Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

This poem is dedicated to those who died in the shootings in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio

She stands in the harbor
A tear in her eye
As bullets in El Paso fly.

She stands in the harbor
Her torch a dim light
As nine are murdered in Dayton that night.

She stands in the harbor
Stoic in her pain
As more bullets from guns rain.

Her cities turned to killing fields
Littered with mass shooting’s dead.
The river in the harbor runs blood red.

Citizen against citizen no value for life.
Such hatred for strangers in her land;
Is her country damned?

She can’t stop the killing, but someone must.
When will this hatred be addressed?
“Give us your hungry, your tired, your oppressed.”

When we hear or see the world “alien” the first thing that usually comes to mind is an outer space creature like ET. Next the concept of “strange” as in “this is an alien food recipe might pop into our minds.” It also used to refer to anyone not born in the USA.

Today that last use of the word has mostly been substituted with immigrant or refugee. But the use of the word to refer to someone who didn’t live in your village, who was a stranger i.e not from your tribe or clan, goes back to Biblical times.

Thousands of years ago, written in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Leviticus, (the book that contained Mosaic Law to be followed) the Israelites were commanded by God to “Treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). And we are all familiar with the teachings of Jesus using the parable of the Good Samaritan (which has taken on a non-sectarian definition and become part of our language’s popular vocabulary) to broaden the definition of “alien” to mean everyone is your “neighbor” and worthy of help in time of need regardless of beliefs or background.

How we have strayed from that! How sad that we now see anyone who differs from us as “others”. How sad that we feel we can change our laws to exclude these human beings from being recognized as “neighbors” not worthy of the same standards we have codified in our “Leviticus”, the Constitution! Perhaps what we need is a REAL alien to visit us and show us how to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Leviticus 19:18) ET would you please give a call to our Nation’s “home” the White House and ask our President to “come home” to his humanity?

What’s in a word? The words we use to describe people, events, or our environments ultimately color our view about them. In my previous blog post, Facing An Invasion, I investigated how the word “invader”, applied to the immigrant/refugee caravan on our southern boarder, colors our attitudes toward these people. In this posting I would like to explore applying to them the word “pilgrim”.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim with a small p as one who journeys in foreign lands; one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee; The Oxford dictionary also adds: A person traveling to a place of particular personal interest i.e.“thousands of pilgrims converged in Memphis for the 16th anniversary of Presley’s death”

We all know that a pilgrim with a capital P refers to the one of the English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620.

My question is: can we consider the people trying to enter our country as pilgrims?

I came across a fascinating interview of an author who wrote a book around the topic of how the immigrants of today mirror the Pilgrims of yesteryear.

In British author Rebecca Fraser’s book, The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America, she addresses the question of why the Pilgrims left their home country. Just like the immigrants of today, she says they were treated with disrespect and forced to live in hovels and take low-level jobs that nobody else wanted. She also makes the point that many of today’s refugees from other countries are surgeons and doctors and lawyers who have nothing to show for their status in their home country. Like the Pilgrims they came here fleeing oppression, leaving not only material goods behind but also their entire way of life and identities to start over in freedom. (Interview by Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2017

(yes, yes, I know, most of the “refugees” camped on our boarder are not doctors or lawyers, but like the Pilgrims, they are fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries be it political or economical.)

In another article, American Spirit, The Pilgrims Were the Original Refugees, Michael Daly writes for the Daily Beast:

“In that sense, all the refugees who followed,[the Pilgrims] the Irish and the Jews and the Syrians and the rest, have been pilgrims. And all these pilgrims have given thanks of some kind, if not a historic feast of wild turkey and venison, then at least a heartfelt sigh of relief.”

He also recounts the Elmaris family from Syria’s journey to the United States, saying, “They then set to building a new life with the spirit that has always made America great [my emphasis], the spirit of the refugees who have come here.” 11/25/15

The immigrants and refugees of the 21st century are indeed on a journey to something holy. They are seeking America’s most scared and holy value “freedom”.  Robert Cushman, a church leader, in a famous sermon, said immigration was a solution if there was nowhere for people to exercise their talents, which he called “that knowledge, wisdom, humanity, reason, strength, skill, faculty, etc. which God hath given them.”

Our modern immigrants/refugees are fleeing from threats to their lives, and oppression for their beliefs. They are seekers of a higher, good freedom, and even those who are uneducated are seeking a better economic existence being willing to take the lowest level jobs our country has to offer. Doesn’t that meet the definition of pilgrim with both Ps?

However, if you want to do a rebuttal to this posting, do a Google search on “pilgrim vs immigrant”. You’ll find lots of information to back up an opposing viewpoint!

All during the holidays we hear our old favorite songs and ones newly written ones. I can’t help thinking about all the “invaders” stuck down in Mexico who are going to have a horrible Christmas this year. And I’m not talking about gifts or a sparkly tree. These people have fled intolerable conditions in their home countries and are now having to tolerate terrible physical conditions in Mexico. Regardless of what your opinion is on immigration, whether you do consider them invaders or not, no one should have to spend Christmas day packed into tents.

This poem was written after I heard the story about a man and his daughter who were seeking asylum and forced back into Mexico. When finally they were allowed in to plead their case, the daughter was malnourished and sick and she subsequently died. No Christmas joy for that man this year!  (can be sung to the tune of the popular song “Hallelujah”)

Broken Hallelujah


He walked the thousand miles to here

With his daughter and had no fear;

Stopped and ask us for asylum.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.


He let himself be taken in

Didn’t see crossing the border as a sin;

Fleeing the horrors from where he came from.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.


It now was almost Christmas day

He and his daughter continued to pray

That our great nation would grant him asylum.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.


Instead he was told to turn away

He could not stay for even a day

And spent the week on a cot with little food.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.


They finally let them cross the line

But for his daughter it wasn’t in time

She died and Christmas did not to come this year.

Hallelujah, Halle…

In recent weeks, a big question has been banging around in my mind about the word “invasion”. President Trump has used that word to describe the caravan of Central American refugees who are marching towards the U.S. Regardless of what my or your opinion is on whether they should be let into our country, I just can’t accept them as an invasion force.

The dictionary defines invade (invasion is the act of) as: “to attack; to enter with hostile intentions; to encroach upon (to invade the rights or possessions of another).

Can one really say that a group of individuals, mainly consisting of women and children and men whose intentions is flight from countries that threaten their lives or just to attain a better living standard, are “invaders”? When we think of invaders don’t we usually think of Attilla the Hun, and Genghis Khan and their hordes? Don’t we see Hitler with his army and armaments taking over a European country?

In those 3 examples I gave, the common denominators are hostility, aggression, and use of force through armaments (arrows, guns, bombs). Not to mention, containing sizable numbers of trained solders to execute those hostilities. These poor people approaching us have no weapons (except maybe a pocket knife or two), they don’t want to “take us over” and that would be ludicrous anyway since they are 5,000, more or less, against a population in the U.S. of millions. Furthermore, they would gladly be “captured” if it meant asylum. They love the US, otherwise why would they be making this thousands of miles trek to come to us.

OK, it is true that there are always bad apples among every group. But so far no guns, no killing, nothing except some rock throwing has surfaced. And unless they had the biblical David’s skill with a slingshot, they are incapable of doing much physical harm. Yes, their illegal attempt to enter our country would be a violation of our laws. But do we have to demonize them? Do we have to have a campaign of fear and hate placed on them? After all the horrific shootings in the last 2 weeks, do we need yet more hate to be planted in our hearts? I just pray that when they eventually do arrive at our boarders, I will not awake to the sound of gunshots on the morning news.

Would the United States be a better country if everyone spoke only one language, English? Would we coexist more comfortably if everyone erased their cultural differences and became “American?” These questions, in one way or another, are being answered through various behaviors and legal rulings that lack any positive merit. We have come to the point where we no longer want to be a “melting pot” of  immigrants, we have people demanding that only English should be taught in the schools, and we verbally assault people from other cultures because their differences make us feel fear.

Yes, we need a common language to communicate with each other and in the United States that is English. However, taking a page from the playbook of the Catholic Church, Masses and books are in the country’s language while Latin remains the Universal Church language. Instead of creating divisions, retaining the mother tongue of each country creates solidarity in each unique culture and helps people understand the Lord’s teachings better.

Last week Christianity celebrated Pentecost. According to the New Testament, this was the event where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles (after Jesus’ resurrection) and not only strengthened them for their ensuing mission to spread the Good Word but also gave them the gift of tongues.

Addressing the issue of diversity, and using Pentecost and the early Christians as examples, here are some quotes from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin that he made to the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey (a very culturally diverse archdiocese!) after he became the Archbishop on November 7, 2016:

“On the day of Pentecost, people from many lands heard the Good News proclaimed by the               apostles, each in his or her own language…There is no evidence that the response of faith erased             the  richness of culture. The Parthians, Medes, Elemites and all those other tongue twisting                       nationalities did not ‘melt’ into some celestial ‘pot.’ The first Christians retained their cultures, while         discovering a principle of unity. This principle is nothing less than the Holy Spirit.”

“I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood of southwest Detroit. I was a little jealous of                        classmates who went home and spoke a different language, ate different food, thought differently.          My service of the Church obliged me to live many years in cultures different from my Irish-                        American  family. So I am excited to lead an archdiocese where the Eucharist is celebrated in 20                languages.” (New Jersey Catholic Jan/Feb 2017 p5)

What we need now, in the 21st century, is not a gift of tongues but an ability to accept all the different “tongues” that are spoken by our diverse citizenship. Being different in language and culture, is after all, what the United States was and still is all about. Writing this on Memorial Day, a day when we remember that people of different colors, cultures, and languages fought and died to keep our great nation free, I can only pray that the Holy Spirit will once again descend and inspire us to accept with an open heart EVERYONE who lives in this great country. Even if they don’t speak English!