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"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."
Are these just empty words? An idea whose time has passed? Or do we really mean it?
Like many, I was heartbroken and simultaneously galvanized by the weekend issuance of President Donald Trump's executive order indefinitely banning refugees from Syria and halting refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries for the next three to four months.
It does my heart good to see how many, no matter their political affiliation, are speaking up for the voiceless trapped by this blanket ban. It dismays me (but does not surprise me) to see how many are willing to "stand by their man" no matter what and even openly scorn the millions of people saying, "We are better than this."
I've seen the memes I'm sure you have too. Will our grandchildren read, "The Diary of a Syrian Girl"? Will teachers in the classrooms of the future tell students that we, in fact, did not learn from the past but we repeated it? In World War II, our nation turned away a ship full of Jewish people and sent them back to die. Why? Maybe dangerous. Jewish terrorists could have been on board. It wasn't our problem.
"Are there no prisons? No poorhouses?" Oh wait, wrong quote. "Are there no refugee camps? No other nations to take them in?"
We cannot say, "Never again," but remain silent when the "again" begins. We cannot say, "Not on my watch," but then refuse to stand watch! We cannot say we care for refugees, but not ones from dangerous countries. What, exactly, do you think they are fleeing if not danger?!
Multiple churches, including the LDS Church, have spoken up on this issue, over and over. "Was I not a stranger?" was a refugee-focused initiative of the LDS Church. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has pleaded for understanding and compassion as a double refugee. Catholic Charities is deeply engaged in refugee work, as are a number of other organizations locally, nationally and worldwide. And let us not forget Utah was founded by refugees.
Martin Luther King Jr. said "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Certainly, this is such a time.
I will proudly tell you I am a compassionate conservative. No, it is not an oxymoron. It used to mean something good. It meant you cared about those around you, that you had empathy, that you practiced the Christian credo of doing unto the least of these and that you never let a political ideology harden your heart to people's real life experiences.
Today, it's often viewed as a swear word by Republicans. Why on earth have we allowed the heavenly attribute of compassion to become a bad thing? We desperately need more compassion in this world. Our souls are shriveling without it. And in many places, people are literally dying from its lack.
So what can we do? First, I start with Gandhi: Be the change. My family and I will continue to volunteer at Tabitha's Way, our local food pantry, where we gladly serve refugees (and many others) without discrimination.
Next, I plan to step up my involvement with refugees in our state and internationally, focusing primarily on women and children.
Third, I plan to keep speaking up and advocating for compassion and common sense. And fourth, I want to encourage as many others as possible to not only speak up but take action. The immediate actions taken over the weekend allowed green card holders to re-enter the country. They put a face to those being unjustly detained.
I'll end with this reminder from Patrick Kearon, a leader in the LDS Church:
"(Being a refugee) does not define them, but our response will help define us." May love and compassion win the day.
Holly Richardson is a fiscal conservative, a social conservative and a compassionate conservative who can be found around the web as Holly on the Hill.