Keep Families Together

Keep Families Together

Saturday, June 30 I had the honor of addressing the Families Belong Together rally in Paris. Because I was nervous about adequately addressing the issue I scripted my remarks more than I usually do.

I’ve decided to share them here:

When I was growing up pretty much every Sunday was the same. I would attend Mass at St. Anthony’s in Ensley, Alabama—get there before the Gospel, stay till after Communion. Check the boxes. Meet the obligation. Make mom happy.

But one Sunday in September of 1963 was not like any other. This particular Sunday about five miles away from St Anthony’s, Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley had finished Sunday School and were freshening up for their Church Service. They didn’t make it.

This particular Sunday the Cahaba Boys—a klan action squad—blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church killing these four children and injuring many others. I don’t know that these evil bastards would have blown up a dog pound yet they felt licensed to blow up a church because those inside weren’t people—they were other. The terrible permissions we unlock when we stop thinking of people as people.

Where do these inspirations come from? From leaders—political, civic and even occasionally religious. Hating, scapegoating, pandering advocating fear of those who are different—fear the other. Unlocking the terrible permissions.

We aren’t just separating families at the border we are removing children from their parents with virtually no procedure in place to track the parent and child as a unit. Little or no contemplation of reunification of the family. And why would we? They are different—they are other. We have permission.

Fear the woman in the hijab—she may be bringing Sharia Law.

Fear the different child that’s going to your school—never know what restroom they might use.

Fear the brown skinned woman at the border with a baby—that kid might be MS-13.

We all know the words, thankfully most have exiled to the dustbin of history but we still know them. You can hear them in your mind right now—the slanders—the slurs—the insults, terms used to demean, demonize, dehumanize—terms for the other.

They are not like us, they are other than us, they are less than us.

They are not people, they are animals, they are vermin, they are an infestation.

They are other, they are disposable—and that is deplorable!

It is a profoundly un-Christian notion.

It’s up to us to decide if it’s a un-American notion.

But even in this very dark moment, we are not without hope. And that hope is you. You and thousands, maybe millions more like you. You are the ones you’ve been looking for and because you can no longer stand for it you are compelled to stand against it and your voice matters and your voice will be heard.

If that voice is loud enough and strong enough you may well save those families. And, if that voice is loud enough and strong enough you may well awaken the angels of our better nature. And if you do that you may save us all.

You are the hope. God bless you. I’m proud to stand with you.