The closest I’ve ever been to the Statue of Liberty was looking out the window of an airplane while approaching an airport in New Jersey. Still, it was an impressive sight. Seeing it made me wish that one day I could go back and actually go visit it.
Growing up in hyper-conservatism, I was always torn between acquiescing to my grandparents’ and parents’ views of the world, and my own conscience. Usually it leaned toward them because, well, you can only be belittled and beaten so many times before you learn it’s just easier to go along with things.
Over the past few years, as I’ve learned to reject the abuse and found my voice, I have seen a lot of the views of that camp to be steeped in fear. I have had opportunities to actually have some of those views corrected through interactions with people who actually have knowledge of the matters. As a result, I have learned that fear will make people believe anything that will support their fears.
The other night, the kids and I were praying for Iraq and I was overcome by their circumstance. That happens a lot since I was baptized on Easter. When I hear of the suffering now, where I used to get angry and indignant, now I have an overwhelming sense of grief. The thing that struck me specifically on Tuesday night was the lack of compassion toward these people that I’m hearing from my Christian friends.
The fears these people have they support with anything negative they hear. Which makes little sense as we’ve been taking in refugees for years, and none of these fears have come to fruition.
As I listen to my friends, it’s not just lack of compassion I hear, it’s an inability to understand exactly what these people are going through, it’s a matter of, well, to be honest, a selfish fear. I have seen this myself. I have been at the receiving end of it. So have most of my abused friends.
A year ago, I quite honestly feared for my life and the lives of my children. Zelena had declared that he’d been demon-possessed, but somehow just was better now, and then he’d asked me to kill myself. I’m not uneducated on the stats in abusive marriages. Even abusive men who have never raised a hand to their wives tend to kill them and their children when they try to leave. This is not an unusual occurrence. It’s why I get so angry at people like James Dobson for giving advice that will get people killed and the church still worships him.
I had to get out. I knew that.
The day I left, one friend offered to help me get the stuff out of the house, but that was as far as she’d help. And she would only help me if we could be out before Zelena came home. She knew the stats too. She, from experience with one of her own children, knew what insane people are capable of.
It is a difficult thing to get into a shelter, especially with as many kids as I have, and it’s almost impossible if you have a boy 18 years or older. Finally an out of town friend gave me a suggestion that panned out, and we were able to get out. When we came back to the IE so I could file for divorce, we lived in a hotel. I knew well by then that no one wanted to, to use the vernacular, touch us with a 10-foot-pole. Who knew what would happen if Zelena found out where we were staying. Best to keep their own families safe.
I went to the church, but they have nothing. I could get nothing from the women’s center.
I have long excused what happened to us by reasoning that people have to protect their families. But I see this is the reasoning these same people are using to oppose taking in refugees, or anyone for that matter. The idea that I must protect my own family at the cost of the lives and well-being of others is a foreign concept to me. I’m sure most of my friends consider me stupid, but if I know a woman who’s life is in danger, I’m gonna have her in my house if she has nowhere else to go. And then I’m going to do what all those people who feared taking us in told me to do, I’m going to trust God.
I can’t imagine the horrors the people who need refuge have seen. The idea of watching your child murdered in front of you, watching your wife raped, all these things simply because your abusers know you won’t fight back because of your religion.
The idea of knowing that there are places that could take you in, but they won’t because the people of that country are afraid only for themselves, with no true concern for others.
No, you can’t say you’re concerned, then yell “Not in my backyard.”
I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’