In 1966, at the height of the Cold War, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, starring Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint and Brian Keith was released into theaters. The drop-dead funny plot line saw a Russian sub run aground on a sandbar off a New England island, popular with East Coast vacation goers. People immediately jumped to conclusions that this marked the beginning of World War III. Things escalated to absurd proportions. One memorable scene featured members of the likable but hapless Russian crew advancing down the quiet island street pretending to be American patriots and announcing the alarm: “Emehrgancy! Everybody to get from street!”
No one was fooled. Ultimately, the Russians and Americans worked together to extricate a young boy from a potentially life-threatening dilemma, the tide came in and the sub sailed into the sunset, protected by an “armada” of New England boats. Happy ending!
I was reminded of the movie this past week as the President authorized National Guard troops to defend our southern boundary against “caravans” of Latino migrants crashing our borders. Unlike the movie from half a century ago, this is not a screenplay. It is real life. The President’s obsession with his notion of caravans of brown people flooding illegally into our country is wrong on so many levels, at least two of which stand out.
First, in an age when resources are scarce and the military must remain vigilant in several hot spots around the world, this overwrought emphasis on border security deflects us from real priorities—costing time and resources and potentially endangering lives.
Second, focus on the imagined threat these individuals pose, we fail to address the difficult humanitarian issues the journey north assumes. People—mostly women and children—are literally fleeing for their lives. Yet, on Tuesday, the President tweeted, “The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!” And, in West Virginia on Wednesday, the President declared, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that women in the caravans were being “raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”)
EMEHRGANCY! EVERYBODY TO GET FROM STREET!
It is not unusual for groups of migrants to gather together on the journey north for self-protection during the long and dangerous trek. When will we start examining and finding solutions for the reasons behind their flight, the conditions along the way, and how we humanely treat migrants once they arrive in this US?
I wish it were as simple as waiting for the tide to come in. But, as long as we stay focused on inaccurate, misleading and salacious stories—many of which are perpetrated by the White House itself—we will fail those in our midst who are most vulnerable and in need of real solutions to often desperate situations. How I wish this was the preoccupation of our current administration.
Since the first of the year, I’ve traveled to several states—literally from coast to coast—to lead conversations about the themes and issues raised in my book, Beyond the Comma. I’ve been blessed by amazing hospitality and in-depth interest in these events. You can read recent comments about the book and the events themselves here. Stay tuned for recaps about spring gatherings. You can schedule an event in your area by contacting me via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.