Lots of people believe their countries are best. We do too. Caring for one’s country is good. Economic objections to admitting refugees don’t justify brutality. Strategic disagreements about Iran’s objectives don’t require going to war. But demonizing people changes the stakes. Treating them as nothing but vandals and killers, unworthy of concern, drives the ugliest parts of both the refugee and Iran crises, and threatens everyone in a chorus of hate.
Trump’s African-American predecessor created a path to peace in the Middle East. Obama was hardly the first African-American with diplomatic skills. Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche negotiated the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Powell and Rice are more recent. But Trump can’t recognize Obama’s achievements. So he shredded the path to peace, revived animosities that made it useless for the US to stay in Iraq, and demonized Iranians and Mexicans, while too many of his supporters murder those they demonize.
Insistence that other peoples are unworthy of concern is like throwing a hand grenade at our common Biblical, Judeo-Christian and Muslim heritage, for the Bible, and the Abrahamic tradition it embodies, is the common heritage to which so many of us in America cling.
The Bible asks in the Book of Psalms: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”
Must we, too, be mindful of others?
Or do we think that we’re only a little lower than the angels, entitled to rule over God’s other peoples, to disparage, demean and vilify refugees and entire countries?
America’s strength comes from protecting human rights and supporting international law. We, not just a statue in New York harbor, have been a torch of freedom throughout the world.
Our Declaration of Independence became a landmark in the development of universal human rights by showing “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” and proclaiming that all of us “are created equal … endowed by … [our] Creator with … unalienable Rights … [to] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our Constitution guarantees rights to all. The Bill of Rights speaks to “the people,” every “person,” and any “accused.”
The 14th Amendment defined citizenship so that it could not be denied to African-Americans or any other race – red, brown, yellow, whatever. These are among the commitments in that torch of freedom.
When we refuse visas or reentry to refugees, returning citizens, residents or visitors simply because of ancestry or faith, we not only violate the Constitution, we dim and tarnish our torch.
For centuries, we’ve been devoted to a world of rules and mutual obligations as the best path to peace. America wrote the rules of international order after World War II for a grateful world. No one forced NATO, the UN, regional and world financial organizations on us. When this country dishonors our obligations, to Iran, to NATO, the EU, or to refugees, who’ll trust us? If we’ve become a rogue state, whose interests align with ours?
God rescued the ancient Israelites from Egypt. But the Lord reminded them, in Amos 9-7, that God also rescued other very different peoples. If God pays attention to America, it’s not so we can celebrate or claim to be #1, the best or most powerful. It is because we have a job to do for all humankind.