The week’s events have weighed on me as a human and as a mother. It’s the double whammy of more senseless terror attacks, and the knee-jerk response by politicians to slam doors shut on tens of thousands of desperate refugees. Kindness and common sense seem to be ebbing away at an alarming speed.
Because of that, one mother in particular is on my mind. I saw a picture in a news story a few years ago about the holocaust. With the story was an old photo of a row of Jewish women, lined up and waiting to be shot beside a ditch. One of the women had a baby in her arms, maybe nine months old, and she and the baby were turned towards the camera as they waited their turn. I don’t remember the story, but I remember that mother and her eyes. That picture will haunt me forever, because I knew could she could be me. She could be any of us.
It’s 2015 and that same mother is with us again, in mass graves dug by ISIS. She’s in Syria and Iraq. She’s in Libya. She’s Yazidi, and Christian, and Jewish, and Muslim. She stares at us, babe in arms, waiting for someone to save them from the ditch.
I hear entire nations and half of US states say to close the borders. Build a wall, and build it high. But our Statue of Liberty proclaims:
“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-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
We are in danger of trading the golden door for barbed wire woven from hubris and fear. Let’s of course be careful about who we let in, and use our intelligence prowess to keep us safe. But let’s also remember that if not for the dumb luck of where we were born, the refugees could be us. Many world leaders have forgotten that. Our state leaders have forgotten, too.
We cannot call the Statue of Liberty “the Mother of Exiles” if we allow ourselves to forget the tenets upon which our nation was founded. If we forget that mother, her baby, and the ditch, then we have lost the right to display Emma Lazarus’ beautiful words as a symbol of who we are. I’ll think of her as I fall asleep tonight. I hope you will, too.