Jesus said a thing, and it applies to how we treat immigrants and refugees

 

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How can you claim Him but deny those He told you to care for?

In discussions about the way the USA treats immigrants and refugees, I regularly hear people who claim to be Christians say things like “well, maybe they shouldn’t be breaking the law coming here as illegal immigrants. Mary and Joseph didn’t break the law, so them fleeing a violent and oppressive regime to become refugees elsewhere is totally different.”

Ooooooh honey. No no no. There is so much there that you are getting wrong.

This is the comment I left in response to a comment along those lines today. And because I see this used as an excuse allll the time, I’m going to expand on it.

“There is so much wrong with that, both factually and logically.

1. Refugees are also being treated terribly, stripped of their families, coerced into not requesting asylum, and put into concentration camps with immigrants.

2. They [Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus] weren’t breaking the law? There’s kind of this part of the story where the decree passed by the head of state was a threat to the life of their child, and they defied the law and escaped.

3. How about Moses? Should his mom have obeyed the law and handed her son over?

4. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right, moral, or ethical.

Enslavement of Black people was legal. Helping enslaved people escape, as well as being an enslaved person and escaping, broke the law.

The holocaust was legal. Hiding the people targeted by the Holocaust, helping them escape, and being part of the resistance were illegal.

Making black people sit in the back of the bus was legal. Refusing to move was illegal.

Being part of an interracial marriage was illegal.

Not allowing People of Color or women to vote or own property was legal.

A certain 13 colonies breaking free and forming their own country was illegal.

Apartheid was legal.

The Trail of Tears was legal.

Legality is not what determines whether something is right or wrong.”

Quite frankly, if you are someone who is justifying and defending our treatment of immigrants and refugees, not only in the sense of what is happening on the border but also in the sense of our turning away refugees from war torn countries that WE HAVE BOMBED, and in the sense of the Muslim ban that the SCOTUS just upheld, you disgust me, and you are in no way living what Christ Himself taught. Furthermore, you are the type of person who -in Germany – in various ways supported the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. And no, that is not hyperbole.

We helped create the situations people are fleeing from, we have created the system that makes it damn near impossible to come here “legally” if you’re poor or need to leave home quickly. And now, when they try to come here to escape the situations in their countries of our making, we strip these same people of their humanity and dignity, tear their families apart, put them in concentration camps, and punish them every way we can for daring to try to exist? What. The. Hell.

If you support this, don’t you DARE call yourself pro-life, and don’t you DARE say “all lives matter”. This stand is the very opposite of being pro-life and you are showing that you don’t actually believe all lives matter, you only believe they matter if they’re white US American lives, especially if they’re police, to include if they are police who have just played judge, jury, and executioner to a black person. You have blood on your hands through your support and justification of a system that is engaging in ruthless ethnic cleansing and heading down the path of genocide. You should be on your knees before God and the people you are wronging, begging for forgiveness.

Let me close, not with my own words, but with the words of Jesus Christ Himself, whom you claim to love and follow. Read this and see how well your actions match up with this.

Matthew 25:34-45

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

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The “zero-tolerance” policy didn’t occur in a vacuum

I want to start by saying that I absolutely oppose ripping families apart and housing children in cages. The following post is not at all intended to justify, minimize, or excuse what has been happening on our southern border, but rather to give food for thought about the context, history, deeper implications, and further change that is needed. And if you’re someone who has exclaimed “I don’t recognize my country. This is not who we are!”, you need to pay attention too.
 
The “zero tolerance” policy did not come out of nowhere. The current state of affairs regarding how immigrants and asylum-seekers are being treated did not occur in a vacuum. The United States has a long and blood history of treating People of Color (POC) terribly, going all the way back to the first white explorers who fumbled their way across the sea and went on to rape, pillage, and intentionally inflict disease and death on indigenous peoples. Our colonialist history is rife with story after story of white people enslaving human beings because of the color of their skin and literally treating them even worse than animals. Our country’s foundation is built on the blood, sweat, tears, and backs of POC. And this is not the first time we’ve turned away refugees and immigrants fleeing bad situations. If you think it is, you should really do some research. Start with how we basically said “Screw you” to refugees fleeing the brutality of Hitler’s Nazi regime. We like to think of ourselves as the heroes in WW2, but the truth of the matter is that we took an isolationist approach that cost millions of innocent people their lives. When we did get involved, it was because the war was brought to our doorstep. And then, we committed some morally reprehensible and unnecessarily brutal acts in our pursuit of vengeance and “trying to bring an end to the war”.
 
Our country has long been involved in ripping apart families for the color of their skin and inflicting trauma on POC, including children. Our industrial prison system incarcerates POC for things they shouldn’t be incarcerated for, and benefits from their unpaid labor, while making little to no effort towards rehabilitation or restoration. We profit from their pain and incarceration. The school-to-prison pipeline is a very real thing and a big problem. Our treatment of Native American people is reprehensible. We justify and excuse and allow to go undealt with the rampant police brutality that regularly takes the lives of POC in what can accurately be described as state-sanctioned murder. And our treatment of immigrants from south of the USA has long been absolutely vile, under Presidents of both parties. President Obama earned the nickname “Deporter-in-Chief” for a reason. And when President Trump was campaigning leading up to the 2016 election, he told us exactly how poorly he thought of immigrants and that he wanted to treat them badly and wanted to further strip them of their humanity. But we, white USAmericans, didn’t listen. We have long been not listening to the POC trying to tell us how bad matters have been. We have ignored and shouted down and blown off the POC trying to tell us how much we needed immigration reform. We have refused to truly and fully acknowledge the fullness of our racist white-supremacist history and the amount of systemic racism that still exists.
What is happening right now is vile, and a violation of human decency, human rights, and US and international law. But it didn’t just suddenly pop up out of nowhere. And it’s not something that just one party allowed to happen. If we (white people) took a good hard look at ourselves, we’d find that in some way, all of us have held at least some responsibility and culpability in letting matters get to where they are, whether that’s be our actions or our inactions. Voting for politicians who enact and don’t fight against ingumane laws. Not teaching our children better. Not calling out racism and xenophobia when we see it.  Not working to hold our elected officials accountable. Not listening to the POC trying to tell us the truth about our history. Not acknowledging our history.
We have to start working for real change, but it needs to go much deeper than just pushing back against this one policy. And it has to start with taking a hard look at our own hearts and habits, with seeing where our own shortcomings lie. Change has to come from within to be true real lasting change. We have to acknowledge the racism that has made this possible, and we have to start working to uplift the POC doing the hard work here. We need to rip out the roots of anti-blackness that this country is built on. We need to examine the systems of oppression that have stolen so much from Native Americans. We need to take a hard look at the American Exceptionalism and colonialist underpinnings of our foreign policy. We must acknowledge the humanity of those we have tried for so long to dehumanize, and stop hiding behind the nonsensical idea that “Well, if they’d just follow our laws…” For one, something being law doesn’t make it right, moral, or ethical. And for another, we still kill and traumatize POC who follow the law, so that’s straight BS.
What is happening on our southern border isn’t ok, but it didn’t just come out of nowhere, it didn’t occur in a vacuum. We have allowed this to happen. It’s well past time to put a stop to it.

Police Brutality Is Not A New Problem

By now, you may have heard about a recent incident in Salt Lake City where SLC Detective Jeff Payne arrested University of Utah Hospital RN Alex Wubbels when she refused to allow him to take a blood sample from an unconscious victim of a car crash, because Payne didn’t have the consent of the victim, probable cause, or warrant needed by law and hospital policy to allow him to take a blood sample. It’s been all over the news, with many people up in arms about how Payne treated Wubbels, who has been hailed as a hero for standing up against the police in defense of her patient.

I’ve seen so many reactions from white people who are horrified and shocked. “OMG how could this have happened?” “I can’t believe a cop would treat a nurse this way, she was just following the law and the rules.” etc. etc. etc.

Now. Before we go any further, I want to make this clear: what Payne did was wrong. He was out of line to try to take that blood sample, and he was out of line to arrest Wubbels and to treat her the way he did.

But I have to ask: why are we surprised that it happened?

This incident didn’t occur in a vacuum, and it didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s not unprecedented at all. Police brutality is not a new problem. Police brutality has been a problem for pretty much since police first became a Thing, and it’s been pretty bad and been in the news a lot lately, with a whole movement aimed at bringing attention to the issue and trying to raise awareness and work for change, accountability, and awareness, we (white people) just usually don’t listen. What’s the difference?

Alex Wubbels is white.

POC have been talking to us for a while now about the police brutality they face. There have been countless news stories about POC heartlessly killed by police. Ironically, many of the same people outraged by Payne’s treatment of Wubbels are usually on the side of the police when we hear that they’ve taken yet another life. “Well, that person should have just gone along with what the police told them to do and then they’d still be alive.” “The police probably were afraid for their lives.” “Always do what the police say. I don’t have any sympathy for people who don’t do what the police say and then get in trouble.” “Why are you crucifying the police? We need to wait for all the details.” “You’re only looking at one side of things, why aren’t you looking at all sides of the story?” “I’m sure they had good reason.” But now that it’s a white woman, suddenly it’s ok to be outraged without needing to be worried about the cop’s feelings?

Hmmmmmmm…..

Police brutality is a very real problem. We have allowed police to basically do whatever they want to POC and we refuse to hold them accountable, we justify and excuse them and their behavior. We perpetuate this culture of toxic white supremacy and abuse of power. Frankly, I’m pretty short on patience for my fellow white people who want to clutch their pearls at what happened to Wubbels after basically giving the police a pass to do whatever they want without facing any repercussions. We sit here and basically tell them that it’s ok to enact violence on the people they’re supposedly sworn to protect, serve, and defend all the time. Yeah, eventually it’s going to happen to one of us, and we don’t have a whole lot of room to be shocked.

When I hear the discussions about Payne arresting Wubbels, you know what I think?

She’s lucky to be alive, and it’s probably because of how she looks.

You know who’s not still alive?

Rekia Boyd.
Sandra Bland.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
Tanisha Anderson.
Malissa Williams.
Yvette Smith.
Shereese Francis.
Tarika Wilson.
Kathryn Kohnston.
Alberta Spruill.
Kiwi Herring.
Charleena Lyles.

And so many more. This is not a comprehensive list of WOC killed by police.

If you’re truly shocked and upset by what happened to Wubbels, but you weren’t upset by what happens to POC at the hands of police, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself why that is. Then you need to ask yourself why you didn’t listen to the POC who tried to tell you that police brutality is a problem.

My Kind of Love

Sometimes people ask me “Esther, why are you so outspoken? Why can’t you just talk about love? Why can’t you just love?”

Oh, but I am. Being outspoken in the face of injustice *is* love.

Here’s the thing. Love takes many different forms. It looks different ways at different times for different people.

Love looks like a gentle word to a friend who is hurting. It looks like taking a meal to a family dealing will illness or injury. It looks like a hug for a little one having a nightmare at 2am. It looks like donating money to a loved one in need. It looks like a handmade scarf for a friend who has moved to a cold place and is homesick, sending flowers to a loved one going through a difficult time, traveling to be with a family member or close friend who’s about to have a baby, and listening quietly to a loved on who is in pain. It looks like driving someone to doctor’s appointments, watching a friend’s child for an OB appointment or while they’re in class, and visiting a friend who’s in the hospital unexpectedly and taking them toiletries and a change of clothes.

Love also looks like protesting racism and police brutality, participating in marches against systemic and institutional injustice, calling your Congresspeople and asking them to fight against Executive Orders that are unconstitutional and harmful to vulnerable people and asking them to vote against unqualified Cabinet nominees who stand to do a lot of damage, and mobilizing fellow USAmericans to also call their Congresspeople towards the same end (and helping them find the right individuals and contact info to be able to do so). It looks like participating in protests against bans on refugees and immigrants based on their religion/skin color/country of origin, donating money to organizations working to help the refugees and immigrants being unjustly targeted and detained, and volunteering your services as an attorney pro-bono to those same refugees, immigrants, and organizations. Love looks like speaking up about the school to prison pipeline, systemic and institutional racism in schools, and funding organizations helping the citizens of Flint, Michigan who still don’t have clean water because “the government doesn’t have the money to help them” (but we totes have billions of dollars to build a wall that will do nothing to improve national security and serves to accomplish nothing good and much bad). Love looks like using your privilege to speak up and raise awareness about LGBTQphobia and the violence faced by transgender people, especially trans women of color. It looks like holding the feet of your elected officials to the fire when they try to take away healthcare protections for vulnerable members of society, speaking out against anti-semitism, and pushing back against ableism and the mocking of disabled people. It looks like calling out hate speech. Love looks like calling a spade a spade and not letting people hide their prejudice and bigotry behind “religious freedom” while they try to strip civil rights – INCLUDING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – from marginalized people. Love looks like saying “No, it’s not ok to ignore our history of racism, genocide, and colonization while making heroes out of men like Christopher Columbus”. It looks like being aware of the white supremacy and racism historically present in feminism among white women.

“But… Jesus was love. You should be trying to be more like Jesus.”

That’s precisely what I’m doing. Jesus did indeed preach love… Jesus preached love for EVERYONE. Jesus didn’t just preach love for people who looked like Him (and, by the way, Jesus didn’t look like a white European dude with blue eyes and blonde hair, Jesus was a Middle Eastern man [and was NOT a Christian] and, quite frankly, probably looked more like the refugees we’re now turning away than like me or most white USAmerican politicians who are supporting the new President). Jesus preached love for all people. Jesus preached compassion for *everyone*, not just people with the same belief system or the “right” nationality.

Yes, sometimes Jesus’ words were gentle and soft.

And sometimes, Jesus’ words were… less so. I doubt that His “You brood of vipers” and “whited sepulchers” speeches were seen as very nice by the recipients. And in answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?”, sometimes, Jesus would get a whip and knock over some tables, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jesus were here now, He’d already be going to town on the people perpetuating atrocities in His name.

Love doesn’t just look one way. Love can be uncomfortable, blunt, and outspoken. Love can be loud, passionate, and fierce. Love is not just words. Love is action. So if you tell me “I love people” but you’re not backing it up with your actions? That’s not the Christlike love you tell yourself it is.

I’m loud and outspoken because that’s how Jesus loved and loves me. I’m passionate because that’s how I was created, it’s who I am. I cannot say in one breath that I love God, and then sit back and be quiet in the face of injustice. Love, for me, in this time and place, looks like protests, activism, awareness, education, pushback, and advocacy. And if you try to stand in the way of my love for my friends and family, my love for my fellow human beings who are threatened by injustice and bigotry, I won’t be okay with that.

My love is not silent in the face of injustice. It is a fierce roar.

wwjdwhip

PTSD Is Not Weakness

CW: A Certain POTUS Candidate Whom I Refuse To Name (I don’t care to contribute to his trending), suicide, mental health, depression, PTSD.
 
I have no intentions of weighing in by responding directly to/on POTUS Candidate Racist McFerretwig’s recent remarks about soldiers with PTSD. Not because I don’t think it’s important. Not because it doesn’t have me all sorts of angry. Quite the opposite. So why not? It hits too close to home. And, quite frankly, this whole year (but especially the last 6 or so months) has been REALLY difficult in a multitude of ways, some of which I haven’t even talked about publicly. Lately, I haven’t been in a good place (no I’m not suicidal, just not in a good place) and I don’t have the emotional energy to watch his remarks or even to read them to be able to weigh in.
 
Instead of talking about that walking travesty,, I want to talk more generally about depression, PTSD, and suicide.
I’d like to start with a few facts.
1. Anyone can have PTSD, it’s not limited to combat vets, servicemembers, or severe trauma.
2. PTSD is a legitimate health issue.
3. PTSD is not a sign of weakness or the result of doing something wrong, sinning, not praying enough, etc.
 
Now. Even though PTSD can affect anyone, not servicemembers, I’d like to focus on veterans with PTSD.
 
Did you know that on average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide? I’m not suicidal, but I understand all too well how people – including veterans and their dependents – can get to that point. And unfortunately, most of what’s out there and geared towards suicide prevention, including from the military, is there to help when people reach the crisis point. We need more aimed at preventing people from hitting the crisis point, which means helping veterans earlier on, whether it’s earlier detection and treatment of PTSD/depression/etc., helping prevent really crappy situations from reaching a certain level, helping prevent unjust situations in the first place, and so on. A big part of that is that we need more conversations about PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues, we need an increase in education and awareness, because those are a huge part of combatting stigma. And when it comes to servicemembers, veterans, and their family members, the stigma that is out there can all too often play a very large role in keeping them (us) from reaching out for help (including before hitting the crisis point). This means we need to be careful how we talk about mental health, depression, PTSD etc. NOT saying “that’s weakness”. NOT saying that people who commit suicide are *insert derogatory statements here*. NOT joking about suicide, NOT making light of these issues. It means trying to make sure we are a safe person to talk to, and that people know we’re a safe person to talk to. It means that when you hear someone saying this crap and perpetuating stigma, you call them on it and have a conversation about the realities of PTSD, etc.
 
PTSD, depression, suicide, and mental health issues in general are no joke and they’re not a joking matter.
 
If you or someone you know need help, please feel free to message me. I’d also like to include some other links to resources that may be of assistance.
 
This link is to the Crisis Text Line (in case you’re more comfortable texting instead of talking on the phone). 
 
Military OneSource Provides a number of different types of support and resources. 
 
This link is to the Veterans Crisis Line
 
If you/your spouse are in the military, you can contact the MFLC (Military & Family Life Counselor) for your installation. If you need help finding their info, contact me and I’ll help you figure it out. ACS or your unit should also be able to help you get this info, and you don’t have to tell them why or for whom you need it.
 
For military/dependents, Chaplains may also be an option.
 
If you have TriCare, you may find this link helpful. It’s a post I wrote for Postpartum Progress about getting help for PPMD as a military spouse, but a lot of the information is relevant to this post. 
 
If you’re having a rough time, please reach out. You don’t have to go through this alone. If someone you know is having a rough time, PLEASE reach out so they know they don’t have to go through it alone. It can make a huge difference. Reaching out literally saves lives.
 
I won’t get into all the reasons why this is so important to me, besides to say that I’ve been there. After my first baby was born, I had 2 hospitalizations courtesy of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders dragging me down into a really dark place. I almost didn’t make it out alive, but I did. In large part, I made it out because of people who reached out to me, and people who responded with love when I reached out. If you’re that person and in that place, know this: you matter, it’s NOT hopeless, you are loved, and the world is a better place because you’re in it.