Today I was in bits reading the news about our US President’s ban on individuals from specific (Muslim) countries entering the US, even if they were US citizens, or held legal immigration status. My social media feeds are outraged. The fact that the administration announced it on Holocaust Remembrance Day made the order particularly ominous. Several federal judges have already blocked the order on grounds of unconstitutionality, and there have been large demonstrations at international airports around the country where citizens and residents are being illegally detained.
This feels like a constitutional crisis. It feels like the period before the Third Reich consolidated power, when many thinking people could not believe what was happening, that the situation would blow over, etc.
What particularly undid me was a photo I reposted on FB, a poster that read “First they came for the Muslims…not this time motherfucker!”
I don’t know if everyone will get the reference to Brecht, or to Martin Niemöller but I grew up in post-WW2 Europe always wondering how I would react if I had been faced with the moral choices that the Holocaust presented to ordinary citizens. The “this time” in the poster I shared says that some of us at least learned the lesson, and will resist. That feeling resonated with who I am now, a christian called to give up her life for her friends, who prays for the courage to do just that. I am called to witness, we are called to witness, and turning away makes me guilty of the crimes against mercy, or at least an accessory.
It was no accident that today’s readings (fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time) were from Psalm 146-7: “The Lord loves the just/the Lord protects strangers,” and Corinthians 1:28 “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something,” AND the Beatitudes. Slam dunk. I have great role models — Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein, Alfred Delp SJ and many other christians who could not remain silent when gospel values were systematically violated by the state.
Fortunately, inspiringly, some church leaders are speaking out: Pope Francis and Fr. Jim Martin, SJ to name only two. I trust that US religious leaders are planning an ecumenical rally at the Capitol to protest this scandal and remind the administration about the law of hospitality. I was just listening to Congressman John Lewis, veteran of the violent US civil right struggles, telling Krista Tippett that the march from Selma to Montgomery was “love in action. We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action. That we love a country, we love a democratic society, and so we have to move our feet.”
Moving our feet can also involve dancing, as Rumi sings: “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” So we march, we dance, we write, we mourn, and are blessed in so doing, according to today’s readings.