by Marion Marks
If the spirit of Christmas has any currency today beyond economics, it must be seen in the American spirit of acceptance of immigrants fleeing tyrants and tyranny. In the NYTimes article “Thriving in Texas Amid Appeals to Reject Syrian Refugees” we see the worst and the best of American values. The immigrant experience for those who are willing to give up everything for the chance to live in a country they must accept on faith and perhaps penniless, is a challenge few Americans can appreciate.
Bringing one’s family out of harm’s way created a large percent of families who call themselves Americans today. Yet most who loudly denounce foreigners never personally experienced this challenge. Many vocal complainers sit in their warm, safe homes protected by those who went before them and sacrificed for the safety the loud voices don’t fully understand.
The Syrian family in Houston today, of this article, will understand freedom far better, because they were willing to die to experience the chance to taste it. Only when citizens are close to losing a well-earned democratic right do they have an inkling of what immigrants experience.
Kamal could have been any name from a phone book, and as America was known as “the melting pot of the world,” Kamal could be any nationality. If America stands for principles today as it did in 1776, respect for the rights of any nationality that seeks freedom must continue to be a significant cornerstone. Pledging and reconsecrating America’s ideals become the responsibility of our newest settlers in the same way it did for Ellis Island immigrants. And, bigotry, ethnocentrism and segregation of every culture can only be fought with a belief that the American ideals are worth struggling for in every state and city.
It is this season that should require a rededication of appreciation in all races, nationalities and people for freedom and the cost immigrants repeatedly are prepared to pay to have the opportunity to experience it. Beginning the pathway to citizenship, fleeing alternatives is all they ask when we take them in. This seems to be a lesson this holiday attempts to teach even the youngest child.