Friday, November 20, 2015

Appealing to the better angels of our nature

As our world, and specifically our country, continue to come to terms with the terrorist attacks in Paris one week ago, this quote from Lincoln's First Inaugural keeps coming to mind: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
I keep praying that this moment of American hysteria will pass and that the better angels of our nature will prevail. I keep praying we will learn from our history and not repeat "No Irish need apply," or the refusal to allow Jewish refugees during WW2, or the Japanese Interment Camps, or so many other examples of our failure to live up to our own ideals. I keep praying that our reaction to terrorism will not be to be terrified because that is when they win. Our reaction should be to be fortified in our identity; reminded of who we are - not to be a people who run from our core character. We should be emboldened in our desire to be a beacon of freedom, liberty, justice and welcome.
I keep praying that we might let facts triumph over fear:
  1. The Paris attack was not committed by refugees. They were EU nationals.
  2. Of the 745,000 refugees in the US since 9/11, none have committed terrorist acts. 
  3. Even the French, with their pain still so present will receive 30,000 refugees. 
  4. We have a screening process for refugees that takes between one and a half and three years.

These are the our better angels. And who we are is inscribed beautifully and powerfully on the gift given to us by France:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This is what can make America great. These are our better angels.

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