Immigration is wonderful… if it happened a long time ago.

I have the luxury of being able to spend about half of my life in the East, and half in the SW part of the US. In fact, when I’m in the SW, I’m very close to the Mexican border. So, I get to hear the Easterners “solving” the immigration “problem”, and I also get to watch the “problem” up close and personal.

Coincidentally, one of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. I’ve been pursuing it for years and years now, and I enjoy the challenge of piecing together seemingly disparate pieces of information to make a whole. I’ve gone back as far as about 1300 C.E, and it’s interesting to note all the movements across borders. Either my family had the “travel gene” or it was a lot more common in the past to pick up your stuff and move.

So, how does living in the SW, listening to people complain about immigration, and the study of genealogy all mesh together. Simple, really. America is a nation of immigrants. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people who live here are here only because their grandparents, or great grandparents fled to this country. Perhaps “fled” is too strong a word, but a hundred to a hundred and fifty years ago, people came here to avoid starvation (e.g. potato famine in Ireland), pogroms (Eastern Europe), or simple poverty (Europe, Asia). Some came as brides from countries where arranged marriages were still the norm, some came to work at specific jobs (gold, coal mining, the railroad). And I, for one, see nothing wrong with any of that. Yet, the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of those very settlers now abhor those who wish to enter the US for exactly the same reasons. Further, if the immigration policies in place today were in place only a hundred years ago, many of the complainants would either not exist, or be living somewhere other than the US. Whatever happened to Emma Lazarus’s

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I guess we want the tired poor to stay behind the giant fence now.

However, what we want, and what we get are often two different things. We don’t know how many illegal immigrants there are in the United States, but we know we have lots of them. We also know they are still coming; those of us near the border see evidence of that on a daily basis. Border patrols driving up and down dirt paths beside the roadways, checking for footprints, road blocks where you stop and are asked “Are you a US citizen?” (This always strikes me as strange; if you say “yes”, you are waved on through, but if you say “no”, you must show your ID. Surely an illegal immigrant wouldn’t simply say “no” at such a road block? US citizens are asked for no paperwork, and even if they were, what would they have on them? How many carry their passport with them wherever they go?), and the sight of border patrol helicopters and high-tech surveillance equipment everywhere you go.

The politicians argue about the “problem” and will probably never agree. Whoever is in power is duty bound to disagree with whatever the group out of power say… at least, so it seems to me. My thinking is that if you have symptoms of a problem (and in my view, the symptoms are the numbers of people trying to enter the US illegally), you have to find the source and attend to that. If someone is bleeding to death, of course we stem the flow as best we can, but ultimately, if that person doesn’t get her arteries sewn up, or the gaping hole in their flesh attended to, we’ll spend our lives trying to stop the bleeding.

What then is the problem? Poverty for one, and safety for another. Drug cartels make a country unsafe not only for tourists (which is why most Americans won’t visit many parts of Mexico today), but also for the people who live there! This little fact seems to have escaped the notice of many of our immigration naysayers. Apparently, it’s ok for others to live in such conditions, but not us. That kind of thinking must stop. What happens in one country affects the world.

Perhaps if the US spent as much money in the countries from which most of our newer non-citizens hail as they do on border guarding, we might see a slow down in northbound traffic? After all, people don’t tend to attempt dangerous journeys for no reason (and yes, crossing the border can be dangerous. Every year, some of those who attempt it die, most commonly of dehydration). Take away the reason, and you solve the “problem”.

I don’t think the answer is easy to achieve, in case you are mouthing to yourself that I’m too idealistic and simplistic. However, all I see from my perspective are complaints from people who need to learn to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, and a very active, well-funded border patrol. I don’t hear anything about efforts to go to the source, but I’d love to hear of any.

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Rules and Bible School

Is the Bible a guidebook for life, or is it a recipe? The former implies that the reader needs to discern what is being said, how it is said, and what those words meant for the people who first received them. The latter, on the other hand, implies it needs to be followed exactly (that is, literally) in order to gain the hoped-for result. Which is it? Looking around at the hundreds and thousands of expressions of Christianity around the world, there is clearly no one understanding of how to read (and by implication, follow) the Bible.

My own past includes a conservative, evangelical Bible School where I studied subjects such as exegesis, hermeneutics, apologetics, and old and new testament history (among many other subjects). It was the first time I’d ever had to actually LIVE on a campus that was run on conservative values, and it was not an altogether pleasant experience. I’m a questioner. Two and three year olds go through a phase where they ask “why?” all the time; I never grew out of it. So, I would ask “why” about some of the rules that were in place for college life, and I soon learned that questioning was not a good idea. Firstly, many of the answers didn’t make sense, and secondly, if you continued to question, you were labelled “rebellious” – and we all know what the Bible says about rebelliousness, right? It is akin to witchcraft. So, the ultimate answer is “Be quiet”.

For all her faults, my mother always encouraged questions, so simply being quiet in the face of rules that did not make sense was extremely hard for me. However, the harder I tried to do so, the more the internal damage began to build. I would castigate myself for not accepting what I considered “stupid” rules, and wonder what was wrong with me. Others didn’t seem to have the problems I did. At least, most did not voice any problems. One example was clothing. There were many rules surrounding what we could wear. To lectures, women had to wear skirts or dresses, although dress pants were also acceptable (so I guess the Bible College wasn’t ultra conservative). But, were corduroy pants “dress pants”? Big debate. Not among the students so much as the faculty. The answer, for one semester, was yes. However, this changed the next semester to a “No”. Flip-flops were not allowed to be worn to lectures, but did that include expensive dress shoes that had a bar between the big and second toe? Answer: “Yes”. To me, it seemed so petty, arbitrary, and in my book had nothing to do with the Bible.

I remember that it was at about this time I started thinking about people from other cultures. If women were not supposed to wear anything other than dresses or skirts, what of the Inuit people? Were their women supposed to wear dresses and skirts if they wanted to be Christian? And where, exactly, in the Bible was there an edict that women had to dress so? And then there was the ever-present “modesty” issue. When working around the college at practical tasks, women were allowed to wear shorts, provided they weren’t “immodest”. One of my friends was asked to change out of her shorts because a “brother” had complained her legs were causing him to stumble. Her shorts came half-way down her leg! Surely if our “brother” had a problem, he should be doing something about it himself, not complaining to the faculty about her. I believe we are in charge of ourselves and our reactions, and we should not demand that others change for us. That incident, even today as I remember it, smells badly of the excuse rapists used to make (and still do), namely, that “she asked for it”. It makes me wonder if the judges would accept a woman saying “Well, he took off his shirt while he mowed the lawn, and the sight of his lovely body turned me into a woman possessed. I just had to rape him, your honor. It wasn’t my fault; he was asking for it!”

Anyway, it was living in that kind of environment that initiated an awful lot of questions in my mind. Was this how the God of the Bible really wanted people to live? Were the small, and multitudinous, rules so, so important to life? Is that what Christianity was all about, or were many Christians becoming like the Pharisees that we so loudly condemned?

Introduction

Life is indeed a journey. But, it’s not one straight line from cradle to grave. No, it can be a seemingly meandering trail, looping, turning, retracing, climbing, falling, running, and staggering until the final destination, death, is reached. My own journey, thus far, reads as a not infrequent tale of joy and sorrow, confusion and change. Whether I am the only person to read this blog, or whether it is read by many, is of no consequence. Simply thinking about the past and pondering the present in writing will turn into part of my journey. Maybe my path will change as a result; maybe it won’t. Nothing is sure, as they say, except death and taxes.

Before I go on, let me introduce myself. I’m a woman, married, and in my fifties. I have taught in schools and colleges, and I’ve lived in several different countries. I was once an evangelical Christian; now, I’m agnostic. I am not what some might call a lazy agnostic; I continually search and question, and I intend for this blog to be a part of this process. Do not fear, however; I will not confine myself to the deadly serious. Life is more than that. I love to laugh, especially those belly-laughs that leave you sore. I love to ponder, to question, to play the devil’s advocate (although I’m not entirely sure why the devil should be given credit for honest questioning), and to think. So, I imagine, it will be difficult to categorize my blog into any particular genre.

With that all said, here ends the first blog entry. I’ve begun!