I don’t personally, to my knowledge, know any terrorists. The closest thing i have in my address book are a few friends who are, as the expression goes, “proudly redneck.” But i do have friends and acquaintances from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries that are far less politically flammable. None of them has ever given even the slightest hint of being a terrorist. Even the Moroccans next door- They may be complete schmukeroons, but they are unlikely to be terrorists (They are so loud, nothing about them is a secret.) If any of them, even the neighbors, needed a place to rest their head, i would gladly open my door. Without hesitation. Them or their family. It’s the right thing to do for people in need.
This time of year, the story of Mary and Joseph is front and center. Inn after inn turning them away. Mary, on the edge of giving birth, and no one will give them rest. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. No can do. Keep on walking and take your ass with you.
So Mary gives birth to Jesus in a barn. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the animals in residence curled up close, as many animals are wont to do when they see a baby of any kind in need.) In the beautiful Christmas stories, Mary and Joseph make do and go on with the tasks at hand, without further thought of the innkeepers. But i am willing to bet that they were pissed. And sad. For their own situation, the pitiful start of their beloved son, and the state of mankind itself. What kind of people turn away a near-term pregnant woman on a cold night? Even in the womb, Jesus must have been shaking his wee head and saying, “No wonder God is sending me!”
We hear the story of Mary and Joseph every year. Lets face it, Christian or not, at least in the U.S., you know how the story goes. It’s part of the reason we are kinder and more thoughtful this time of year.
But we’ve become terribly hardened and paranoid. The unconscionable attacks on innocents by terrorists, which seem to be on the rise, have us all on the edge of our seats as if we’re watching someone crank the handle on a jack-in-the-box. It’s coming. We know it is. Those fanatics are everywhere and they are out to get us all. Those crazies, with their brown skin and head wraps and accents. Evil. The whole lot of them. The entire brown population. Up to no good. Because, you know, none of them are average Joes, just trying to make ends meet. None of them go home and read bedtime stories to their kids. None of them are afraid. None of them are human.
So now we have a bunch of refugees clamoring to get into our country. Normally, we’d show off the Statue of Liberty and all her virtues and principles. We’d welcome them. Start charities to help them get on their feet. Help take care of their children. Just like we have refugees of times past. Sure, they’d face some discrimination because, you know, we’re human and all. But we’d help them. These refugees, however, we won’t help. Because they’re brown. Ergo, they aren’t human. So much for our principles.
Nope. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. Keep on moving and take your camel with you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m afraid of the crazies just as much as everyone else. ISIS, ISIL, the KKK, the neo-nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, and Tom Cruise all terrify me. But i realize that the crazies are far fewer in number than the average Joes. I also realize that i can’t hold all brown people accountable for the actions of ISIS any more than i can hold all Christians accountable for the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s unfair, and it makes life far less interesting for all.
So, how do we embrace our humanity and find room at the inn without being foolish and unsafe? I don’t think we should be Motel 6 and leave the light on for just anyone. We have a decent refugee screening process, so that helps. Maybe we should just have them stay in the barn. You know, like the badlands in North Dakota or something. (No, i’m not serious.) (But it’s better than turning them away.) (So maybe i am. ) (A little.) (If i was certain it wouldn’t become a prison.) (But i’m not.)
To be truthful, i don’t have a real answer. All i have is a feeling deep in my heart that it goes against everything this country stands for, everything my Christian friends profess, and everything humane to refuse to help refugees. People need our help. They are as afraid of the crazies as we are. They are also afraid of the people who are also afraid of the crazies. Us. I don’t blame them. I am afraid of us too. But i refuse to let my fear get the best of me.
Come in. It’s cold out. Let me get you some tea. And a blanket. You can stay here. Bring the goat. I will give you rest.