At the House of LadyLee... We like to keep it smurfy!
Monday, September 05, 2005
American Refugees? No... Citizens of the United States of America
I went to Church this morning, as I usually do on any given Sunday...
I noticed that we had more visitors than usual. I thought to myself, "Hmm... must be some family reunions in town."
No these were not relatives in town for a family reunion...
These were people who escaped and/or survived the Hurricane Katrina Disaster.
My pastor asked them to come up to the front of the Church. They filed out of their seats and slowly went up to the front.
There had to be at least two hundred of them.
Black. White. Asian.
People that look like they could be my next door neighbor. People that look like the people I work with. People that look like people I ride the train with on my commutes to and from work.
"That's a lot of people," I said to my sister Kay.
Then I realized that this was only a mere fraction of those affected by the terrible disaster. A fraction of a fraction, really.
Then my pastor said something that astounded me, and made me proud...
"We will no longer refer to these people as American Refugees. These are citizens of The United States of America."
He prayed for the people, afterwhich we, the congregation, were allowed to go up front, give them money, hugs, and words of encouragement...
I realized then how much this new term "American Refugee" has disturbed me all week. Such an unusual term, it is. American Refugee? In the richest, most prosperous country in the world? What an oxymoron.
I'd never heard this term before. I remember as a child hearing the term "Vietnamese Refugee". I even went to graduate school with a guy who was a Vietnamese Refugee as a child. (Oh, the crazy stories he told of life on the run!). I vaguely remember the term Cambodian refugee, and all the pictures of the chaos going on in that country.
But American refugee?
Those two words shouldn't be put together in the same sentence.
These are people that look like you and me. They pay taxes just like you and me. They vote just like you and me.
They live in this country... just like you and me.
A man from Mississippi who had lost everything to the Hurricane Katrina disaster sat behind me at Church. I had a chance to talk to him for a moment.
I never saw such pain in a person's eyes. I almost broke down in tears just talking to him.
I had taken money out of the bank on Saturday. I'd been trying to budget, since I'm about to close on my new home in the next couple of weeks. I have developed the habit of getting a set amount of money out of the ATM for the next week, and making myself live off of it.
I gave it all to this man. I figured he and his family, these citizens of the United States of America, needed it more than I did.
I looked at the news this afternoon. Looks like the media has stopped using this term "American Refugees". They are now using the term "Hurricane Evacuees."
This sounds a little better to me. More appropriate. More humane, at least.
But I would feel better if they called these people what they really are...