A Nation of ICE and Fire

The face of the United States around the world is fire.

In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, where drones fly in clear blue skies.
In Yemen, where bombs made in the USA fall from planes
Refueled in mid-air by the United States…

Fire of a missile strike as it lands on a home, a hospital, a mosque…
Fire blowing buildings apart, burning bodies,
Fire rendering all one’s worldly possessions smoldering heaps of ash.
Fire forcing survivors from the ruins of their homes, the charred fields of their lands…
These long-forgotten fires that never make the news,
These fires that never discriminate between innocent and enemy,
And forge the former from the later.
These long-burning fires that have never been extinguished.
These fires that tear families apart.

South of our border, too,
The fires rage.
US troops stationed throughout Central America
Fight a losing war on drugs with fire.
Heavy artillery to block drug trafficking routes
Merely push cartels elsewhere.
Violence erupts between rival gangs,
Families, children, caught in the crossfire.

2009, Honduras.
A military coup overthrows democratically-elected Manuel Zalaya.
US continues to send military aid, endorses post-coup government.
Honduras becomes the most violent nation
Not officially declared a war zone.

The Middle East is on fire.
Central America is on fire.
The world is on fire.

Fires of war. Fires of violence.
Fires fueled by greed and hatred.
Flames lapping at the heels of those who flee.

Fires chase refugees across desserts,
Over mountains,
To the shores of oceans.
Fires compelling people to pile onto trains, into busses, onto boats.

Fires chase refugees to strange lands,
Where they can only pray that gentler fires
Of hospitality and compassion and love
Burn in the hearts of people
Who might welcome them in
And give them the chance to rebuild their lives
From the ashes of memories.

But when they arrive on our shores
Or cross mountains or rivers or dessert into our borders,
The face of the United States is ICE.

Our government has numbed itself to the humanity
Of those who sought the shelter of our land
After our policies destroyed or exacerbated the destruction of theirs.

Hearts that burn with greed
Or self-righteousness against others
Are frozen to neighbors in need.

Walls and bans shout,
“Stay away!
If you come, we’ll make you pay!”

And those who can, come anyway,
Because they’re fleeing fire.
They come through fire,
To be blocked by ICE.

Huddled in freezing detention centers
Sleeping on frigid floors under mylar blankets.
Men, women, children, shivering with cold,
With fear
With sorrow that convulses the body and chills the soul,
As so many find themselves surrounded by strangers, yet alone –
Pulled from the warmth of their loved ones.

It takes a cold, cold heart to rip a baby from a mother,
But this isn’t new.
Tearing families apart has been a regular feature
Of immigration policy
For years.

Mothers and children were once –
And are now again –
More likely than not to stay together (for a while).
But siblings, spouses,
Aunts or uncles with children
Ripped apart,
Detained, tried, deported separately
Scattered far from each other
In hopes that they’ll never
Find their way back.

This has been going on
Since at least 2005.

They come through fire.
They’re blocked by ICE.
They’re pushed back by ICE
Into the fire.

What will it take to extinguish the fires of war and hate?
What will it take to thaw the frozen hearts numb to neighbors in need?

I ask myself these questions as fires of anger rage within,
Anger at my nation’s policies at home and abroad.
Anger at bigotry, Islamophobia, white supremacy.
Anger at exploitation and war profiteering.
Anger at everything that fuels the fires that devour the earth and all her people.
The anger burns within me, and I know,
That if I erupt, I will just feed the flames.

But I don’t want to grow cold or indifferent.
So I pray to transform the fire in my heart
From anger to passion, from rage to compassion.
Compassion that burns so hot and so bright that it melts away
All divisions.

These are human beings
Our nation is putting through the fires and freezers of hell.

And for what?
For a policy of national security
That has heightened enmity
And made us less secure?

For a law and order that mocks Constitutional and international law?
For a Christ-less Christianity?
(How many Jesuses are turned away at the border? Who would Jesus ban?)
To make America small again?

I think of the United States as an iceberg
In a rising ocean of chaos
Shrinking and sinking
As our foundation erodes from beneath us.
The more we cling to enmity and fear,
The more we insulate ourselves
Within our own destruction
While we burn down the world around us.

Sooner or later the fires we’ve set
Will burn through our walls and our protections
And we’ll all be refugees
Struggling to find our footing.

We need to melt the ICE that freezes our hearts
(Abolish the agency, if that wasn’t clear).
Replace it with a Department of Welcome.

Abolish bans, tear down walls,
End the wars once and for all.

Everything that keeps us closed in on ourselves,
Trapping us in the lie that we are fundamentally different
From our neighbors far and near,
Every barrier we’ve constructed, on the land and in our hearts
Everything that keeps us fragmented and divided,
Must melt away
If we are to survive this self-inflicted dismemberment.
Fires of hate that push others out
Must be consumed by fires of love that draw us in,
And forge us into one humanity.
For we are made for relationship
And are not whole without each other.

Images: Left: US Immigrations and Customes picture via Flickr. Public Domain. Right: Screenshot from Youtube: “At least 26 killed in missile strike on Syria,” by Fox News. Image Modified.

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