Today is World Refugee Day

I opened this story at the Huffington Post about Obama speaking up on Trump’s grab the children policy, and saw the subhead –

The former president calls out “the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms.”

I thought for a second about the phrase, which is a frequent trope in this story but also a literal statement – the children are much of the time literally ripped from their parents’ arms, and if they’re not it’s only because the parents are trying to minimize the trauma for the children so decide not to make it a physical struggle that they know they can’t win. The children are forcibly removed, and the parents would clutch them and resist if they had any hope it would work. I thought about that and then about the fact that of course Obama is a loving father so the expression is not a mere metaphor or emphatic rebuke to him. He can empathize with the parents very directly. Then I thought about Trump and before I could form the thought “why doesn’t it affect him the same way?” I remembered that it wouldn’t, because he was never involved with them when they were little. He has bragged about that – which is one of the reddest of red flags about his nature, that the idea of helping to raise his children is funny and disgusting to him. He was completely and determinedly hands-off, so that built-in knowledge is missing in him.

Maybe ultimately it doesn’t make any difference, because Republicans who did help raise their children still backed the hateful policy, and people who have no children are viscerally horrified by it, but…it’s one more thing. One more huge gaping hole in him where there should be something.

What Obama said was in a Facebook post today:

Today is World Refugee Day.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have been born in America, imagine for a moment if circumstance had placed you somewhere else. Imagine if you’d been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children. A place where you finally found yourself so desperate to flee persecution, violence, and suffering that you’d be willing to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness, enduring dangerous conditions, propelled forward by that very human impulse to create for our kids a better life.

That’s the reality for so many of the families whose plights we see and heart-rending cries we hear. And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?

Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others, to say “there but for the grace of God go I,” is part of what makes us human. And to find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant – to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time – is part of what makes us American. After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better.

That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have to protect for the generations to come. But we have to do more than say “this isn’t who we are.” We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes.

Yeah we do.

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