Watching the reports come out of Texas after Hurricane Harvey made landfall has been a heart-wrenching experience, one that has become all too familiar as each devastating storm slams one after another into our country. And now looking out to the Atlantic we are faced with Irma, a hurricane with the kind of devastating potential only a Category 5 could muster. I find myself glued to the news coming from these storms with the helpless feeling that comes from living in a state relatively safe from these natural disasters.

This morning, trying to find ways to help those affected and remaining quietly frustrated at the sheer limits of my capacity to assist, I found myself in a familiar place. It’s a feeling that has become the new normal since the last election. I wake up in the morning and scan through my news feed, a whisper about the immigration ban, a hint of a hurricane forming.

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The story gains traction, some senior officials are hammering out the details of how to go about repealing Obamacare; the National Weather Service warns that this hurricane could swing around and make landfall, but no one is certain. Then an official statement, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be rescinded in six months, putting hundreds of thousands of people in immediate peril.

The storm, with so many paths leading away from harm, bears down upon our country as if propelled forth by some unseen hand.

Sitting at home in Wisconsin on the tenth floor of my apartment complex, I am safe from the perils of these hurricanes and the destruction they bring. I am safe from many of the policy decisions being made in this new administration. I watch on as storm after storm slams into my country, and my heart cries for those affected.

What I find in the storm’s wake, however, gives me cause for hope. Lawyers working pro-bono to defend refugees denied entry at the gates, nameless people with boats evacuating thousands from rooftops as flood waters reach ever higher. America’s strength is not physical, it’s not the value of the dollar or the land within our borders.

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America’s strength is the compassion we feel and the hand we extend to those who cry out for help. If we are ever to forget this lesson, we need not look farther than to the Statue of Liberty, engraved forever with this truth: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

With storms raging across the United States, wreaking havoc and upending lives, Americans must stand for the compassion that declares the United States as a refuge for the tempest-tost and as a home for all those who seek her shores. In the face of what seems like cruelty for the sake of cruelty, compassion — for the sake of compassion — is our greatest weapon.

Jason Donker ([email protected]) is a graduate student working towards a degree in international public affairs.