We crossed paths with them on Independence Day. The Coast Guard arrived and shipped them away on Independence Day. And all of the heartless things that people said about these refugees were said that day, on Independence Day.
The day we celebrate our great country. The day we celebrate the freedoms we all enjoy. The day we celebrate freedom from tyranny and communism. The day we celebrate the sacrifices of our ancestors who fought and died to give us this place we so nonchalantly call “ours” and “only ours.” The day we celebrate this refuge from the rest of the world. The day we celebrate this land where we could live and work and dream as big as we are able.
“Ugh, I bet it’s so gross on that boat. I would not want to be one of the crew members who has to deal with them.”
“What is taking the Coast Guard so long?”
“I sure hope this doesn’t make us arrive late in Florida tomorrow.”
Many other things were said. Many, many others.
I heard not one person besides the crew member and Lilly declare a compassionate statement for these 21 souls lost at sea.
I heard not one person say something kind or considerate about these people.
I heard not one person feel empathy for what these people must be going through, or for the lives that pushed these 21 people into the moment we were all sharing with one another.
I heard not one person acknowledge the fear that these 21 people must be feeling as a giant war ship approached, and as a Coast Guard airplane circled, and as hundreds of sunburnt tourists stood gawking and pointing at them from above.
I heard only heartless things.
On Independence Day.
Of all days, on that day.
How sad and ironic that seemingly everyone has forgotten that no matter who we all are, we are only here because at some point, someone in our ancestry made their own great and most likely dangerous voyage to this country. We are all here because people left their homes, and their families, and their friends, and their lives to try and build something better.
We celebrate this country because of the sacrifices, and desperation, and dedication of those who came before us. Whether it was hundreds of years ago, or thousands of years ago, our ancestors all came here from somewhere else.
I don’t know what the answer is for immigration laws and reform.
I don’t know what needs to be done.
But I do know that we, as citizens and inhabitants of this country, could stand to be more compassionate to those who were not born with the same lives and privileges that we were born with. We could stand to be more empathetic. We could stand to be more loving. We could stand to hold our hands out to our brothers and sisters in such places and moments, and give them the gift of at least understanding. We could stand to look at them as people and not simply as criminals or as threats.
Once the gawking cruise passengers had thinned somewhat, I took my camera and my giant lens which probably cost me more than their entire boat was worth, and I finally went to see the people that passengers had been so heartlessly denouncing.
21 of them.
“Caught” before they could somehow become a destructive force to all of us and to our way of living. Or something like that.
There was a silver lining to it all, though…
At least we got to watch a pretty sunset as it was all winding down.
There were people lost at sea that day. I’m just not sure we got it right as to who those people were.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing