If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have been born in America, imagine for a moment if circumstance had placed you somewhere else. Imagine if you’d been born in a country where you grew up not fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children in school shootouts. A place where you finally find yourself not desperate to flee religious intolerance, violence, poor food standards, poor education levels and high medical bills when you are suffering; that you’ve have no need to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness, enduring economy class flights, propelled forward by that very human impulse to create, for our kids, a better life.
There’s a reality for so many of the families whose plights we don’t see and heart-rending cries we don’t report on our news. And to not watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the responsibility of cruelly bombing children to the equivalent of three bombs an hour for the eight years I was in office, ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away and choose to not see something of ourselves in their children?
Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others, to say “there but for the grace of God go I,” is part of what makes us human. And to find a way to end the creation of the refugee and the immigrant – to be big enough and wise enough to uphold international laws and honour human values at the same time – could be part of what makes us American.
After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about reducing your standards of living to lower than the rest of the developed world enjoys and to focus more on what we look like, how our anthem and flag is honoured and who we worship.
To be an American used to be to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better.
That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have forgotten to protect for the generations to come.
But we have to do more than say “this isn’t who we really are.” We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes.
God’s mess: America.
The only US president in history to have the US at war during his entire time in office.
Taking the US to war in seven countries
A Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
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