a problem for southern European immigrants years ago as well, and even the Irish, who couldn’t be more White, were shunned because they were poor and Roman Catholic. It’s not all bigotry and hatred, however. America is selectively the welcoming refuge we pretend to be as I witnessed and participated in back in September when 48 hapless asylum seekers were summarily dumped where I live. It was a cruel political stunt that dehumanized women, children, babes-in-arms, and men in the cruelest way possible. But the people on this Island demonstrated their values by helping these unfortunate victims in every possible way. It made me proud to be one of them even though as a long-time ‘wash-a-shore’ I have felt the sting of being considered slightly ‘other’. However, there is a strong culture of helping those in need here no matter who they are. I think that attitude exists because we are an Island. However, the whole country certainly doesn’t see itself that way, unfortunately, and the worst among us seem to parade their bigotry the most often, and the loudest. I am too often ashamed of this country.
In other Ken Paxton news today: