I’ve taken to having NPR play on my computer whilst I work as music is too distracting for me at times. I rarely actually listen to the stories—I just like having some background noise—but this one caught my attention simply because I heard the name “Dagmar.” My wife’s name is relatively rare, even in Europe, so when I heard the name I started paying attention.

It turns out that the Dagmar in the story is a Swedish museum director who is helping an Afghan refugee rebuild his life. (So far every woman I’ve ever heard of named Dagmar has been kind and compassionate by nature.)

The article made me realize that many people in the world have to make difficult choices—far beyond what most Americans have to face. The college-educated Afghan refugee in the story had refused to help the Taliban, was beaten, left for dead, had to leave his wife and infant behind to flee the country, and is now learning a new language and a new trade, hoping to find a way to get his wife and baby out of Afghanistan.

I can’t imagine the desperation, terror, and confusion the refugee faced. It makes me sad that the very people who robbed him of his home, family, business, and education have also robbed him of the chance to rebuild a life here in America. The United States once prided itself on accepting immigrants and refugees, calling itself “the melting pot.” We realized that our strength relied upon our diversity, that everyone deserves an honest chance to prove themselves, to rebuild their lives. Tolerance and compassion were values we held dear, as we knew that our fathers and grandfathers came here needing to find that tolerance and compassion and had found it.

This isn't the answer.But now the current political climate in the US precludes such ideals and values. We no longer welcome refugees and immigrants, and have traded compassion for fear, tolerance for mistrust. We are now willing to hate the oppressed because at first glance they look too much like the oppressors. We are willing to turn our backs on those who need our help most because our political leaders have turned fear into an industry. We’re afraid that if we share our plate with the poor we may not have enough food for ourselves, we’re afraid that if we help the disabled we might not have enough money to care for our own, we’re afraid that if we welcome the stranger he may harm us — so we shun the poor, turn our backs on the disabled, and close our door to the stranger and live in isolated fear, counting our precious pennies, eager to judge and to hate.

And that makes me sad.

“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!”

One thought on “Choices

  1. Michael Springer

    We in the US have been able to live in an environment (social, economic, resource rich, at least the delusion that we can become millionaires, etc.) that is far different from the rest of the world that the news media portrays to us every day. We see bloody evidence of how easy it is for a few psychopaths to destroy the hopes and dreams of millions in a day of mass killing or subvert our laws to exploit us economically, militarily or almost any area that they detect a vulnerability.

    In the past we have allowed others to immigrate to the US as long as it benefited a major industry somewhere. Agribusiness in California is just one example of an industry that has lobbied for cheap labor from Mexico. The US has not only looked the other way while millions slip over the border but we have spent billions on taking care of the migrants so that the California farmers do not have to.

    On the other side the Mexicans have been taught that the US Southwest is theirs and that their migration to the US is part of a greater plan to take over the Western US. It has gotten to the point that the Mexicans are teaching their children to hate Americans (anyone not a Mexican) and that stealing from us is not only acceptable but applauded and rewarded.

    Unfortunately other people have taken note and decided that we are easy pickens. They range from the Mormon FLDS to the other Central and South American countries and China. Interestingly China has created thousands of anchor babies who can be reintegrated into the US after their indoctrination.

    I share your idealism but have been around long enough to know that there are people who are scrambling to get into the US so that they can perpetrate whatever evil they have in mind.


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