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We Are None Of Us Free

We Are None Of Us Free July 3, 2018

Tomorrow we’ll shut down businesses and drink lemonade and host barbecues and set off fireworks and wave flags to celebrate our freedom.  But this year my heart is heavy because we aren’t really free.

Emma Lazarus, the gifted New York City poet, wrote the iconic lines engraved on our Statue of Liberty:

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!

What changed since we decided as a nation that we would accept tired, poor, homeless refugees and immigrants that other countries saw as wretched refuse?  What changed in our laws? What changed in our hearts?  What changed in our mindset?  What changed in our theology?  What caused us to flip from acceptance to attack mode?

How did we come to be a nation that tears children from their parents’ arms and locks them in cages?

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.

How did we come to be a nation that incarcerates black people at triple the rate of whites?

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.

How did we come to aggressively target black men like Eric Garner, who said as he was taken down in an illegal police hold, for the simple crime of selling cigarettes to try to get enough money to feed his family, “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.”  He said it eleven times.  Eleven times before he died.  In police custody.

We said we’d accept people yearning to breathe free, didn’t we?  But instead we literally suffocate them to death.

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.  

I can’t breathe.

Hundreds of thousands of kids in Yemen are dying from starvation and cholera and yet we put them on the infamous travel ban list.

How are starving kids a threat to you, America?  And you who call yourselves Christians — how do you show up at church every Sunday talking about heaven when you’re making the world a living hell for refugees and immigrants?

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.

Somalia.  Somalia’s on the travel ban list, too.  I wrote book called The Invisible Girls about five little girls from Somalia whose three brothers died before they could get out.  And when I tell that story, peoples’ eyes tear up and they shake their heads.  Such a senseless loss, people say.  A loss that never should’ve happened.  But those SAME PEOPLE support the travel ban that continues to keep innocent children trapped.   Yes, I tell them. It IS a senseless loss and it continues to happen because of YOU.

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.

Tomorrow  America will throw itself a massive party to celebrate our “freedom.”  But in 2018, we might be the least free we’ve ever been.

Because we can’t be free while we’re punishing innocent kids.  We can’t be free while we’re discriminating against people of color.  We can’t be free when women face harassment and assault on a regular basis.  We can’t be free while wealthy people wield their power over the poor.  We can’t be free while elections are bought, not won.  We can’t be free while innocent Dreamers are constantly threatened with deportment to unsafe countries in which they’ve never lived.  We can’t be free while political leaders take the Bible wildly out of context to justify their appalling behavior.  (No, Mary giving birth to Jesus does not justify pedophilia, you heartless, wicked, twisted, calloused monster.)

***

In addition to penning Give me your tired, your poor

                               Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

Emma Lazarus also wrote,

Until we are all free, we are none of us free.

We can’t be truly free until our hearts are free from greed and racism and sexism and pride and rage and meanness.  We can’t be free until our minds comprehend that every person on the planet is our neighbor, whom we’re called to love as much as we love ourselves.  We can’t be free until we leverage our own freedom to release people who are, even as we speak, living in captivity. 

We can’t be free until our souls understand that our world succeeds together or not at all.  Until we grieve and repent and acknowledge that we have so much work to do.  

Lord have mercy.  I can’t stop crying.

Because it’s 2018, and we are none of us free.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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