You were the first. By temporarily suspending the ban on travel from 7 Muslim-majority countries, you sent a clear signal: the U.S. government isn’t run by the abrupt order of one man. Its systems may seem inefficient and cantankerous, but they follow thoughtful precedent. These legal procedures were constructed over time to ensure the rights of those who might be too easily dismissed. By all accounts a conservative Republican, you know what’s constitutional, what’s not, and have the courage to challenge even your own party.
You may not realize that you stand in a long lineage. On Feb. 22, 1943 Hans and Sophie Scholl were beheaded by the Nazis. The brother and sister had dared to distribute flyers that criticized the ruling regime and audaciously offered hope that it wouldn’t last forever. Sophie could have been describing Robart when she said of her activist group, five students called the White Rose: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
Sophie once played her violin outside the window of her father’s jail cell, and saw herself as a little candle, burning out quickly. She delighted in a May meadow, a clear brook and a Schubert Quintet. Killed at 21, she has lived on in 200 German schools named for her and her brother, and a voice no dictator could squelch. She may have unconsciously responded to the hope of the Hebrew Bible: “None shall make them afraid.”
In Christian terms, she said, “I will cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even when my numb hands can no longer feel it.” As Fr. Tom Bonacci writes, “Jesus reveals the power of humanity to live without fear of those who claim legitimacy through power, threat and violence.”
It’s not hard to imagine how Sophie and Hans might respond to the sad news that applications for college financial aid from undocumented students in California have dropped 42%. At this time last year there were 13,200 new applicants for state tuition aid; this year there have been 8,600. Although the Cal Grant program has nothing to do with the federal government, students are apparently afraid to file their information. So, a deportation policy designed to thwart criminals instead ends college educations? The California Dream Act is still a beacon of hope, encouraging Dreamers that pursuing education is the best thing they can do.
From Robart to the Scholls to the Dreamers may seem a disconnected line, but one theme unites them all: fear is useless; courage, paramount. The following exchange from J. R. R. Tolkien has circulated widely on the internet, but still bears repeating:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”