Written by Erin Jourdan
The word “sanctuary” comes from the Latin, “sanctus” meaning holy. In 2017, not a whole lot of things seem to fall in this category. The environment, women’s rights, protections for animals, equality, rights to quality education and healthcare, and immigration rights are all under attack.
The Trump administration and its followers have a hard-hearted view of the world. They believe that money solves problems if used efficiently - instead of understanding that people solve problems. They believe that there is not enough to go around, when we are one of the richest nations in the world. They believe that they know the answer when in reality they have not studied the problem. The truth is that if we do not fight for a clean environment, the rights of women, protection for the other creatures that share our world, equality, knowledge, healthcare, and respect for diversity no one else will.
My biggest fear is that while the Trump administration bulldozes the protections that have been put in place for all citizens, conservative and liberal alike, we are wasting precious time. While liberal democracy is dismantled we fail to move forward in protecting the Earth for our children, allowing knowledge to flow freely, celebrating the diversity of our culture, and we show no mercy for those who have been living here contributing to our economy. Wrestling mothers and fathers away from children born here in the USA is a gross show of power. Singling out people traveling to the USA based on their religion is against our core American beliefs. Once you begin chipping away at freedom, what do you have left? Our very identity is at stake as a nation, and we have lived too long in fear.
And if you lead in fear, you live in fear. The word that has stuck out the most to me in 2017 is craven. According to Merriam-Webster it means “lacking the least bit of courage: contemptibly fainthearted.” To be craven is the opposite of being heroic. The Trump administration is about putting business and profits above the people that make up our society. It is a very cynical view of the world. If we do not take care of our own poor, slashing budgets for those in need, how do we expect to be seen in the world as a leader? America takes, America bullies, America threatens. The one thing we do not do is lead by example. We do not show courage in the face of our problems but instead have endless ideological culture wars, rolling back rights for our brothers and sisters, refuting science and building walls. We do not lead the way in dark times instead we fight over who can use what bathroom. It is the utmost in craven politics to argue about gender politics when kids in Flint, Michigan still cannot drink the water.
As a child of the 1976 American bicentennial I was raised in the Midwest on red, white and blue bunting, apple pie and block parties. I believed that America was a beautiful place where people tried to do the right thing. As an adult I can see my innocence, and it hurts to have lost it. You cannot have a healthy society if instead of doing what is right people do what is legal. Just because there is a loophole doesn’t mean you should take it. I feel that the Baby Boomer generation grew up to become the kings of expediency and shameless capitalism. It isn’t a functional society when the wealthy hide their money overseas so as not to pay taxes. When pollution destroys our health because rules aren’t in place. When the leaders of finance pay less of a percentage of their earnings in taxes than their secretaries. When we deny those who have come to America as minors a path to citizenship we deny ourselves. Just because it is legal does not make it right.
America is the “Mother of Exiles” to quote Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Collossus” posted at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. All of the immigrants who have become American citizens were seeking sanctuary. Whether it was from poverty, religious discrimination, or wars and bloodshed. Africans were brought to this country against their will and have lived through hundreds of years of discrimination without being repaid the debt of their stolen labor. We need to address the pain we have caused our indigenous First Nations because money will not solve our problems because they are much deeper. We have created wounds that cannot be healed with cash and capital – we have created and nurtured a poverty of the spirit.
It is much more difficult to do what is right. We have to hold the space of the sacred and lead with open hearts. We have to show how there are still places in American society that are not ruled by money and opportunism, but by courage and openness to all of humanity.