You are Light
The morning after the Paris massacres, I got up very early, shepherded my children to my sister’s house, and returned to speak to a Master Mind group of entrepreneurs. My topic: how to sell to women without selling women out. (Do not even get me started on The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.) After my talk, I went back to pick up my kids and hung out with my sister for a bit. She’s having a sick and scary pregnancy. When I returned home and pulled into the garage, I could hear music playing. That meant my beloved was home from being out of town – again, again, always – and arrived earlier than I expected. Dadddddddyyyyyyyyy! Everyone screamed and jumped on him. He was already in the kitchen making one of his elaborate breakfasts, waiting for us to come home, wanting to surprise us. He whispered that he’d hoped to find me alone. Ahem. He and I danced and smooched in the kitchen to slow reggae. Homecoming.
So many won’t be coming home.
So many are struggling to find home.
So many are scared and lashing out.
Fear. That’s the charitable interpretation. That’s what other people are telling me and I love and trust them so I try to believe but I don’t believe.
I believe this reflexive, vigorous just-say-no-to refugees, Muslims and immigrants is more sinister than fear. It’s white supremacy. Maybe fear is stripping off the make-up and masks and hoods and sheets and surprising even the people beneath them. Maybe fear is emboldening them and freeing their tongues and their fists and their throwing arms. Maybe fear is allowing them to spew the poison that’s been stirred into them without their permission – or sometimes recklessly injected, like a drug – and call it logic. Call it justified. Call it security. Call it war.
I call it white supremacy. This burst of lava is not new. It was there all along, just beneath the surface.
Just seven days ago we gathered in squares and cities and in front of legions and cenotaphs and promised to never forget. But we are forgetting that in 1938 when European Jews needed refuge from maniacs and murder, Canada and the US said no, we would not lift our strict immigration quotas to shelter these desperate refugees. Some said that none is too many.
And our nations and our people were wrong – not just in error but cosmically, morally, universally wrong – when they closed their eyes and their borders to Jewish refugees. Let us not forget.
A young man I went to university with, a brilliant boy who went on to be a lawyer and a professor and a loving daddy, was at temple. He was fourteen. He forgot something in the car and left the synagogue to fetch it. He was alone. There were skinheads. They beat him, beat him, beat him. Let us not forget that antisemitism has not ended.
I see that man, now, using his voice on Facebook to stand against Islamophobia. Let us not think Jews hate Muslims and Muslims hate Jews and Christians hate Muslims and they hate us and we hate them.Let us hate the violence but let us not hate each other.
Let us not hate immigrants, ourselves. Let us not punish the victims of ISIS by denying them sanctuary. Let us not take up the angry call to end immigration. Every one of us in North America who are not First Nations are immigrants.
First Nations, immigrants, refugees, citizens, rich, poor; we are many and we are one. We are Canadians. We are Americans. We have constitutions and charters protecting human rights. We have liberty. We have a statue – a gift from France – engraved with these words:
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!Oh God, let us lift our lamps.
Lift them on Facebook, lift them on Twitter, lift them by email, lift them in your comments, lift them with your donations, lift them with your sponsorship, lift them with your calls to your MPs, lift them with your attention and your refusal to look away. Lift them with research and facts and share them with people who need them.
And keep lighting and relighting your lamp. Rest. Cry. Offer solace to a sister. Bang out songs from The Sound of Music on the piano (Maria and the Von Trapps were refugees). Throw your son a birthday party. Have an extravagant breakfast. Slow dance in the kitchen (every little thing/is gonna be all right). Seek quiet so you have the strength to be loud. Send love letters – texts, emails, comments – to the people you see shining, tiring, shining, trying.
Imagine a concert with lighters and phones in the air. That is us, the people who love. The people who welcome. We are glowing. I see the path in front of us because of your light. We are remaking the world with that light.