Saturday, July 20, 2019

Dueling Picture-Thinking

I keep criticising mind-reading, but I am going to do a little here.  I will justify it on the basis that I am working outward from things people have actually written, and repeatedly over the years.

The comparison is made between people coming to American borders attempting entry without permission, or asserting asylum claims in a hope of making it through under another category, or, once having penetrated the border and settled here illegally, and Jesus being a refugee in Egypt, or other NT passages about remembering the poor, or giving unto the least of these. The picture thinking is of a hungry or ragged child coming to your door.  How can you turn her away? Wouldn't Jesus himself tell you to invite her in, give her your cloak? These people are coming to our border, which is like coming to our door.  As Christians, our duty is plain, and those who refuse it are turning Jesus away. I don't think that's completely wrong.  I don't think it's insane, at least. One large thing it neglects is that the poor that the Bible are referring to are people who have a history, or at least a category.  They are the beggars or unfortunates the whole town knows about.  They are known to be widows and orphans or disabled because people know them.  Or they are strangers, who are also accorded specific rights and privileges even if their history is not known. Notice that there are rights strangers are not given, BTW.

Yet I have a different picture in my head, which I think is closer to the truth. (I will turn to the further questions of Christians influencing society and imposing their will on non-Christians some other time.  There's a lot there, but today is not that day.) I think of the crisis at the border - which was not a crisis three years ago, five years ago, seven years ago, nine years ago - as more like a soup kitchen or food pantry. People have a history.  They decide to come to your place of distribution.  Your resources are finite, and it matters where they are in the line. At the food distribution charity I sometimes help, you take a number. Some weeks you go in first when the selection is greatest.  Some weeks you are at the end when a lot of the good stuff is gone (though there is also a table clearing of being encouraged to take more than the allotted amount of English Muffins or squashes at the end). We try not to be obsessive about it, but we do have to enforce against people who cut in line, or come back a second - or fourth - time. If some take extra, someone else, who also has children or a hard life, will have less.

We can absorb, in round numbers, a certain number of immigrants, from all over the world.  Our representatives get together and figure out how many from various places can come in. If we take in a million we hadn't given permission to, that's a million we don't approve for other countries.

Back at the soup kitchen, people are cutting in line. They are forcing other people back down the line, to the extent that they cannot get soup tonight. People who showed up on time, made sure their children were polite, stood in the cold.  Most of the line-cutters are very nice people, just sad, rather desperate. Not so desperate as to accept asylum in Mexico, the soup hasn't got as much meat in it there, but really, despite my criticism, somewhat desperate. What would you do?  Your kid is hungry, so you aren't so fussy about rules. (Others are not so nice.  In fact, given the predominance of young men in the crowd, some violent, it looks suspiciously as if many of them are economic migrants.) Frightening lives in Honduras.  Danger for your children in Guatemala. But. But. Sorry, Josselyn from Manila, you can't come in this year, that quota is full.  Sorry Ionut and Cristian from Romania, we have cut back on the number of foreign adoptees from your country because seats are limited. Last year it was unlimited, but this year it's different.  Sorry Anna, sorry Olga; sorry Becky, sorry Katie; sorry Theung, sorry Bangone; sorry Sudan, sorry Syria, sorry Indonesia, sorry Congo, sorry India and Pakistan.

Yes, those people from Nigeria and Nepal also have children.  Sad-looking children with sad eyes and sad lives. But they can't come.  Because nice people, tender-hearted people, good Christian people are looking into the sad eyes of the children that guys from Central America have dragged along, whether related to them or not, and pushed you out of line. We decided to feel sorry for them instead, because we saw pictures of them from biased news sources who want to discredit the people of one political party. Which is of course the more important truth.

That's my picture, not of Oliver Twist saying "More, sir?" but of people edging - or even shoving - little kids out of the way at the soup kitchen.  You might like your picture-thinking better, think it captures more of the truth.  Have at the argument, that's fair. I think my analogy is more exact.  State your case.

And yes, I really do resent it, and I do get angry and intemperate when you call me racist, or even imply it.

1 comment:

Tom Bridgeland said...

Am I a racist? Yes, by certain measures of the word. But I did manage to marry outside my race and culture, and have two very nice children from that marriage. I can live with it.