I was a child during Vietnam, but even then I knew that I wouldn’t have marched with the sort of people who called our troops “baby killers” and spat on them when they came home. I wouldn’t have screamed slurs at soldiers, and I wouldn’t have painted peace signs on my cheeks in some attempt to appear relevant.
Even as a 10-year-old, I recognized charlatans and show-offs. And I also understood the concept of responsibility, and would have blamed the men in suits–the ones in charge–not the ones in uniform.
I am a half-century removed from that little girl, and I now have a law practice, a column, and the desire to ask questions of the people in charge, although I have to grimace at the phrase “in charge.” When Marines are dying, and those deaths were announced days before their graves were dug, you cannot say that the president is “in charge” of anything. This was a massacre foretold, what happened that Thursday, and no amount of deflection from the media and the sycophantic supporters can change that.
And I am sick at heart, because I knew that this would happen and I wasn’t important enough to be listened to. I have the soul of Cassandra, but only the reach of a suburban lawyer with social media skills. And knowing that people would die on this president’s watch, I focused instead on getting Afghan refugees out of their crumbling country. I’m still doing that, with limited success.
And that’s the point of this column, well beyond the mayhem and the bloodshed of our troops. I want to focus on the thing over which I have control, because within me is that little 10-year-old who saw the catastrophe around her and was helpless to react. I want to take hold of those things that I can.
Many of the local immigration attorneys in the Philadelphia area have been doing God’s work, with some help from Hercules, in getting refugees and asylum applicants into the United States. They have been spending hours preparing applications, for free, using the skills they developed in peace time. Now, this is wartime, and triage can be done on civilian battlefields, including lawyer’s offices.
Many of the local immigration lawyers in the Philadelphia area have been doing God’s work… in getting refugees and asylum applicants into the United States.
Friends like Ayo, and Mary, and Margarita, and Ted, and Alex, and Gwen and Judy, and others I don’t have space to list have been working overtime to get strangers who are caught up in a web of madness into the relatively saner spaces stateside. I am so proud to know them, and to watch as they navigate impossibly arcane and obtuse processes and systems that were created by Kafka’s second cousin, once removed. They are heroic in their own way.
And you know who else is heroic? A man named Pat Toomey. The outgoing senior senator from Pennsylvania has been working with people who are desperate to get family members out of Afghanistan, placing his office personnel at the disposal of desperate people-including me.
Earlier this week, faced with a father who had a son in Kabul, a son who’d already been threatened by the Taliban and was hiding in a dark room, I decided to reach out to our two senators. I tried Bob Casey first, because he’d once helped me out on an immigration case. Initially, I couldn’t get through to his Philadelphia office, and so I pivoted to Senator Toomey.
I called the number on his website, someone immediately answered, understood the urgency of the request and transferred me to Lauren Sanchez, the senator’s liaison for–I assume–emergency matters. She spoke with me at length, asked me to provide her with data, and promised to do what she could. I sent the email, and about a half hour later got confirmation that she’d received it and would work on the case.
A day later, I got another email, telling me that the case had been flagged for expedited processing.
To be fair to Senator Casey, someone from his office emailed me a few days later to see if I still needed assistance on my emergency matter, but by that point it was a moot question.
I do not know if my friend’s son will make it to the U.S. before the doors close forever. I hope that he will be able to see his family, once again. And if he does, it is due in large part to the efforts of all the people here, who have moved mountains to make that happen. It is due to Senator Toomey, who responded with the speed of a jaguar and the compassion of a saint.
I hope that the ladies of the “Tuesdays With Toomey” club who used to gather in front of his office and accuse him of ignoring them understand that he pays attention when it matters, when lives hang in the balance.
I hope that the conservatives who called him a RINO for his vote on impeachment and gun control understand that he’s not guided by popularity polls and doesn’t care what sort of hats they wear.
READ MORE — Trust me, Pat Toomey is no RINO. Let’s not censure him.
And I hope that those of us who understand the devastating nature of this American unraveling take solace in the knowledge that there are some people in charge who can lead by example. One of them lives in Pennsylvania, and we are all the better for it.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and columnist who splits her time between Philadelphia and Delaware County, and her heart between her two Black Labs, Chance and Sophie.