It’s been a long week.
Eight months ago I was starting the process of recuperation from heart surgery, and among the very kind visitors were Donna and Rich Krisch, good friends from Basilica and activists in the cause for decent treatment of those have come to be called ‘illegals’ from anywhere.
They brought me a gift:
We all have different habits and styles. I’m a reader, but very often a book like this has to find its right time…and now is the time to read its several hundred pages. I have no doubt it will be enlightening, and I invite you to take a look as well. Thank you, Rich and Donna.
My personal thoughts are at the end of this post.
First, I note I’ve done 36 posts over the years that relate to immigration in some way or other. A quick search brought back a guest post from Richard Bigelow, a man in border Texas, which I published in July, 2010. You can read it here.
Nine years is yesterday, but light years ago. I didn’t recall how I met the author, nor was there any piece of paper floating around that was evidence. All I’m sure of is that he wrote the piece, and I had his permission to post it, since it was nestled at this site.
LATER: it turned out I still had the authors e-address. I wrote him, and his address turned out to still be active. He reminded me of how we met, and sent the below update, with permission to reprint the above, and his additional comments which follow. Richard grew up in rural Colorado, and still lives in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, a few miles from where my parents lived for a number of years in the 1970s and 80s.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS: Speaking personally: we are a paralyzed society at this moment. I am just one of all of us, and I know many people, and my entire career was negotiating differences. There is virtually no opening for any negotiations now. We believe what we believe, on most everything. We are stuck in ‘lose-lose’. It is our luxury, and it is also our albatross. We live in bubbles of sameness, which help perpetuate the illusion that we are right, and they are wrong.
There are infinite variations from person to person, of course. But there is a common kind of bottom line mentality that I sense, in effect: “I’ll negotiate everything but [that top priority I slavishly hold on to]” Makes not much difference the issue, or which ‘side’ one is on, something is non-negotiable, and we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our own biases.
The people who we call Congressmen, Senators, on and on, reflect us as if we’re looking in a mirror. If they’re worthless, they’re just being who we want them to be. We have a President, now, who believes his “country” is his base, which I don’t think comprises one-fourth of the electorate. Makes no difference – they vote; they won. But what did they “win”? Is being President of some of us, President of all of us?
We are such a large country, that there will always be an infinite variety of almost always young, crazed, individuals with weapons who will repeat El Paso and Dayton endlessly. The odds of any of us individually getting shot is very low, but not infinitesimally low. And if we happen to be where someone is shooting, the odds are far increased over what they were in the past, in the days before automatic weapons were legal guns in this country; and where the NRA was truly a sportsman and gun safety organization, not an industry mouthpiece.
I heard a speaker once say, “nothing changes, if nothing changes“. That was 40 years ago, and I’ve not forgotten it. If there is to be change, it is up to each and every one of us.
We, more so than most anywhere else in the world, are a nation of immigrants. My Dad failed first grade because he couldn’t speak English when he started school in North Dakota; they spoke French exclusively at home. My mothers parents and grandparents prayerbooks were in their native German, and while naturalized citizens, in some cases over 50 years, they faced discrimination during WWI in their own United States.
We generally except native Americans from the category of immigrants. But probably all of their ancestors, albeit thousands of years ago, arrived here from somewhere else as well. I’ve had my own DNA done. I’m 100% white male, and my ancestral track goes back to Africa via the middle east, as it likely does for all of us. It is best we recognize our commonness, not our difference, or we have no chance for a future.
Finally, there is the matter of our (the U.S.) being “exceptional”. We seem to be so, but only in one regard: we are lucky to be exceptionally wealthy, and we will be called to account for this wealth. The U.S. has less than 5% of the worlds population; and about 25% of the worlds wealth. Within our borders are people of every conceivable ethnicity, and we cannot pretend that our wealth is to our credit, or our property, closed to others. There are infinite positive ways for us to share our wealth, and we need to figure this out, otherwise, we will have nothing.
We – you and I – are our future. There’s no one else.
The further and further we get into this debate – the more and more convinced I am that immigrants are not a problem, they are the solution.
I happen to live in a deeper blue pocket of a deep blue state. It is long-term sanctuary city – which, as I understand it, simply means that the question of immigration status is not asked or pursued in dealings with either police or any other type of public agency.
I have traveled rather extensively recently on short one day excursions in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have seen with my own eyes that the real problem in those cities is not the immigrants; but the disaffected and disengaged overwhelmingly full citizenship Americans. The immigrants – legal or not – are typically productively engaged; doing something.
I am continually reminded of that comment/joke, told in various forms by various people, that “If you lose your job to someone who has traveled 2000 miles with no money and little food, can’t speak the language here, and has taken your job – you must not be very good at your job”.
I’m reminded also of my chance encounter on the beach near San Francisco with four people – a Brazilian pharmacist, a Chinese software developer, a Korean factory worker, and an American pot farmer – all productively employed in one of the highest cost of living areas in America.
People – legal residents or immigrants – Are not the issue. Governments, political affiliations and their backers, are.