Caravan of migrants a test for government, each of us
If you were President Donald Trump, how would you address the swelling caravan of desperate migrants making their way through Mexico to the U.S. border?
I asked this question to my social media readers and received more than 400 responses. Everything from “Use napalm on them when they get here,” to “Invite them into our homes.” My response, which I’ll get to, is somewhere in between.
Not only is the migrants’ pilgrimage to the promised land in the news every day, it’s also on Americans’ minds and in their hearts. Each day, I’m hearing from new readers sharing their unsolicited opinions with me, revealing their biases one way or another.
“Are we not a Christian nation, filled with compassion and empathy?” asked one woman.
“If we let them into our country, how many more will come after them?” asked a man named Henry, from Griffith.
Both of their questions are excellent, yet unanswerable.
Their opposing responses says more about them and their vision of America than about those traveling migrants from Central America. Unlike most of my readers, and our president, I have more questions than answers.
Are we being invaded and need to protect ourselves, as many Americans sincerely believe? Is this a politically-triggered stunt, from the left or the right, on the cusp of the crucial midterm elections? Will this caravan be called a mob by the time it arrives on our border?
Despite the reality that some form of this caravan will eventually get to our gated community, U.S. officials have no concrete plans about what to do. Trump has threatened to cut U.S. financial aid to Honduras and El Salvador if the crusade isn’t stopped. Can he? Will he? No one knows for sure.
Trump also has threatened to declare a national emergency, possibly enabling him to send U.S. troops (not only the National Guard) to the Mexican border to deal with the thousands of migrants en route here. Again, will he? Yes, I think he will.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” are iconic words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Is this only a promise on a plaque or is it a fundamental doctrine of our nation?
This incoming crisis, as it’s been called, is another test of our core values as a people. It’s forcing us to choose which we value more – our safety or our empathy, our immigration laws or our moral laws?
With its timing so close to Election Day, our leaders are using this crisis to bolster their political stances. Of course.
The left is accusing the right of playing a role in launching the caravan from Central America. The right is accusing the left of not playing a role of any kind with immigration reform. And conspiracy theorists are playing both sides from the fringes of their imagination.
Trump, who can’t resist dousing a raging wildfire with gasoline, suggested that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” to the caravan of migrants. In Trumpspeak, this means that terrorists are infiltrating the caravan to invade our country.
“They could very well be,” Trump said last week. “There’s no proof of anything. But there could very well be.”
Proof isn’t needed for such fear-mongering. And make no mistake, this is classic fear-mongering, straight from a script cowritten by manipulative leaders dating back centuries. It’s working on our fearful populace, just as it has for centuries.
American society is light years ahead of our ancestors regarding technology, but we’re just as fearful as they were. Worse yet, our technology allows us to be just as fearful at the speed of light, one Tweet at a time.
In a sad way, our species’ Dark Age has followed us into the 21st century.
Will these ancient fears force voters into the light of day on Election Day? This is all that matters to me at this point. I’m tired of the rhetoric, the finger-pointing, the name-calling, and the smear campaigns. Nov. 6 can’t get here fast enough for me.
In fact, I voted early this year just to get it over with.
The caravan of migrants will not arrive at the U.S. border by Election Day. It doesn’t need to. Simply watching nightly news accounts of the march will scare up votes from the Republican base. Trump knows this. So does the GOP. It worked for them in 2016. It might work again next month.
As for those migrants or refugees or invaders, whatever you choose to call them, they fled their countries with nothing more than hope and faith in their pockets. Yet they’ve been turned into a talking point by politicians, lionized by supporters, and victimized by too many people along the way. Including media.
They are merely fodder for us from thousands of miles away. They’re not yet actual people with faces, feelings, and American dreams of their own.
They represent something different to each of us. Maybe it’s an opportunity to show our Christ-like compassion. Or a chance to display our grace. Maybe they’re strictly a threat to our national security. Or exhibit A for tighter immigration laws.
To me, the migrants represent a living, breathing caravan of hard choices for us to make. For example, would I invite one into my home for long-term shelter? No. Would I want them to be harmed in any way at the border? No.
I want our country to show compassion without rolling out a red carpet to an endless caravan of other caravans. Is this even possible? I’m not sure.
It’s a no-win situation for our government.
It’s a decision such as this that makes me thankful I’m not a president of anything, let alone the United States. I’m curious how Trump will respond. But I’m more curious how you would respond. You should be, too.