Saturday, September 3, 2016

US Crossroads: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave? Or land of the Paranoid Bigot?

Paranoia about and cruelty towards immigrants among a certain sector of the US is nothing new. Fred Packer drew the above cartoon in 1939.

On May 13 of that year, the SS St. Louis had sailed from Hamburg for Havana. There were over 900 passengers, most of whom were fleeing the Third Reich. Many were women and children. They had applied for US visas and were planning to stay in Cuba until the visas were granted. They left Hamburg believing they were on a vacation cruise to freedom. Can you imagine the relief, the celebration? What must it have felt like for parents with young children?

They were planning to stay in Cuba until their US visas came through. They were denied entry at Havana and the US visas were never granted. Allegedly a letter they sent to US President Roosevelt begging for refuge was ignored.

The ship hovered off the coast of Florida but eventually had to make its way back. There were protests and many attempts made to save the passengers from the worst fate imaginable. A few passengers got into Cuba and some into safe European countries and the UK. But many were sent back, and of course ended up in concentration camps. Imagine being a parent trying to explain that to your child.

The land of the free, the home of the brave? There's nothing free about rationalizing your fear and cruelty. And there's nothing brave about promoting the kind of hatred and bigotry that supports your rationalization.

America is the land where some people are free and many are tremendously brave. It's not the whole picture, though. It never was. The outcome of this Presidential race will show whether it's the bigger picture or not. It's a time where the free and the brave do as much as they can to preserve decency and humanity, and cling like hell to hope that they're in the majority. #ImWithHer.

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