Land of opportunity
We honor them now, decades after their selfless acts, the Schindlers, Wallenbergs and Wintons of this world. They were heroes in a dangerous time, risking all to save the lives of others.
Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, saved 1,200 Jewish employees and family members from Hitler. A flawed man, he was first drawn to them as cheap labor in his Krakow factory. He found his conscience but lost his fortune, protecting them from certain death.
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat during World War II, might have saved as many as 100,000 from the death camps. Based in Hungary, he provided passports and sanctuary in Swedish properties around Budapest. He disappeared just after the war.
British stockbroker Nicholas Winton abandoned a ski trip to help a friend in Prague in 1938. Stunned by Kristallnacht, Winton started the Czech Kindertransport. He found foster homes abroad for 669 children but remained haunted by the 225 he lost, on the last train out, seized by the Nazis.
The world was blessed then with individuals who selflessly battled evil. But then as now, nations also had to rise to the challenge. And where other nations saw darkness without hope, America saw opportunity to protect the oppressed.
Now, thousands of refugee children have gathered inside our borders, fleeing from unspeakable treatment and ominous death in their lawless hometowns in Central America. And opportunity knocks again, albeit on a smaller scale. As before, there are individual heroes who will fight for them. But that is rarely enough.
As before, this is a national opportunity to honor our Founders and keep faith with American principles. Those are not empty words on the Statue of Liberty. Emma Lazarus defined our national character when she wrote:
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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
In spite of this American prayer, there will always be fear-mongers among us. There is even a special breed of ignoramus this time, brandishing weapons at protests, demanding that the children be deported. It makes you wonder what kind of men take up arms against helpless children. But this nation has never bowed to their ilk.
Forget everything else. Forget politics and immigration policy. Forget about red states and blue states and legislative impasse. And forget the next election. On the last great day, who will want to answer for bureaucratic dawdling when these children cried out for our help?
These are children who have escaped certain danger, begging for our sword and shield. They properly believe in America as savior and we must protect and nurture them or put our national soul at risk.
Jesus chastised his disciples when they chased away the children who sought his blessing, saying, “Allow little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.”
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (joemistick.com).
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