immigrant round-up: deportees

Today is Saturday.   The start of the immigrant round-up by the current administration in Washington, DC.  This round-up is occurring across the country by I.C.E. (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) officials.   The situation is bad.  And there is plenty of blame to go around.    I’m not here to place blame because that is counter-productive.   I’m here to ask, “Isn’t there something else we could do?”

Couldn’t we appoint more immigration judges to deal with asylum seekers?   Couldn’t we find a way to maintain a connection with people while helping them through the process?   Couldn’t we find a way to assist them in their plight?  Why must we always dehumanize them by seeing families and children as the enemy?  Why… the evil ones?  Why… the undesirables?  Why only migrants?

While the current administration claims they want to focus on “criminals” they have not defined what they mean by criminal.   And how will they determine who is criminal?  How much will profiling go into their selection of who they “nab”.  If you have brown skin does that automatically make you a criminal?!   Will white illegal immigrants be overlooked while black and brown immigrants are rounded up? The fact is, we have a process on dealing with illegal immigration and we have a criminal justice system to deal with those who commit serious crimes (murder, theft, drugs, etc).  While those systems seem inadequate at times why don’t we shore up those systems instead of bypassing them?   When we bypass the law we become the lawless.

These men, women and children have names.   They are individuals of worth with temporary needs.  They come with the hope for a better life than what they left behind.  Haven’t we all done that at some point?   Haven’t we all been in an untenable situation at some point where we had to move on?   Have you ever changed jobs?  Have you retired?  Have you divorced?   Have you married?  Have you moved to another house/apartment?   Have you ever moved to another city?  Have you ever left behind something in the hope of finding something better?  Over the years I’ve seen several migrant run restaurants (Mexican and Asian) in my city that closed.  They were popular restaurants.   Was it because I.C.E. rounded up the owners and/or employees of the restaurant and deported them?   Were they criminal?  Weren’t  they making a living, paying the rent, paying employees, paying taxes, building families.  Was there a misunderstanding, due to language barriers, where they did not file the appropriate immigration paperwork and because there was no follow-up they fell through the cracks.   So are they criminal?   Why wasn’t there someone who could help them?  Why wasn’t there some follow-up?  Aren’t we doing more harm by making migrants more fearful to seek help from the place they’ve come to make their home?  Are we doing more harm by deterring migrants from self-reporting?   Aren’t we doing more harm by alienating the alien?   Aren’t we doing more harm?

My own family history reveals us as a family of migrants.  My Great Grandfather immigrated from Switzerland in the late 1800s to come to Ohio, to purchase a farm, start farming and be part of a small Mennonite community.  So because my family immigrated from Europe instead of Mexico, Africa or China or a country where Islam is the religion of choice, does that make us more desireable?  Better prepared?  Better humans?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!!!!  We are human beings with our own flaws, tics, and characteristics like everyone else regardless of skin color or country of origin.

We are all migrants in one form or another.  It is part of the human experience.   When we dehumanize our fellow human beings we dehumanize ourselves.

I pray for all migrants today and throughout the coming days that may fall victim to cruelty of other human beings.   May they find sanctuary from the government and I.C.E.  May they find someone to help them legally through the process.  If you know a migrant, please reach out, grant them shelter and protection against an unjust government.   It’s time to stop talking and take action!  Resistance and protest is NOT futile!

Enjoy this song by Joan Baez written by the legendary Woody Guthrie.   It’s more popularly known as DEPORTEE and is a perfect anthem for our time.

and this one, Ice el Hielo – english lyrics below.

Ice the ICE

Ice Water Frozen Solid.
ICE. Immigration Customs Enforcement.
ICE. The ice.

Eva passing the cloth on the table there is
taking care that everything shines like a pearl.
When the patron arrives, do not complain again.
Do not be the thing that is accused as illegal.

Jose attends the gardens, they look like Disneyland
Handles an old truck without the license.
It does not matter if he was a taxi driver there in his homeland
That does not count for Uncle Sam.

The Ice is loose in those streets
You never know when you’re going to touch us
now the children cry at the exit
They cry when they see that mom will not come
One stays here, another stays there,
That happens to go to work.

Marta arrived as a child and dreams of studying.
But it becomes difficult without the papers.
Those who were born here are left with the laurels,
But she never stops fighting.

The Ice is loose in those streets
You never know when you’re going to touch us
Now the children cry at the exit
They cry when they see that mom will not come
One stays here, another stays there,
That happens to go to work.

what is our world doing to me?

I’d ask each of you to ask the question:   What is our world and culture doing to me?   Is it making me more human or less human?

I recently watched the excellent and possibly most aggressive film Ingmar Bergman ever directed.   It’s called SHAME.  Even though the setting is an imagined Civil War it is a reflection of his thoughts and feelings about WWII and the Vietnam War.   It is one of the better anti-war films because it graphically shows what happens to “third parties” in a conflict (i.e. not the principal players) On the Criterion Collection edition DVD there is an interview with Bergman’s muse at-the-time,  Liv Ullman.   She recounts what Bergman said at the time:

“He said, ‘What we have to be aware of for ourselves is coldness, indifference, looking down at other people, lack of contact with other people….'”

I love that quote and I think it is a perfect thing for us to meditate on in these times in which we live, where there is rapidly rising partisanship, greater ideological divides and an onslaught of excessive blame, cruel judgement, harsh criticism, hatred, lies and extremism in every format (even advertisements – I’m thinking of a weed killer commercial where a woman shouts “Kill em ALL”).  And when extremism is presented as humorous or justified as mocking and we laugh – we add to the problem and become insensitive.  We need to THINK and think critically about what we consume in media and advertisements.    It’s easy to get caught up in all the reporting about this and that twitter feud but as we do we also become more emotionally trapped by that.   We begin to choose sides.   We are blind to the fact about how that is slowly stripping away our humanity.   We cease to see people, who disagree with us, as human.   We desire to see them treated as the animals we perceive in their reported and confessed behavior.  It’s the old trap:   An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth……  Before you know we become the animals ourselves.

 

So how do we rise above?   And even though I don’t identify as Christian anymore – I’ve always loved Jesus Christ and am amazed that religious people (especially in America), who seek positions of power in their religion and in politics, fail to see that what they seek is what killed their Savior to begin with.   It was not the Jews (as a race) who killed Christ it was religion and politics.   Politics because of Roman leadership that refused to get involved and handed Christ over to the religious leaders; it was then religious moral high-mindedness, protectionism and fear that finished the job.  Both politicians and religious leaders wanted to maintain control of the people and how did they do that?  They killed love.

So back to my question how do we rise above it?  First we need to come down to earth.   How do we stop ourselves from becoming the thing we hate?  I think the answer lies in Bergman’s quote.   We need to remain warm in our observations of others and realize that those in the news, twitter, facebook, youtube or whatever other outlet that allows their dehumanizing hate to be vomited out into the world,  are still human.   Human in spite of the latest outrage.  We NEED to find a way to see them as human beings that are worth saving.   We need to reach out to hear them, understand them and meet them part way.    If we criticize them and ridicule them, judge them, shame them and embarrass them we do nothing to win them over.  We only become more like them and when we realize that – then shame sets in and we are filled with shame and self-loathing.  Lost in a cycle we can see no way out of.  It takes someone to step outside the self-perpetuating cycle and say, “Wait….   I’m sorry,  while I disagree with what you are saying or how your are expressing it I’d like to hear more about why you feel that way and see if there’s a way we can work through it together.”   And when they say something you disagree with ask them, “Why do you think that will work or how will that help the situation?”  There is NOT one way to do things.

That sets the stage for dialog – it’s the beginning of change.  We cease to be lost in the coldness of our own defenses.   When we stop the polemicizing and start listening to other peoples stores we cease to be trapped by the indifference we feel toward others.  We stop looking down on others and take steps to heal the contact, the bond between us that makes us uniquely human.  We stop defining the other person as “them” or “the other”.  We also need to stop being offended by criticism.  Remember offense is something you take = it’s not given to you.   Accept criticism and respond lovingly and appropriately.   And if you give criticism and the other person is offended you can be the salve, the healing balm with a simple “I’m sorry, I did not mean to offend I was just trying to express what I feel.  Why does that offend you?”

So are you tired of the “ball of confusion” that perpetuates modern society?

If you are, I dare you seek out difference and find a way to meet it and meet with it. You can rise above it all. WE can rise above it all.  When we help others rise up – especially those who are different with different ideologies, beliefs, moral centers, values ….. when we help others we help ourselves.  I dare you.  Will you dare?  You might be surprised who will come along.

RISE UP

STAY HUMAN – “All I want to do is stay human with you…..”

It’s not going to happen unless we (you and I) make it happen.
BE THE CHANGE

BLACK AS NIGHT “I believe in the good things coming…”

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