Love it or leave?

An old insult exposes infection of hate and fear

Aug 5, 2019 by

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mennonites once knew what it was like to be told to love America or leave it. They heard the phrase during wars they refused to fight or pay for. In the days when they still spoke German, neighbors taunted them to go back where they came from.

Our history as dissenters, and sometimes unwelcome foreigners, gives Mennonites an extra reason to defend those who are the targets of such slanders today and to assist immigrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

President Trump’s July 14 tweet that four young Democratic women of color in Congress should “go back” where they came from (though three were born in the United States) escalated racial tension and conflict over immigration. It happened at a time when the cruel treatment of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border sparked action and calls for compassion from people of faith.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the four congresswomen whom the president claimed “hate[s] our country,” has characterized migrant detention facilities as “concentration camps.” Rather than hatred, she demonstrated love of country by insisting America is better than its government’s actions.

Mennonites have done the same. A year ago, delegates of the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches opposed the separation of migrant children from their families. Last month, Mennonite Church USA delegates condemned the abuse of migrants in detention. They called U.S. government actions — including the separation of families and a lack of adequate medical care — “unconscionable.”

They also committed themselves to being part of a solution. Compassionate actions already happening include sheltering immigrants in sanctuary churches, assembling relief kits for migrants released from detention and offering support to undocumented members of MC USA congregations. There will be many more opportunities to fulfill the denominational statement’s call to “seek connections with immigrant communities . . . and support those in sanctuary and the thousands of families whose loved ones have been deported.”

A movement of Christians for immigration justice is growing. Religion News Service reported waves of Baptist volunteers were arriving in Texas to offer aid to the migrants. The influx of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals surprised some, RNS said, as the Catholic church has historically dominated the aid operation in Texas.

Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, spoke for many people of faith on June 27: “How do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country? A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; . . . This government and this society are not well.”

As if to confirm the soul-sickness, the crowd at a Trump rally on July 17 in Green­ville, N.C., escalated the president’s racist “go back” tweet to a chant of “send her back,” directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. America’s infection of hate and fear was on full display, abetted by the occupant of the nation’s highest office.

People escaping desperate and dangerous circumstances love American freedom and opportunity. Their hard work and diversity make the country stronger. Americans who value their nation’s highest ideals, and remember their own immigrant stories, recognize that.

Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.

About Me

advertisement advertisement