That was Sunday, okay? This is Thursday.
On Good Friday we mourned the crucifixion of Jesus, a stranger in his own land. On Easter Sunday we celebrated His rising from the dead to redeem our sins. On Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa would not assist the federal government in placing refugee children with families until their asylum cases could be heard.
“This is not our problem,” Reynolds said on WHO Radio. “This is the president’s problem. He’s the one that has opened the border and he needs to be responsible for this and he needs to stop it.”
Except, that’s not true, the cock crows. The children may think the border is open, but the Biden Administration is turning families back to Mexico. Unaccompanied children are detained for their own safety, and the facilities are overwhelmed. The administration is trying to secure placements for these innocent children with families inland until they can receive due process that ultimately leads to deportation and family reunification for most.
When the Tai Dam people, mistreated for centuries and expatriated by the Vietnam War, needed a home it was Gov. Bob Ray, a Republican, who welcomed them in. He created an Office of Refugee Services that arranged church sponsors, like Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Storm Lake, to help families get settled into the community. For a time there was confusion and resentment among the locals as Asian workers took jobs with IBP. We eventually realized it wasn’t their fault that meatpacking had changed and the union was busted. The Lao people built a shining Buddhist temple. It became good.
Most of us embraced the resettlement effort. It felt like it washed away the sins of our dirty little war.
Of course, the likes of Bob Ray couldn’t come near the GOP nomination today.
The refugee resettlement office faded away. Steve King started railing against Mexicans. It caught on among frustrated white folks who had seen everything changing around them while they seemingly lost ground. Now it is the party religion.
We no longer bid welcome to the stranger.
It’s tough enough making a living around here without having to raise somebody else’s kids.
Okay, fair enough.
Then, we should knock off the sanctimony about death and resurrection and redemption. What sanctity of life is there in a girl face down, drowned, in the Rio Grande? Or in children held in warehouses under those dreadful silver blankets?
There you go with that bleeding heart.
Yeah but: It is a mockery of Iowa and all that we stood for.
The Tai Dam people gave us egg rolls at Christmas, and carols in words we would not understand in the church basement but with gratitude we could appreciate. They earned everything they have from scratch. Our little neighbor Esteban, whose hard-working property-owning folks come from El Salvador, recently brought a puppy to our back door to show off. But for timing he could have been a face under one of those chrome comforters.
I could have told him to get lost, I have my own dog to worry about. Why deny myself the comfort of his presence in these days of furrowed brows? What does it cost for Dolores to give him a cookie? What does it cost us to school a future citizen elector and contributor to building our community? They pray as hard as anybody, I’m pretty sure.
Those children could find some comfort in their exodus in Storm Lake, Denison and Marshalltown. There are Guatemalans in Storm Lake who no doubt would open their arms to them. Hondurans, too. If only the governor would allow it.
So many wars. So much history. The sugar plantations owned by the U.S. The dictators and death squads armed by us. The Iowa corn that floods out Latin American campesinos. Our appetite for meth.
It’s not her problem.
That is not the Iowa we knew. In that place that can still be found, we worried about not answering the door because it could be Jesus you’re shutting out. It could be Him you’re crucifying in the river. We accepted our responsibilities. What was of profound gravity is now quaint. We have to be practical. You just got to stop it, she says. It was Thursday, not Sunday. That was then. We are back to the now of not caring because the burden is just too heavy.
Art Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor
of the Storm Lake Times.