Skittles Can’t Feel Pain, or Loss, or Heartbreak

Skittles Can’t Feel Pain, or Loss, or Heartbreak September 20, 2016

You may be seeing things in your social media feeds about skittles today. I was confused at first too! It started with this tweet:


The image is of a tweet by Donald Trump Jr., featuring an picture of a bowl of skittles with this text: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Trump Jr. adds this commentary: “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first. #trump2016

According to NBC News:

Skittles parent company Wrigley Americas distanced itself from the tweet with a terse response opposing Trump Jr.’s premise.

“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy,” Vice President of Corporate Affairs Denise Young said in the statement. “We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

Looking past the fact that we now live in a bizarre world where candy companies feel compelled to comment on national politics, Young hit the problem with Trump Jr.’s analogy right on the head. Refugees are not skittles. If we don’t eat the skittles, nothing is going to happen to them. If we don’t extend a helping hand to refugees, some of them will die, many others will suffer, and still others will lose hope. Skittles can’t feel pain, loss, or heartbreak. People can.

U.S. intelligence officer Malcolm Nance responded with this tweet:

Not Skittles

Interestingly, the United States refused entry to the S.S. St. Louis, the ship shown in this image, because of a concern that some of those on board might be subversives, Nazi sympathizers, or communists. We turned the ship away because we wanted to “put America first,” in Trump Jr’s words.

When I was an undergrad, I heard a woman speak who had been on the St. Louis. She was only two years old when her parents took her on the voyage, hoping to escape Hitler. When they were turned back, they ended up in France. Once Hitler took France, they were removed to a work camp in the area. When word came that they were going to be sent to Auschwitz, her parents smuggled her out to a local French family, which took her in as their own child. She never saw her parents again. They died at Auschwitz, alongside 252 other passengers of the St. Louis who were killed by the Nazis in the years following their return to Europe.

The moment we let fear stop us from extending a helping hand, we have ceased to be America. Or maybe we haven’t. Maybe that is what America has always been—a country that accepts immigrants and refugees only when it is convenient, or when they look like us, or when we’re not afraid. Many Anglo-Americans became uncomfortable when immigration shifted from western and northern Europe to eastern and southern Europe. A series of anarchist bombings in 1919 and 1920 led to massive anti-immigration sentiment, and ultimately changes in our immigration law designed to keep out immigrants from certain parts of Europe. The U.S. welcomed Cuban immigrants fleeing a repressive communist regime, but shut the door on Haitian immigrants fleeing a repressive U.S.-allied regime during the same decades.

But I don’t like that America. I prefer Emma Lazerus’s America.

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!

Skittles can’t yearn to breathe free.

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