I only wish I could understand those who say that the solution to all of our problems is to close ourselves off from the world. Or, rather, to close the rest of the world out from us. I don’t rightly know where I first developed the aversion to such thinking. Perhaps during my Catholic education growing up, or perhaps realizing in college that there are so many valid philosophical viewpoints. Perhaps it came from traveling to another country for a time and really appreciating another culture.
Should we slip so easily into abject fear, even in the midst of loss? Surely our great society, and all sympathetic societies, are immune to collapse due to the crazed actions of fanatic zealots. They are the weak, the simple minded who cannot tolerate the idea that the world is not black and white. They lash out at us with their simple minded tools, their guns and bullets. These things cannot destroy the society built by Washington, Lincoln, Emerson, Hawthorne, Whitman, Roosevelt, Kennedy. Why should we react in a way that suggests that they have any real power?
The frightened in our midst want to close our borders, not realizing that the answer is not to reject others, but to embrace them. Foreigners do not pollute our culture; they enrich it. Every Syrian refugee who dreams of getting to America should be able to dream of becoming American. The more who come to add to and share in our culture, the stronger that culture becomes and the weaker the culture of the zealots. Together, we are complete. Edward R. Murrow said that “we will not walk in fear, one of another”. It is more true now than ever.
The burden of a free society with liberty and justice for all is heavy. It’s heavier than just a strong national defense. It includes a burden of spirit, of optimism, that we all must share even in the face of all of our society’s flaws and problems. It has to include a belief that no darkness can overcome the light. Do we have cold slime in our veins, or hot red blood? Do we believe the words on the Statue in the harbor?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
When the towers burned and fell, the Statue remained there with her words, defiant, a symbol of us all. She is only as brave as all of us.