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It's not 'us against them'

By Debbie Leffler • Nov 4, 2018 at 4:00 PM

We don’t eat other human beings. That would be cannibalism and we don’t resort to that unless we are starving in the Arctic for days and no one is coming to rescue us. Other than that, we have a strong prohibition against eating the meat of humans.

Why not? We eat other animals. It varies by culture — around here, we don’t eat dogs or guinea pigs, but people in other countries do. And we do eat cows and pigs and chickens and ducks.

So why not humans? It’s because humans are us and we don’t eat creatures which are human as we are. We identify as members of the human race.

So why do some people feel OK with treating human beings as if they are “not us?”

I recently listened to a bit of President Donald Trump’s speech in Texas. He said we are going to make “our” country great and do great things for “us” by getting rid of people who are not one of “us,” who don’t belong here. They are criminals and they are taking away from “us” what belongs to “us.” He says we need our country to be full of just “us” and not “them.”

I am the first to say that dangerous people should be in jail — rapists, murderers, thieves. But there are many who have not committed those dangerous crimes, who some believe do not belong among “us.”

The results of the Corso’s raid are not over. Its aftermath — the reverberations, the consequences of that raid, have not stopped even though they no longer make headlines.

I know that some of my students are absent because their mother or father has to go to court and needs them to translate or to be there. I know some of their mothers and fathers are waiting for court hearings and fear for the day they may be deported. Maybe they will be allowed to stay in this country, and maybe they will be forced to leave tomorrow.

Are you comfortable with the “us” and “them” mentality? It used to be that I wouldn’t even kill an insect, because it is alive like I am alive. I would capture bugs in plastic containers and release them outside, because I believed every life is sacred and I have no right to take it.

Then I got a little tougher — I took on a bit of the “us” and “them” mentality when it comes to bugs. I believed I had a right to squash and kill bugs because it’s either me or them — if I don’t kill them, they will remain in my house where they don’t belong and maybe even bite me. They don’t belong in my house, so I get rid of them.

That’s my attitude toward spiders, bees, wasps, ants, any bug that doesn’t belong in my house. I’m OK with that.

But people aren’t bugs to be squashed and ousted. We are all people and deserve to be treated with dignity, no matter where we were born and where we have come from.

Trump is charismatic. I saw all the Texans cheering for him during his speech. When he acknowledged the legislators and candidates in the crowd, they stood and saluted him — to me, it looked like the Heil salute.

I am white. I was born here. All I have to do to win acceptance, to be part of that cheering throng, is to stand up and cheer with them and be embraced in the warmth and inclusiveness of the “Make America Great Again” crowd.

But I won’t do it. It’s not “us” Americans against “them” who don’t belong here. We are all human beings.

I think of the famous John Donne poem, published in 1624:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man's death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

 

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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