Based in south Louisiana, Release & Gather is a blog by Holly Rabalais.  Her posts explore people, community, and matters of the heart.  Everyone has a unique journey.  Welcome to a window into hers.

President, I Disagree

“Woke up today as the proud mother of two children from a shithole nation.”

The words of Lindsey’s Facebook post were my introduction to the story that has blown up across media outlets over the last 36 hours. My friend Lindsey and her husband are the adoptive parents of two beautiful children from Africa--children the President of the United States reportedly referred to as a people from a shithole nation [1].

“Shithole” is defined as “an extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place” [2]. To be fair, Lindsey’s children probably did come from an extremely dirty, shabby, unpleasant place, but my issue is with the context of the President’s statement. While discussing immigration, he reportedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

It seems the President wants an immigration policy that will only allow people from non-shithole nations in our country. His argument: people from non-shithole nations can help our country economically. This line of thought implies that people from shithole countries cannot profit America and are, therefore, of no value to our nation. For one, these “people from shithole countries” come here and fill the jobs that spoiled, entitled Americans refuse because they are too good or too lazy to do them.

Perhaps President Trump has not toured his own nation and seen the shitholes one finds in most American communities. Our cities and towns are comprised not just of people in modern, flourishing homes and businesses, but of those living in well-worn apartment complexes and working in companies that are barely getting by. Will he next want to deport those who live and work in our own American shitholes?

As an American, I am a citizen of a nation built by immigrants who fled religious persecution, poverty, and famine. People from “shithole countries,” many who were brought here against their will and forced into slavery, fueled the success of this country. Our very Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the freedom America offers, sits on a pedestal with the following poem inscribed [3]:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
 
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

As an American, I should be humbled by my heritage of immigrant ancestors and should strive to help others who want a better life. (Note: I do believe our nation needs immigration reform, but not by choosing the race/nationality of the people we allow into our country.)

My life has been enhanced by people I have met from countries, cultures, and lifestyles other than my own. In college, friends from Bangladesh, Canada, Cyprus, and Spain opened their homes, taught me their cultures, and fed me things that made me think I’d have to cut off my tongue to make it stop burning. I’ve celebrated birthdays, marriages, and the births of children with colleagues from Mexico, Madagascar, and India. Taiwan is home to our "son" who lived with us for nearly a year while he studied abroad. His parents and I do not speak the same language, but we are still able to be a part of each other’s lives and learn from each other through Facebook and its good-enough translation.

The woman my parents employed during my childhood to clean our home and to babysit came from “across the tracks” in our small Mississippi town. Her skin was the color of rich, brown soil, and I loved opening the back door of our home and smelling the scents that told me she was there. Her hugs were as soft and sweet as my grandmother’s, and I felt so loved in her arms. I’ve chanced upon a homeless immigrant from Liberia and walked beside him as he struggled with alcohol addiction. At his funeral, I finally met his diverse, educated family who live in all corners of this country. They tell me I am their sister now, and I call their mother “Mama” when she calls me.

Through the years, these people have changed my perspective, and my life is better for having known them. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that every human on this earth has value because he or she was created by God in His image. For that reason, as a Christian, I am called to treat every human with dignity, kindness, and love regardless of their socio-economic status, skin color, sexual orientation, or nationality. I often fail at this (like when someone is driving 40 in the fast lane or when my ex-husband and I disagree on a parenting decision), but I am called to strive toward a loving attitude toward all people if I claim to be a Christ-follower.

Today, let my voice be heard, because as a Christian, I am also called to speak out against injustice:

For the President of the United States to degrade and devalue a set of people because he believes they cannot add economic value to our country is wrong, hateful, and unbecoming of a leader. His line of thought is racism camouflaged as "doing what's best for America" and is as dangerous as Hitler's racial ideology [4] and devaluation of  "racially inferior" people [5].

I publicly condemn President Trump for his words and actions, and I am ashamed of the people who sat in the same room with him and did not also condemn his line of thought.

Resources

[1] “Trump derides protections for immigrants of ‘shithole’ countries” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/2018/01/11/bfc0725c-f711-11e7-91af-31ac729add94_story.html
[2] Shithole Definition
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/shithole
[3] "The New Colossus"
https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/colossus.htm
[4] "Victims of the Nazi Era: Nazi Racial Ideology"
https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007457
[5] "German Foreign Policy, 1933-1945"
https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005203

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