Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All the leaves are brown & the sky is gray: Random thoughts & raw poems on terror, solidarity, France, Lebanon, Russia, refugees & U.S. governors acting badly

Really raw writings
on the aforementioned topics

Sad states of closed minds & hearts

Several U.S. governors have announced they are closing their state’s borders to Syrian refugees. This because they fear terrorists may slip in with the influx.

In other words, none of the hundreds of thousands of desperate people fleeing death and destruction in their homeland are welcome in these states because there’s a risk a handful might be “bad actors.”

And this is a reaction to what has happened in Paris. Frankly, it’s a wrong-headed, cowardly over-reaction.


For at least three reasons:

First, the reward (and need) far outweighs the risk.
The reward of providing safe haven for hundreds of thousands who need exactly what most of us already have -- a safe, warm place to rest our heads -- far outweighs the risk that a couple of potential terrorists will squeak through.

And, frankly, it’s the truly right and biblical thing to do. Period.
Second, they can’t succeed without help.
As far as I'm aware at this time, only one terrorist in the Paris attack is suspected of coming in hidden within the flood of refugees seeking asylum across Europe.
Only one.

And, if that truly is how he came to be in Paris, he did not come in loaded with guns, ammunition, and explosives.

Like most making the arduous journey, he probably had only the clothes on his back and maybe a few other meager possessions. He came in with intent, but not the means.
To accomplish the attack he had help from home-grown terrorists or those who arrived via different means. These were people who were already in place, some on the radar of authorities.
Instead of blocking borders to those in desperate need, more effort needs to be focused on ferreting out the bad actors already within our borders.
Third, most are (or will be) with us, not against us
Those vast numbers of genuine, desperate refugees, once settled in new homes -- homes that are hundreds and thousands of miles away from their true homes from which they’ve been cruelly displaced by ISIS -- these new immigrants will become allies against those fewer who might be terrorists. In fact, they can be key in helping to root out any wanting to do us, and them, harm.
We are Americans and this is America.

We don’t cower in fear behind closed doors.

We don’t turn our backs to those in need.

We open our borders and our arms to welcome them.

We live up to the words inscribed on the base of the statue of liberty:
 “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Besides, even if there were no refugee problem, those who wish to hurt us, who don’t arise from within our own borders, will still find ways to get in.

They did it before.

They’ll do it again.

Even if someone builds a wall.

If you’re a believer, a follower of Jesus, then there’s only one theologically legitimate biblical Christian response, and it isn’t turning away those in need.

Jesus taught, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

How was this accomplished? Because, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers [the refugees], you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:31-40, ESV).

And Deuteronomy 10:18-19 reminds us, “[God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (ESV).

Or, as Jesus more simply and bluntly put it, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).

We like to brag that “we are the hands and feet” of God, accomplishing His will here on earth. If this is what we believe, then we need to act like it.

After all, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV),” and it this spirit we need to reflect into the needy, watching world.

Additional reading:


Selective solidarity

In January with the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and now with the new attacks, the world quickly rose to stand with Paris. Facebook is full of profile images shaded blue, white, and red.

But what about Lebanon?

Beirut was recently hit -- only a day before the Paris attack -- with several bombings for which ISIS also claimed responsibility. Hardly a peep was heard about standing with Lebanon. No global vigils were held. No reporters were dispatched en masse to broadcast from the town’s center reporting on the aftermath, interviewing traumatized people to put their stories on TV for our entertainment.

Only recently have a few been pointing out this discrepancy and trying to draw attention there.

But then what about Russia?

The plane that was downed a couple of weeks ago over the Sinai, again allegedly by ISIS, claimed 224 lives. Innocent Russian lives. Men, women, and children.

I mean, if you want to be crass and line up the incidents according to body count, Russia comes out on top. At least among these three recent incidents.

And yet no one -- at least not that I have seen or heard -- is calling for anyone else in the world to stand in solidarity with the Russian people. Or calling for prayers for Russia.

Why is that?

Of course, all around the world -- daily -- there are people killed at the hands of all manner of terrorists, and most of these killings are ignored. Except locally where they occurred, of course, where the pain is felt directly.

Even the few incidents warranting national news attention (usually because of high body counts) seldom draw the same level of sympathy as have the Paris attacks, and even more quickly evaporate from our awareness.

So, why are we all so moved, so drawn to stand with the French (which is not a bad thing), and yet so slow or even reluctant to stand with the Lebanese, the Russians, and other groups of human beings who have been just as wounded, and who are hurting just as much?



Rough draft attempts at poems related to the Paris & other recent terrorists attacks

What follows are digital jottings and not at all completed poems. But I wanted to share them, raw, as they are now. They don’t even have titles yet.


You’re flying in clear skies
looking forward to returning home
from a fun, really great vacation,
and then...

You’re out with friends
dancing, having a good time,
you laugh, throw your hands in the air,
and then...

You’re out for dinner,
on a beautiful night, head to the theater,
buy tickets, take your seat
and then...

You’re in the market shopping,
selecting just the right items
for a dinner your family will love,
and then...

You’re in the stadium cheering
on your team, relishing the camaraderie
of like-minded fans. Score! Goal!
And then...

And then
the bomb goes off,
the guns fire,
people disassemble,
crumple, go down
in front of your eyes
as blood spreads red

Hearts miss beat after beat after beat
as the plane plummets
as the bullets fly
as the debris scatters.

Momentarily there is
intolerable noise.

And then silence.
Stunned calm.

On television screens
all over the world,
the morbid numbers tick up,
a macabre score-keeping.

And then


This image shared online by The Atlantic went straight to my heart and has stuck in my head.

A victim under a sheet lies dead outside the Bataclan concert hall
on November 13, 2015. (The Atlantic, Jerome Delay / AP)
And, oddly, the words and music to  the 1965 Mamas and Papas hit, “California Dreamin’” came to mind. This is a, somewhat lame, attempt to interweave some of the song imagery into impressions from the attacks.


All the leaves are brown
and the sky is gray...

On the ground lay
scattered bodies, shrouded in white.
So much about this just isn’t right,
just isn’t the way this night
was supposed to end...

I've been for a walk...

People scattering, devoured by fear,
open mouths screaming,
no words uttering,
red blood streaming into gutters...

I'd be safe and warm if...

Crisp fall leaves swirl prettily
in sorrow that billows,
an invisible fog, stifling, enshrouding
broken hearts, bodies, lives,
dreams sprawled dead on sidewalks...

Stopped in to a church...

There seem to be so many more
questions than answers,
our prayers seem as lost as
we feel, our hearts numb, search...

Well I got down on my knees...

We pray, we cry, we wonder
why hate rages so pointlessly.
Why it takes one and leaves another.
Why a son, a brother feels compelled to kill
another’s child, father, mother.

All the leaves are brown
and the sky is gray...

We question over and over,
will it ever be any other way.


Okay, I think both of these alleged poems need a lot of work. But, I thought I’d take a risk and share them in their raw state.

Now, if only the leaders of our states would be willing to take the ethically proper risk when it comes to Syrian refugees.

At least the leaders of the state in which I currently live -- Pennsylvania -- got it right.

Do you agree with closing the borders of states and refusing entry to refugees into the U.S.? Why or why not? Are you praying for or standing in solidarity with Lebanon and Russia as well as France? Why or why not? Do you think my rough draft poems suck? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts -- civilly -- in the comments!

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