Sister on a Mission

A Muslimah in the Midwest trying to counteract all the "war on terror" propaganda.

Location: Midwest, United States

Saturday, July 02, 2005

What Americans Stand For (And What We Don't)

The American Embassy is a lonely place these days.

The stucco walls and strong steel fence remember better times, though. Times when hope and determination laced the breeze like the smell of baby talc - promising new beginnings and endless possibilities for the young people standing every day in the endless line. They knew that when their turn finally came their future would begin. A chance to make their way to a land where everyone is respected for what he himself has to offer, not for what his father offered; where no wastaw is needed to get into school and one might reinvent himself into what he's learned he really wants to be. Love, too, and a future family might await one on those shores. All these dreams wove a spell of hope and whispered prayers around the stark white building so strong that sometimes even the taciturn guards were affected enough to smile.

Now all that remains is the dappled sunlight on the empty sidewalk, reflecting off the security cameras and the guards' guns. Lady Liberty has spent the past five years disassembling the dreams of those who once believed in her - both those in the hopeful lines and those born under her skirts. Foreigners of certain persuasions are no longer welcome, rights of her own sons and daughters are being limited and stripped away altogether, sacrificed wholesale on the alter of security until her very identity is twisted into something closed, wary and unrecognizable.

In one way the clamping down of the American borders is no surprise. When nations feel threatened they often turn to the right - so sharply that the effect is of a person with his right foot nailed to the floor, flailing endlessly in right-handed circles until he dies of exhaustion and spiritual starvation. But the reason it is so astonishing in our current times is that we had convinced ourselves that we knew better. We had looked to history's abundant examples and had sworn, "Never again." From Rome's tutorial on imperialism and implosion to Germany's hard-fought lessons that exclusion and racism breed malignancy and death for nations as a whole, to Japan's well-learned lesson that too much aggression results in being visited with the same, we congratulated ourselves on having enough wisdom and morality to avoid others' mistakes. Apparently, though, we didn't really learn from the mistakes we were so smug about. Maybe these are lessons a nation must live to really learn?

In the meantime, my government refuses visas to entire nations full of hopeful young men and women, and people in my own family contend that even illegal aliens from our neighboring states (not the rich one to the north - we don' t mind them) should be deported. "They're not 'undocumented workers', they're ILLEGAL ALIENS - they are breaking the law by being here...." They may be worthy of our passing pity, but they certainly don't deserve to share in our blessings of opportunity and abundance. Those are ours and we have every right to horde them for ourselves. Maybe people have to have actually lived somewhere where they see real want, real poverty, real despair, and the universality of hard work, hope and determination, in order to understand the obscenity and futility of that attitude. God does not grant a people the great blessings we Americans enjoy as a special favor for having been born in one place rather than another. He grants them as a test - a test our nation is failing. Those who have are obliged to share with those who don't - not just with string-laden "foreign aid", but with genuinely open hearts and arms. On so many levels we are not doing this; rather we are building walls around our riches. We exclude and even attack those who don't have money and those who don't have freedom, and then contend that everyone hates us because of our material blessings and our freedom. Most amazingly, the irony is lost on a large number of flag-waving, "Support Our Troops" demanding Americans.

America has responded to perceived threats from the outside by circling the wagons and protecting what is "ours". By blaming others' belief structures and striking out against faceless millions and redefining liberty as something that exists only within the constricted confines of the misleadingly-named "Patriot Act" instead of engaging in self-reflection and systematically hunting down the criminals responsible. Our worst tendencies are being allowed to run amok. We are becoming like the regimes we purport to hate. We are sabotoging the very values we claim to stand for. And we are trying to reorganize the globe by force. The result is that more people hate us now than ever did before, and with good reason. They may not harm us; we may not suffer the results of their frustration. God willing we will never see another terrorist attack. But if we continue on the path this administration has marked out for us - if dissent and discussion continue to be viewd as threats instead of the pillars of democracy that they really are; if we continue to horde our blessings and deprive others of the same, if we continue to try to orchestrate "democracy" by manipulation or force in the lands of those who are not our allies while we allow selfish, moniacal dictators to flourish as long as they do our bidding, and if more real Americans who know what our country stands for don't speak up - we will still die the slow, painful, inevitable death that results from walking in selfish, lonely, right-handed circles.