Saturday, May 06, 2006

50 years and nothing's changed

Last night we watched the movie West Side Story. My daughters are really into musicals and dancing and even though it can be intense at times, I thought the message would be a good one for the kids to see.

While watching it, I was really struck by how timely it is. The song America in particular could've been written yesterday. I think that song, especially the movie version, captures this country better than any other song out there because it accurately reflects both America's good points and its deep flaws.

It's depressing, though, that fifty years after the song was written, the exact same deep flaws still exist. I want to be able to watch this movie and think to myself, "Thank God things are better now," but I can't. They're not better. We still treat each other in the same hateful way over differences. Over where we come from, never mind that almost none of us come from here.

I don't normally write about immigration because unlike gay rights issues, which to me are very clear--everyone deserves the same rights to decide their own family, full stop--immigration policy is a murky quagmire and I don't know what the solution is. But I know what it isn't. It isn't hate and intolerance and putting up huge walls and being okay with people dying in the desert. Once again, I turn to Slacktivist to sum up my feelings on immigration better than I could.

I should have been more precise in the previous post: The ethics of immigration policy can be complicated. Immigration policy, by definition, has to do with borders and boundaries, with drawing lines that distinguish one group of people from another and establishing rules for treating these different groups differently. These things are an inescapable part of statecraft, of governing. They are also morally perilous since pretty much every kind of evil begins with the drawing of boundaries between groups of people in order that these others can be treated differently.

Christian ethics can, in a way, be viewed as a prolonged argument between us humans and God in which we're always trying to create boundaries of moral obligation, to create concentric circles beyond which the duties of love and justice do not apply. "Am I my brother's keeper?" "Who then is my neighbor?"

Jesus saw where this was going and cut to the chase: "Love your enemy."

So apart from the hard questions of policy and statecraft, the ethics of how we should respond to (or even talk about) immigrants is not at all complicated. They deserve justice, and more than justice, they deserve magnanimity. The stranger and the alien are our neighbors, our brothers.


At 3:19 PM, Blogger Steve Killam TMTL said...

I have to agree. With the buzz about immigration going on everywhere, but especially here in the Southwest, it is easy to see bigotry raising it's ugly head.
I teach a two week class on racism in my high school senior sunday school class. I have witnessed our youth become less tolerant of other races, and that scares me. They are not even sly about it, as they were a few years ago. I firmly want to believe that we are getting better as a country, but I can't see much to give me hope.
Steve Killam

At 6:18 AM, Blogger John said...

If we really follow this Biblical conclusion, then we should have an open borders policy. That would mean disbanding the US as a cultural entity, and eventually as a political entity.

I'm just not willing to hold a gun to America's head and pull the trigger based on a few verses in Scripture. There are some sections of the Bible that it just seems like it would be foolish to obey today.

Sort of like the passages on homosexuality, eh?


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