I am not one to share emotions easily.
When I am sad, it tends to manifest in anger. My mood today, looking at photos of Syrian refugee children and watching top American politicians turn their backs on them, is white hot.
Award-winning Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman’s “Where the Children Sleep” shows tiny boys and girls not much older than my own asleep on junkyard mattresses, ratty blankets, and rocky soil as they flee Syria. In the series of photos gathered in tent cities across the Middle East and Europe, where roughly four million people are fleeing tyranny, the children’s faces are contorted in fear even when not awake.
The are small. They are vulnerable. They are certainly not to blame for the turmoil that has forced them from their homes.
Given a bath and hot meal, any one of these children would be indistinguishable from an American child.
Yet more than half of American governors — 27 of 50 — have publicly opposed President Barack Obama’s policy of welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States, Ohio’s own Gov. John Kasich among them.
“The governor doesn’t believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot be adequately addressed,” Kasich spokesman Jim Lynch said in a statement. “The governor is writing to the President to ask him to stop, and to ask him to stop resettling them in Ohio. We are also looking at what additional steps Ohio can take to stop resettlement of these refugees.”
The statement came just days after the Nov. 12 terror attacks on Paris, where 129 people were killed and more than 400 more were injured.
For Kasich, it was a reversal of a September position on Syrian refugees. The governor’s stance on immigration up until the attacks had been admirably more centrist than other Republican presidential candidates’.
Sadly, the map of those states actively opposing the federal government’s refugee policy is disproportionately red, swallowing huge chunks of the Bible Belt. Ohio and other states seem to have forgotten the Golden Rule.
What Kasich and fellow governors need to also remember are the words of “The New Colossus”: “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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Those are the words of American poet Emma Lazarus inscribed upon the Statue of Liberty. They are the words that welcomed my family and yours upon immigration to this country.
“The Mother of Exiles,” as the Lady is sometimes called, was a gift in 1886 to the United States from the people of France. It was built by Gustave Eiffel, whose famous tower went dark last week in mourning after maniacs attacked the Stade de France and other Paris locations.
It is sadly ironic that in our solidarity for Paris, we ignore one of the most profound lessons France has given us: Our lamp should never be shuttered to anyone seeking asylum from oppression at the golden door of America.