Lorelei and I had the opportunity this week to join in a local march in support of refugees and immigrants. This peaceful and patriotic event began in Market Square–Knoxville’s downtown gathering spot–with a silent vigil. Then all of us–over 1,100 people, in the middle of a weekday!–marched to the City-County Building for a brief rally before a delegation carried letters opposing the President’s Executive Order to the lawmakers within.
As we made the 25-minute drive from our home to downtown Knoxville, I made sure Lorelei understood what we were marching about. We talked about the signs she had made and what they meant. We talked about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount. I told her that when we turn away immigrants and refugees, we are turning away Christ.
But we didn’t just talk about religion–we had a civics lesson too. We talked about the principles our country is founded on, and how it isn’t unpatriotic to try to hold the country to those values. We talked about the importance of letting our representatives know our position on this and other issues, and on how people coming together can bring about change. I told her about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee who found success here as a restaurateur and has made it a point to give back to his adopted community. We talked about the message on the Statue of Liberty and about the American dream.
This wasn’t Lorelei’s first protest–she has taken part in many a March for Life–but this is the first time she knew what she was protesting. She’s 12 years old, with little patience for or experience with being silent, but she made me proud. She remained quiet, paid attention, liked pointing out all the signs (she was our sign-maker), and enjoyed the chanting we did at the end of the march.
Lorelei carried this sign:
It was inspired by the lyrics of the Marty Haugen song. It’s slightly heretical for singing in church in my opinion, but some of the words seemed tailor-made for this occasion:
Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live . . .
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place . . .
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.
My favorite part of the gathering happened almost at the end, when we recited The New Colossus together.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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!”
I can’t recite that under the most ordinary of circumstances without crying, and those were not ordinary circumstances.
After that, much of the crowd dispersed, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” And it is.