Points of Reference

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Refugees. Of course, they could have been Bolsheviks.

My grandparents were refugees. From China, technically, because they had left Russia in 1929. They lived in Harbin for two years or so, before they managed to be part of a small group that received a waiver from the US government to enter the country from China.

They needed a waiver because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was in effect from 1882 to 1943. It prohibited “laborers” from China from immigrating to the US. But they weren’t Chinese – which had been the focus of the Chinese Exclusion Act, after all, keeping Chinese people out of the country. So the race fear that energized the Chinese Exclusion Act didn’t apply to them.

Our daughter was born in China – not Harbin. Wuhan. She was also, in a way, a refugee, from a kind of persecution. The Chinese Exclusion Act would presumably have kept her out, too.

So the principle of banning everyone from some place, as a solution to the problem of being afraid of what could happen to us when they get here … this is personal to me.

If more people thought about it, it would be personal to them, too. None of us are immune from changes in circumstances. What are the principles we would want the powers that be to apply to us, when circumstances change? If we do, indeed, reap what we sow, we will have to hope then that we sowed enough to kindness.

The time to do that sowing is now.

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