Hello all! Let us now talk about being human.
The year is 1929, a young woman named Elizabeth traveled from her home in Germany to the United States of America. She left behind her family, her friends, and the memories of her fiancé who had been killed during WWI. Everything she owned was placed in a single wooden trunk. In her bag was a letter from a man in Nebraska who was seeking a German wife. Elizabeth was also seeking a new life for herself – one away from the dangers rising in her home country.
As it turns out, the man in Nebraska had already found a wife by the time Elizabeth arrived in New York. She moved to Chicago and worked as a nurse and housemaid. An honest job for a clever, independant woman with limited English. That was were Elizabeth met Herman, another German immigrant who received his citizenship in 1933. The two were wed moved to Kansas where they had two daughters – Annie and Sue.
In 1952, Sue married Clete. In 1958, the couple had their first son, Mark, in England while the couple was stationed there with the US Air Force . Back in Kansas, in 1961, their second son was born, Scott – my dad.
My great-grandmother arrived in the United States with nothing to her name but hope of a better future than the one currently unfolding in Hitler’s Germany… and through the kindness of the Americans she met along the way – I am here able to write this now.
Wednesday was Burns’ Night, the annual Scottish Holiday for celebrating Robert Burns. Burns was a famous Romantic Scottish poet who wrote frequently about his love of the Highlands was an inspiration to later writers such as Walter Scott. It is traditional to eat haggis with neeps and tatties to celebrate. And so, my friends and I gathered together for a feast. My friend Ali, from St Andrews, memorized Burns’ ‘Address to the Haggis’ and recited it with great gusto and ceremonially split the haggis with an ice axe (we are mountaineers after all). We toasted each other, friends from across the planet, with whiskey.
Saturday was Lunar New Year, the annual Chinese festival to celebrate the coming of the new year. Again, my friends and I gathered together for a feast of noodles and dumplings and rice. Our hosts were Chris and Jingjie from Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. We gathered to exchange well wishes and hopes for the new year with toasts of sake.
Everyday in the flat these thing occur: Gregor complains about the English but then is reminded that many of his friends are English. Tuva and Erling talk rapidly in Norwegian and I am only left to infer they are talking about their love of herring. I use a farming or baseball metaphor. We all sit down for a nice dinner.
In summary: Different cultures are beautiful. My friends from all over the world are amazing and I love them all dearly.
And now, history repeats itself as Donald Trump attempted to ban people from seven Muslim nations totaling to 130 million people. Refugees landing at JFK Airport, who had thought they had finally made it free, were confronted with the reality that they were arriving in a hostile nation. Parents seeking a new future for their children have been told despite the days, months, years of waiting for legal visas – they are not welcome.
Trump based this ban through a hastily written and cowardly executive order – ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.’ The order reeks of xenophobia and Islamophobia. It lumps thousands of people together for the actions of a few. Socially, it is dangerous and created out a fear of the unknown. Politically, Trump has made it clear that to him all Muslims are the same. Which is ridiculous and ignorant considering most Americans are able to separate the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church from Christianity but are somehow incapable of separating ISOL from Islam.
Oh, and FYI: We are only nine days into Donald Trump’s presidency.
But – the America I know came out and showed the world we will not blindly follow in his hate. Within hours, protestors had congregated at the airports the refugees were being detained and stood together in solidarity. Lawyers went to work and the ban was declared rightfully unconstitutional for those who had already arrived in America and for those in transit with valid visas. This saved those currently being detained in airports… but what about the rest? Additionally, the ban did not just affect refugees, it affected Green Card holders who are currently abroad as well as people arriving in the US for business such as a vet from Glasgow who holds an Iranian passport.
How can the President of the United States, the so called ‘Leader of the Free World,’ have so little empathy and compassion for those in need? We want to lead but we are afraid of stepping up to the plate and educating ourselves about real issues.
History is not kind. Those in congress who stood by and did nothing will be remembered as the cowards they are.
But – again, for the people in the back, over the nine days I have seen the American people step up to the plate when our ‘political leaders’ have struck out. The displays of love and solidarity across America make me wish just a bit that I was there to stand along side you all… instead of writing this on my blog.
I am so proud of my friends who are standing up against this and standing with each other. I know together we can get through this. For my Canadian friends – thank you for stepping up when American could not. And for my Scottish friends – thank you for being there in solidarity. And my German friends – hats off to you too.
So please, when you’re reading this think of something you can do to make a difference – even a small one.
Educate yourself. Stop spreading clickbait and false news. Listen to three or four different sources before making a snap judgment.
Attend a march or peaceful protest! Sign a petition!
Call or write to your legislators. Here’s for Kansas. Here’s for The House of Representatives. Here’s for the Senate. I know emailing politicians may feel like a dead end, the number of times I’ve tried to contact them and received only an automated response is high… but once we decide our voice is never going to be heard is the day we become complacent.
Donate to organisations like the ACLU whose lawyers are currently working pro-bono to help those currently detained in airports.
Listen to those who are speaking and stand beside them. Simply listening and understanding a different point of view can make the world a better place. Our current crisis stems from fear.
Keep talking. Post on social media, have conversations with people. Politics isn’t a mum subject.
We are all human and, to be honest, we aren’t all that different. My great-grandmother was able to restart her life here in America. It is basic human dignity that we extend this chance to refugees fleeing their countries in the same light Elizabeth fled hers.
And seriously, it’s getting fucking exhausting trying to explain this to people.