Monday, April 23, 2012

Immigration Reform, the Mass Atrocity

       President Obama gave a speech today, April 23, 2012, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It reflected on the honoring of “the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit -- the inspiring survivors” of the Holocaust.
     “For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again -- madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.”

 He spoke of the incidences of genocide across the world,
     “…they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.”

       President Obama speaks of unfair killings and death across the world… but his words touch the part of me that has read of families suffering through immigration reform and the lack there of…
       "Never again" is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age -- online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand -- to quote the task force convened by this museum -- "preventing genocide is an achievable goal."  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.”

       President Obama talks about his newly formed, first-ever White House position that would be dedicated to the task of preventing and responding to mass atrocities with the creation of the new Atrocities Prevention Board…
        “We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities... The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations -- citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.”

       Education on qualifications of mass atrocity:

        Obama goes on to end his speech with a few words that to me, felt like he could see us sitting in our living rooms, knowing what we are all faced with and it was if he was saying it to us personally “I did not forget you… I am formulating a plan…”
        There is absolutely nothing that can diminish our truths of extreme atrocities watching our childrens' fathers ripped away as we the mothers feel our way through the darkness of legalities, money, forms, while raising our children. Couples to be separated under an iron fist lacking compassion or tolerance. These laws are neither the future, nor the past, but are an unnoticed atrocity of today...

        “Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented.  There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.  

        It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments -- perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields. 

        So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, "We had the right to give up."  "We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one's life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity."  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?  

        But, Elie said, "We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future."  To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future -- to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.   

         To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up.  You show us the way.  (Applause.)  You show us the way.  If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.  If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.  That has been the cause of your lives.  It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.”

 ...If we keep on believing in family unity, if we do not give up, we can show them how human we really are.

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