The President of the United States said in a bipartisan immigration meeting the other night, “Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?”
Let that sink in…and then, let it sink in a little more. Wow.
For a whole year now, I and so many others have been steadfast and resolute in our conviction that the leader of this country we love—America, “the land of the free”—has catered to racism, bigotry, white supremacy, and hatred. And those who still support this man, for reasons beyond my understanding, assure us that no, we’re mistaken—and that we’re just mad about the election.
Could it not be any clearer that this man has a complete lack of respect for those of us who have a darker skin color? Could it not be any clearer from this comment that he utterly hates these refugees—these people who come to the U.S. seeking freedom, the simple pursuit of happiness, and salvation from the horrors they are fleeing?
That the President of the United States would even say such a thing is truly frightening and disturbing. Beyond the words themselves, the implications of the mentality that lies behind them just leaves me staggering.
David Bowie once sang, “Is there life on Mars?” I seriously wonder myself—because it is unfathomable that someone filled with so much hate and disgust shares the same planet I do.
We are all refugees of one sort or another. My grandfather on my father’s side came from Sweden, and his wife, my grandmother, was from Denmark. I have a good friend whose parents are from Honduras. He has a charity that raises money for a hospital that treats children who are burn victims, the The Ruth Paz Foundation. Another friend I went to college with has traveled to Haiti to help hurricane victims. When I lived in Atlanta, I supported a charity event called Chantlanta that raised money for an organization helping young women in India go to college.
I could go on—but the point is that there is so much we can do (and are doing) to help those who are suffering in this world. And in doing so, we honor them as fellow human beings who possess as much intrinsic value and worth as we do ourselves. Because in our most basic and elemental form, we are all human and share a common humanity.
We are all connected. What happens to any one of us affects us all, like a ripple in the stream of life we are floating down. We have a basic need to love and be loved—and when we put this into practice, we are better people because of it.
Likewise, when we eschew such things—like simple kindness toward others—we reveal the dark, cold hearts that we must possess to be so blind and so indifferent to compassion and empathy. That the leader of this country—a country once thought to be a haven for the suffering and downtrodden—would behave this way is chilling.
A year ago, on Jan 27th, President Trump banned refugees from seven countries—Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen—from entering the United States. The following day, a judge blocked this order. I applaud that judge. We each have a voice, and we can each stand up to make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant we may feel.
I responded to this ban as well, here in Central Oregon. I wrote a song called “Love,” because love is what we need more of. Love extended toward refugees, love extended toward those who are suffering from violence and the devastation left by war and natural disasters, and love extended toward each other.
We are all connected—all of us. Making racial slurs and directing hate toward these other countries perpetuates the “us vs. them” paradigm. All that does is further the division that exists between us. Division within the country, not just in politics, but division that exists in the very society we live in. Division in our day-to-day lives.
We need to create a new paradigm that bridges the gaps between us and will help us to cultivate a world that works for all beings—including all those refugees coming here from other countries like El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries. Those that were called “sh*thole” countries by our president.
This is just heartbreaking and unacceptable. How have we become a culture that is so callous, so indifferent to each other, and so self-absorbed that such a thing could take place? How have we become a country that elects a president who so blatantly espouses bigotry, hatred, and white supremacy—and then attempts to normalize this behavior and live in complete denial of what is happening right in front of us?
I feel pain deep inside of me for the suffering these refugees have endured. I feel the darkness that we live in each day, but I also feel the power of love and the call to stand up for what I believe in. I am just one voice…but one voice can make a difference.
I will speak out for love and support of all refugees and immigrants. They all deserve to be treated with love, respect, and dignity. I know what it feels like to be excluded and to be treated with disdain—to feel unworthy. But the truth is that we are all unique in our own way; we all possess divine beauty, and we are all worthy.
David Bowie taught me many things—but perhaps the most important thing he taught me is to love myself for who I am, regardless of what other people think, and no matter how much I might feel like an outcast or an outsider.
“Oh no, love—you’re not alone,” David Bowie sang. And, to all the refugees out there—you are not alone. I choose to send you love.
(c) 2017 by Victor Johnson
I gazed out on the bleak winter sky
As far as I could see
I thought of Martin Luther King Jr.
And the land of the free
I wondered at the darkness
And the pain inside of me
When I was young they told me
You can be anything
So I write these songs of empathy
My heart wants to sing
I wish I had the words
To make the bells of freedom ring
I called on angels in the sky
To shine their light on me
David Bowie, Leon Russell
John Lennon, Prince, and Bob Marley
I prayed that we could live as one
And let all people be
Author: Victor Johnson
Image: Unsplash/Tim Trad
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May