Thanksgiving Thoughts on the Children of War

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” – Gandhi

Today is Thanksgiving. Donald Trump wants to bring back torture, and crowds cheer. Republicans in the House of Representatives would just as soon simply watch the suffering of desperate Syrian refugees on TV rather than obey the all-welcoming edict on the Statue of Liberty. By attacking Iraq, we destabilized Syria, created Daesh, and set millions of people on a road of despair to escape the war zone of our making. According to those running for office here, however, these people are all terrorists bent on our destruction. It is our Christian duty, apparently, to let them die.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Half of those in flight are children, many no older than my daughter. When she was born, I called her “The Bean.” There she was, this tiny creature who took 19 hours before finally deciding to show up, wrapped in her swaddling like a well-rolled cigar, with a little cloth cap to boot. I could hold her in the palm of my hand with room to spare for a couch and a coffee table. This fully helpless little slice of existence rendered me utterly helpless as well, and so I gave her that diminutive nickname to offset the reality of how completely she owned me.

She is a woman, small in stature but tall in potential. I glimpse her future from time to time when I look into her eyes … and then she trips and falls and rolls and giggles, and is a toddler again … but I see that future, see the woman this little girl is going to be, and it leaves me always in a state of generalized awe.

All too often these days, however, I look into her sweet face and see other people’s children running for their lives from the violence in Syria, sleeping outside on dirty mattresses, a pile of rags or bare and barren dirt. Many of them are orphans, and their eyes are hollow holes of sorrow. Four million refugees have fled for their lives from the carnage, and 2 million of them are children.

Many people in this country are ready and willing to take these children in. However, these children must first be screened to ensure they aren’t terrorists. The process could take years. Too many of these children – even one is too many – will be dead before they ever see a hot meal again, much less shelter, education or a kind word. That doesn’t matter, it seems. Not anymore. It’s an election year, you see.

This from the same crew that wants to database American citizens because they are Muslim. Bring back torture, sure, why not? Blame the refugees from our war for their situation, deny them safety, and then demonize them as terrorists to scrape a few more votes off the bottom of the barrel.

Exactly when did we become cowards? At what point on our timeline did it become acceptable to demand that war-zone refugee children be screened for possible ties to terrorism? The Paris attacks were terrible; the Mali attacks were terrible; 9/11 was terrible; so very much is terrible. These are children. How many suicide bomber toddlers have you ever heard of? I’m guessing none. Hot tip, folks: These children don’t bomb us. We bomb them, almost every day.

Our fear of the few is exacerbating the suffering of the many. Low-road politicians seeking a gig shout into the megaphone of a media which profits wildly from frightening us about terrorists hiding under our beds. Meanwhile, our wars create more refugees … and just for the record, how many acts of terrorism committed on US soil by refugees can you recall? Right, I thought so.

I am sure this will all be much discussed around our Thanksgiving table. It is to be hoped that I will not break bread with anyone who thinks these refugees, these children, should be rejected, fed into databases, fed into camps, but you never know. Fear does strange and terrible things to people. All across the nation, some folks will belly up to the table and make passionate arguments about the morality of the deprivation of children while enjoying their turkey and stuffing.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I will hold my daughter tight. Her eyes will show no woe. The same cannot be said for so many children in too many places, alone, shivering, starving, trapped. They all have the potential my daughter has, but that potential has been abandoned by the side of the road to war.

It’s not because we can’t do something about it.

It’s because we won’t.