Wednesday, September 11, 2013
DON'T BE STINGY WITH HOPE
Why are we so chary with hope, so stingy with it? It's as if hope is a commodity that Americans hold in their hands and dole out in dribbles to other people who--for the same reasons we like living here--want to come and put down roots in our country.
We are a country of immigrants. We are founded on them. The roads we drive on, the rivers we traverse, the buildings we worship in, the places where we eat--so much has been built with the help of the Irish, the Chinese, people from Africa (acknowledging that slavery is not the same as immigration), from the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Asia, and so much more.
I am minded of this when I read recently in the Lectionary of the great saga from Exodus where Moses is commanded by God ("Who me? I stutter, I am too weak, I have a wedding to attend, my gimpy hip won't take me that far...") to lead his people out of Egypt, the place of slavery.
And the Israelites hope. It is their birthright; it is written into their DNA; it is in all of their stories that God is THEIR God, the ONE who will attend to their sorrows and save them.
The Pharaoh made a strategic error, a huge, strategic error. He was complaining of how fertile the Hebrews were, how they were multiplying like insects, how--if the Egyptians were not careful--the Hebrews might take over. He was in this moment forgetting that it was the Hebrew people who worked the fields, mixed the straw and mud for bricks, built his buildings, and so much more. He forgot their intrinsic dignity and worth before God. He was governed by fear and not by hope, a common failing of rulers.
That brings me to our present day and to our xenophobic fear and mistrust of immigrants, particularly those coming up from countries south of us, especially Mexico. This blog is not the place to discuss how we could take the money we are investing in that evil wall and invest it instead in industries and agriculture in Mexico to make life better for people there, thus reducing the flow over the border. That would be too reasonable, too humane. Instead, we take our fear of "the other," the fear that Pharaoh was ruled by, that there won't be enough to go around; that the immigrants will "take over," take up too many resources, be a weight on the state--you name it. Fear is big enough to contain many things.
Those who want a huge wall and more border guards (Really? Have they studied history as in, um, Hadrian's Wall? Or the Chinese Great Wall?) are forgetting some crucial facts: Immigrants contribute to the prosperity of our country. They are not a drain on our resources, as many fear. The N.Y. Times recently ran an article containing clear data showing that illegal immigrants have contributed mightily in taxes which repair our roads, contribute to Medicare, and also, unfortunately, fund our wasteful wars. But that's another story.
This story is about allowing hope to others and seeing that we live in a world of abundance, not scarcity. Probably the only thing I totally supported in former President George W. Bush's government was his plan to allow illegal immigrants to become legal. He got it. Bless his soul.
We might find--if we allowed others to hope for a better life, for good schools for their children, for decent health care--that we might have another Moses in our midst, or perhaps an inheritor of Dr. Martin Luther King's prophetic witness, or another Dorothy Day. We cannot imagine the riches which immigrants might bring to this country. We just cannot.
I applaud the support that the Catholic Church is offering to immigration reform, to finding a way to "offer a path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants in our society. This is the kind of church leadership which makes my heart lift up.
My hope for this year and the next is that we Americans will open our hands to those wanting to come to our country; that we will allow hope to fly free like a beautiful bird circling over the heads of people heading North, heading towards hope.Face Book