ICE came for the immigrants in a little city in Tennessee. But, the people of Morristown weren’t taking it lying down. They’re fighting back to save their friends and co-workers.
One of the most moving things I’ve ever seen (I’m tearing up just thinking about it) was an interview with a man from the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Don’t be concerned if you’ve never heard of it. Few people have. But it enters history in World War II. The villagers united in an amazing “conspiracy of good will” to shelter hundreds, maybe thousands of Jews from the Nazis. The local concealed them in the barns and houses, in the fields, in the forests, in their churches…
When it was all done and said, the world looked on in amazement. How was it possible that these people, most of them just ordinary folks, should have united so quickly, and with such determination, to save people who were, frankly, mostly strangers to them? Why was it that simple farmers and shopkeepers found it in themselves to oppose the Nazis and their French collaborators … when the rich and powerful of Paris and Vichy did not?
And this is exactly what the interviewer asked one of the men of the Village many years after the Liberation. The man looked surprised. Why? The question was obviously ridiculous to him. He finally said, well, that’s just what you do. That’s what decent people do.
It never occurred to him that he, or anyone else in the village, were heroes. In his mind they were just being human.
Well, now, we have another story of people just being human. It isn’t quite as dramatic as Le Chambon-sure-Lignon, but it could all too easily become so, if things continue as they are going. The report comes from the New York Times, and is the tale of the quiet heroism of the people of Morristown, Tennessee.
In ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back, Miriam Jordan writes that ICE launched a massive raid on a city meatpacking plant. “Dozens of panicked workers fled in every direction, some wedging themselves between beef carcasses or crouching under bloody butcher tables. About 100 workers, including at least one American citizen, were rounded up — every Latino employee at the plant, it turned out, save a man who had hidden in a freezer,” she notes.
That should have been the end of the story. There should have been the usual depressing round of deportations in the city and self-congratulations in GOP strongholds.
But it wasn’t the end of the story. The arrested workers were the friends of the people in town, and those friends organized and acted.
Writes Jordan, “Donations of food, clothing and toys for families of the workers streamed in at such volume there was a traffic jam to get into the parking lot of a church. Professors at the college extended a speaking invitation to a young man whose brother and uncle were detained in the raid. Schoolteachers cried as they tried to comfort students whose parents were suddenly gone. There was standing room only at a prayer vigil that drew about 1,000 people to a school gym.”
In short, overnight, what had been a sleepy backwater community, which hadn’t much considered the issue of immigration, became a center of diehard opposition to ICE, Trump, and the whole anti-immigrant hysteria.
It may be the arrested men and women will still be deported. It may be that there will be further raids and harassment. Certainly, no matter what happens in Morristown, Trump and the GOP will continue in their efforts to turn ICE into an American Gestapo, first for use against immigrants and Hispanics…later, surely, for the rest of us as well.
But the important thing is that this city, Morristown, took a stand. Its people have said, there is a limit. There are places that we will not go. There are things that decent people do. And which they don’t do.
So, bravo/brava to Morristown! May heaven grant that they never need the kind of courage required of a man or woman from Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. But, should that dreadful day come, I am certain that the people of this Tennessee city would find it…
And heaven grant as well that should that day come…the rest of us, too, would find the same courage.
And use it.