Sunday, November 22, 2015

Refugees Don't Just Look
Like Sunday Memories

This is my family. Grandmother, aunt, great-grandmother, grandfather.

It's the kind of picture you find in sentimental exhibitions at so-called museums touting immigrants in America.

My family came in steerage class on crowded boats because they believed the poem at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she
With silent lips.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

My family believed that poem.  Living in poverty on the Lower East Side, working grueling jobs...  no matter.  They believed.  And because of that leap of faith, I got to get an education, buy a computer and write about them.

But that's not what pictures of refugees look like today.

They look like this.

 Reuters/Dimitris Michalakis

And my job and yours and each and every one of us, especially those of us who came from that heritage of diaspora and flight and fleeing murder and slaughter and genocide, each and every one of us must do everything we are capable of so that child in those arms gets to settle some place so that maybe one day her descendant will get an education, be able to buy a computer and write the story of the day, as her family was fleeing certain death, her grandmother was carried to shore and to safety.

Shame on you, 31 so-called governors from the United States who are refusing to welcome in Syrian refugees.  Shame on you.  You did not earn that poem and you do not belong in our country.

For the rest of us who are American citizens, here's how you can help:

The Guardian: Where to donate to help the Syrian refugee crisis

Related Posts:

Sunday Memories: It Was His New York

Sunday Memories: The Daughter, The Granddaughters, The Women From Her New York