The Hopes of our Neighbors
“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” –Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
If you’ve ever spent a Saturday afternoon scrolling through your TV channels and landed on TNT or TBS, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen The Shawshank Redemption. While it was originally a box office failure in 1994, the story of Andy Dufresne’s life at the Shawshank State Penitentiary and his bond with his fellow prisoner Red has become an American classic built on the values of friendship, integrity and finding hope when all feels lost.
In America, we are all too blessed to experience that type of hopelessness mostly through movies like The Shawshank Redemption and not in our everyday lives. The idea of hope has driven Americans looking to build a better life from the day the Declaration of Independence was signed through the historic election of Barack Obama, whose campaign was built on and driven by hope. Hope is a powerful force, a belief that with the freedoms we enjoy here, anything is possible. It is a testament to the Founding Fathers who believed that our human rights come from God, not a government.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for millions of people around the world who do not have the basic human rights we cherish here. Many do not have the ability to speak out against oppressive governments, to participate in free elections or to the right to express themselves artistically or spiritually. While the concrete solutions to aiding the citizens of distant countries can be complex and costly, there is one value our nation has always provided to those seeking liberty and freedom: hope.
Our state’s senior Senator John McCain wrote a beautiful piece in the New York Times earlier this week responding to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s claim that “conditioning our foreign policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advance our national interests.” The piece rebuts this notion and details the need for the United States to continue providing hope to those around the world looking for guidance and inspiration. His words were a powerful reminder that our nation stands alone when it comes to this vital mission:
“We are a country with a conscience. We have long believed moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it. We are the chief architect and defender of an international order governed by rules derived from our political and economic values. We have grown vastly wealthier and more powerful under those rules. More of humanity than ever before lives in freedom and out of poverty because of those rules…
To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize. Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three.”
Now more than ever, America needs to stand tall and speak up for the values we hold dear and so many millions throughout the world yearn for. But it’s not just the stories we hear on the nightly news from distant places like Syria and Libya; it’s the families living in crime-ridden places like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez right near our border that feel no hope as cartels and human traffickers terrorize their neighborhoods. It’s the Venezuelans who are facing an unimaginable crisis with no hope of change or even basic necessities such as food and water. It’s the people living in gang-infested towns throughout Central American countries like El Salvador and Guatemala that need hope from the shining city upon a hill Reagan proclaimed us to be.
We stand with Senator McCain and his belief in providing hope for the foreign and distant lands that so desperately need it, but we pray that our leaders realize our neighbors need hope just as badly. While we believe the end result to aiding Mexico and Central American countries is treating these nations with a foreign policy approach and an immigration system that benefits all economies, the first step is an administration that provides these countries hope through promoting our values and desire for all to enjoy basic human rights.
Hope isn’t the final answer, but it is a good thing and good things never die.