‘Let the little children come to me’



People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

  — Mark 10:13-16

Read it as you will. To the literal eye of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the command should be immediately compelling. Scripture is full of passages about welcoming the stranger, Old Testament and New, from the Exodus to the Good Samaritan to the Beatitudes. “For I when I was a stranger you welcomed me.”

It was the attorney general who turned to the Bible to justify imprisoning the children of refugees and leaving families asunder. He invites us to consider our obligations in that context. We know where we stand: with our neighbors whom the companies of the USA invited north to work in our frigid packinghouses and on our roofs in the summer sun.

And it is clear where our members of Congress stand, in a morass of ambivalence or outright hostility to the stranger among us. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, defended the Trump Administration’s refugee gulag system that strips toddlers from their mothers as they seek asylum from the terrorism of Latin America fueled essentially by our drug demand. King was there before Trump, preparing the way. He exists to keep brown people out of Northwest Iowa.

We think we know where Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stands: alongside President Trump. The president with one phone call could end the bondage of children in Texas chain-link cages far away from their parents. The chairman on Tuesday could have put forward a simple bill that halts the family separation policy. He did not. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, like Grassley and the rest of them, said this thing needs to be studied. They have been studying it since March as more than 2,000 children (or so they say) are locked up away from scrutiny. So they conferred as the children wailed and the president bloviated about drug-running gang bangers to enthusiastic applause over lunch with the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

This is as it has been for decades. The judge at the border in New Mexico acknowledges that he is an active participant in the destruction of families. He can barely take it anymore. He ships young fathers named Jesus to Juarez while their families remain in Las Cruces. He writes letters to presidents but nothing ever happens.

King has been getting elected for 16 years on a platform of family destruction, fear and hate. Grassley feigns indifference or befuddlement after being told clearly by his strongest supporters in Iowa that Storm Lake suffers from a broken and cynical system that forecloses opportunity.

We invite the indigenous people to stop labor among our lettuce or cleaning our hoghouses. But when it becomes politically advantageous we lock them up as we did the Ioway and Dakota and Sac and Fox. These people were here before Manifest Destiny, these people with the sad brown faces are the original Americans. And we allow them a Bible, we should hope, as they sit in chains for doing what we asked of them with the promise of the Statue of Liberty standing bright as our bond.

What is happening today is perfectly consistent with 500 years of European colonial history against which the words of Jesus himself ring hollow. Pick your verse and justify your decision to vote in November for a man who wanders the desert of his own heart by consorting with Nazi sympathizers. That decision is ours. We can change the course of history. Or, we can ignore the exhortations of Mark and pretend that it is about something else, and that we cannot expect justice in this world for those who crawl on their knees to us seeking it.