Immigration: Uncommon Kindness, America
America, we proclaim that we are one nation under God and in God we trust. With this in mind, and with the privilege of being a world power, should we not show His great kindness, generosity, love and forgiveness to those who need us the most? After all, we are all God’s children, are we not?
“The earth and everything it contains are the LORD’s. The world and all who live in it are his.” – Psalm 24:1 (God’s Word Translation)
In Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean stressed that, “It is better to help ten real hurting people – or nine, or one, than to be overwhelmed and withdraw and do nothing.” In light of this, I would like to put a face to immigrants and ask us to use our greatness to demonstrate kindness. Let us be benevolent with our greatness towards the pain, fear, nostalgia, agony, insecurity and embarrassment that immigrants suffer.
“You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 24:22 (NIV)
Immigrants have been misunderstood and vilified, but they are a source of enormous potential for our great nation. They are not the cause of the world’s problems or America’s problems. It is the thirst for power, greed, war and money by some, who are the cause of mankind’s inhumanity towards each other. Their lusts have catalyzed events around the world that have led to the displacement and uprooting of millions of people fleeing their native lands, in pursuit of basic survival. You would do the same if you were in their shoes. Immigrants, often have to flee from dangerous, destitute, undignified and life threatening situations in their own countries. Most immigrants do not choose to be exiled from their homes and countries of origin but endure destructive and oppressive conditions that force them to uproot their families. With hopes for a new beginning and the guts to start life all over again, they risk their lives and that of their children to come to America, a country that has always been viewed as a beacon of hope. Would we not do the same for our families, our children?
My country of origin, Sierra Leone, suffered a brutal civil war. Hands and legs of men, women and children were hacked off; young girls and women were gang raped; pregnant women were cut open as the rebels tried to guess the sex of their babies. Our story is filled with horrors that no human being should ever have to endure. International diamond companies benefited from our shed blood and terrifying agony, as international dealers exchanged arms for our national diamonds. Foreign nationals built their fortunes out of our misfortune. They built their companies’ dreams out of our nightmares. From our torture and pain and bloodshed, they created so-called success for themselves, and as their families and children lacked for nothing through blood money, many innocent war victims were killed or fled for their lives but were treated with repulsion, deemed not human enough, and labeled as an inconvenience to foreign countries—many of whom were aware that men, women and children were being wiped out by the hundreds every day, as their mercenaries took our diamonds and stood by and watched as our people were mutilated, raped, decapitated and butchered.
Many immigrants come to the United States out of the necessity to escape grave danger, hunger and persecution. They migrate to protect their children and families, to give them a better life. Being an immigrant can be a humiliating, belittling, downgrading and degrading experience, especially when you have to start from the very bottom and re-establish yourself in a new country. Immigrants do not come to America to purposely abuse the American system and way of life. Men, women and children have come to this country because, for most, the alternative is death. If you were faced with a decision to either come to America or to stay and have your daughter gang raped by militia, your son taken as a child soldier, your wife or husband mutilated and tortured to death, or to watch your malnourished baby slowly die, would you not risk everything you had, to find a safe haven for them? If that safe haven was America, would you not bring them here?
Immigrants come to this country not to take jobs, healthcare and education from Americans; they come simply to stay alive. Immigrants will do almost anything to arrive in America because of what we say we stand for—freedom, dignity, justice and opportunity. How many of us can truly say that dating back to our ancestors and looking at all our last names that we are truly natives of this vast land? Not one of us, except the Native American.
Immigrants want to contribute not just to America but to the world. Like every other human being, they have hopes and dreams. No matter what they have been through, no matter the journey, the suffering, the mocking, or the bullying they have endured, they are resilient. They want to make something out of their lives and make their life and every breath they take worth living, because that is all that they have left. Immigrants want to help but their hands are tied by the stifling rhetoric in our current public discourse, the hate, myopia and lack of understanding that pervades our immigration policies. Many want to be a voice, but their voices are broken, shattered and shut down. Many want to rise up and shine, but they are suppressed and living in fear, daily. Many want to be assets, not liabilities, to our great nation, but are not given the wherewithal and opportunity to do so. Instead, many individuals, with all their potent talent and potential often have to hide and remain in darkness, denied the power of adding to and harnessing the greatness of America. Instead, children who are the future of our world have been traumatically separated from their families under the zero tolerance policy. Doesn’t that make you wonder what the ramifications will be for the future of this great nation for such inhumane conduct? Years from now, what will be the effect on our children, on our nation, when some of us glory in breaking and tearing other people’s lives apart?
Unfortunately, some of us believe that we are set apart from the rest of the world, and that we can behave however we want and that there will be no consequences. The truth is, America is made up of the rest of the world; no other country is or comes close. We have convinced ourselves that we are somehow disconnected from the rest of the world, when in fact, almost every, if not all, races run through our veins and bloodline, whether we want to admit to that or not. Blinding ourselves to that fact and convincing ourselves that we are different, greater and more powerful than others, who we appear to assume are beneath us, does not take away the fact the races of the world run through each and every one of us and that therein lies our greatness.
What makes us great is the power, the strength, the talent and potential that we carry inside us, a people made up of many nations and the gifts that come with that. Denying others human dignity, creating animosity, hurt, anger and outrage across the globe only destroys us America. It eats away at the fabric of who we are, who we should be, and why we exist. We carry the diversity, intelligence, intuition and spirit of many, from different lands, who have come before us. In rejecting others we reject ourselves and who we truly are, and that is dangerous to our well-being and existence.
As for our current treatment of immigrant children, I am at loss for words; it is indescribable inhumanity. How can we be so unforgiving? How can we preach faith when we crush another’s hopes and dreams? Which god are we one nation under? What legacy are we leaving our own children when we deprive and rip other children away from their parents? What are we saying to the rest of the world? What foundation are we building for America’s future? Who will benefit from such cruel error?
If America were to pass laws to support immigrants and allow them to live openly and restore their hope and dignity, America would reap this act of kindness in beautiful and unimaginable ways. This is America, and we have the greatness, the power, and the gift to not only be kind to others but to give them back their dignity and treat them as brothers and sisters. It is who we are, and it is who we should show the world that we are. That is the foundation of kindness and mercy that will carry and sustain our children’s future in this great nation. Making America great again should not mean, turning an immigrant child’s life into unspeakable pain, fear and indignity. Making our nation great again should not be built on the tears, blood and agony of others. Making our nation great again should not mean ripping families apart. Remember, we reap what we sow.
“One comes to appreciate that there can be no ‘we’s’, and ‘they’s’ but only brothers and sisters – all children of God – all sacred and dignified.” – Gandhi
Immigrants are not looking for pity, but dignity, the right to live as human beings. There are plenty of brilliant immigrants and hardworking, well-meaning and respectful, and given the opportunity, they will continue to contribute positively to America, to uplift her, and to support her. They are proud and grateful to be here. They understand and the benefits of being industrious, resourceful and productive in this great nation, and if we were to show kindness to them, we would reap the benefits. That kindness is what will continue to make an already great America, even greater. Unfortunately and sadly, it seems as though we live in a culture that appears to view kindness as weakness, but it is not. It is power.
Millions, even as early as the recent past, have laid their lives for the enjoyment of our freedom. To honor those deaths and that type of sacrifice, let us use our freedom and free will to sow love, mercy, kindness, peace, and forgiveness to those who need us. Others, including naturalized immigrant men and women, have given their lives in order for us to flourish; we can repay them by thinking beyond ourselves and showing kindness to their descendants, spouses and children of all backgrounds, and to the neighbors and strangers in our land. After all, our ancestors too were once strangers and gave their lives for us and to this great land.
Yes, we have to protect our nation, but we should not allow fear to make us act like anyone but our better self. Today, in present day America, let our kindness and compassion, not our fears and insecurities, guide our nation. Let us use our power for good, to be just, kind and even sacrificial, as others have done for us. Let us be an example of unconditional love and uncommon kindness.
Indeed, may God bless America, and as He blesses us, may we in turn bless those among us who need us ever so desperately. Vilifying and blaming immigrants for problems that have long been in existence will not automatically wash away our guilt, pain, shame and insecurities. Blaming immigrants will not heal America. Instead, we create for ourselves and our children very deep and heavy emotional, mental and spiritual debts. The kind we cannot even begin to understand. We do not want the burden and consequences of such debts. We must be careful that such profound debts do not fall on the shoulders of our own children. So let us take the log out of our own eyes, before we take out the twig in the eyes of immigrants. In all our getting, let us get wisdom and understanding. Let us remember that when you give to the poor you lend to God, and He will reward us with great blessings.
We preach God, but let us not forget how God expects us to behave toward those who need us the most. If we say we believe in Him, that in Him we trust, and that we are one nation under Him then let’s act like it. The reason why we are one nation under Him is because we are made up of so many nations that we needed a higher power to pull us and keep us together, and not to destroy each other, or other people’s lives. God already created each of us great. Our greatness is not something we have to chant and incant to cause others harm. Our greatness is not something we have to shout out loud, it is innate, already residing within us and with that comes great responsibility, trust and moral consciousness. Our greatness is a state of mind and being we should walk in every day, with great love, kindness and security.
Kindness is NOT weakness! It is real power. It’s not easy, but in the face of all the anger, pessimism, bitterness, evil, meanness and darkness we are surrounded by every day, we can make the brave choice to light the flames of kindness. With all the complexities of life, I know that we can choose to use our freewill to push back against hate and unkindness. We can face the darkness within us and turn it into light.
Life is not always clear-cut; we all have many fears and questions, but they should not lead us to destroy another who is genuinely seeking and pleading for solace, and for the right to be treated humanely. They should not even have to plead for such virtues. I dare to believe that we can love better instead of hating; we can be kind instead of unkind if we make the brave choice to do so. We are humans. Our solution to our personal fears, insecurities and anger do not have to result in the destruction of another human being.
Let’s stop for a minute and take a really good look around us. What has hate, stigma, prejudice, finger-pointing, unkindness, put-downs, slander, division and stereotyping done for humanity? Our pain, anger, confusion and insecurities are not a license to inflict wounds on other people. Our choices should not enlist us to hate and to despise other people just because they look and act differently than us. Hate, meanness and unkindness are cheap commodities, found everywhere, but kindness and love are hard to come by.
- How has hate and wrecking another soul assisted us?
- How has such behavior, such mindsets, served humanity or set us free?
- Do we derive real joy and real peace from such behavior?
- Are we set free from our personal demons?
- Are we healed from darkness, depression and insecurities?
- Do we regain our confidence and self-love?
- Do we become liberated and relieved from our deepest fears, misplaced and misdirected anger?
- Are we delivered from our personal torments, trauma and agony?
The answer to all of the above is plain and simple—NO. Our human race needs all the love and kindness we can muster, more than ever. We begin by changing our mindset; the way we think and do things. Are we not tired of being afraid and hateful? Are we not tired of feeling and being helpless? Are we not tired of hurting each other? Are we not tired of going around in circles? Do we not realize and understand that there is more to us than our anger, prejudice, stigma and depression? We are terrified and broken but we cannot give up or give in to darkness, fear, depression and pulling each other down. We have to start thinking about how we can rise up from the dust and build each other up. We do not have to tear each other down. We do not have to tear each other apart. We do not have to bring division among ourselves. We do not have to crush and suppress each other, and turn and blame the immigrant for our demise. We do not have to look down on each other. We do not have to glory in and gloat at other people’s terrifying life conditions. That will not bring us any form of true healing or deliverance.
Instead, we can choose to accommodate and assist each other. We can choose to not take out our pain, agony, insecurities and fears out on each other. We can strive to make the brave choice to look at the root of our problems and torments raging within us, to fix them, and to not blame others. We can all become assistants and assist each other in so many ways. Imagine how you can help this nation grow. Imagine how you can serve. What if you didn’t just stop there? What if you acted on your imagination and dared to bring it to life?
Imagine if you decide to step out of yourself and go out of your own way to improve someone else’s day, to improve the life of an immigrant? The effect will be endless, so much so that we will never be able to measure it, because each of our actions take on a life of their own once we put them in motion in our nation.
Our positive, everyday deeds will bless countless people who we will never meet, who we will never know. The blessings have to start from somewhere, from someone, from us. Let us be the blessing to this beautiful land we all call home. And in blessing others, we also will be blessed, beyond our imagination.
If indeed in God we trust, if indeed we are one nation under God, then let’s practice the unconditional love and uncommon kindness that that trust and belief come with. Let’s not use His name and scripture to injure others and cause unspeakable, indescribable agony, in the lives of others.
Indeed, we are a great nation. Let us be the example, exhibit and illustrate uncommon kindness, uncommon compassion, uncommon love, humble and uncommon power.
Indeed, God Bless America. God knows, we need His blessings now more than ever!