A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Thursday, July 31, 2014

(Em) Pathetic

My heart has been touched by the recent tragic stories of mothers with children and unaccompanied minors who are fleeing Central American violence and coming illegally to the United States. Their situations, in many cases, are desperate and they feel their only hope for a better life is here in the country I grew up in. I can only imagine the difficulty and improbability of that journey of thousands of miles. I feel a lot of sympathy for them, to say the least.

Lately I've been wondering if feeling sympathy for these huddled masses automatically equates to letting them stay. In other words, is it possible to feel genuinely bad for these people without favoring policies allowing them to remain in the U.S.? Generally it seems that Republicans have been riding the line between blaming Obama for the current situation and simultaneously trying to express compassion for these women and children. Obviously we cannot know their hearts, but some seem to suggest that their kind expressions are false concern because they favor sending these people back to their home countries. If that's the case, that's pretty pathetic.

However, I believe I am called to exercise empathy for those who are suffering. If we truly step into the shoes of these people, we would realize that in their situation we would likely do the EXACT SAME THING. In other words, we start to see these migrants as people rather than as lawbreakers. We realize the unimaginable horrors of their daily lives when their children are forced into drug trafficking and other violent enterprises. Why do we not take the time to feel that empathy? Today I read an article which reminded me of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King about the parable of the good Samaritan, and why some did not stop to help:

Now, you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association. That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho Road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.’ It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass.’ And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking , and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’

Instead of thinking about how immigrants will affect us (i.e. they will steal our jobs! our welfare! flood our streets with crime!), why don't we start thinking about how deportation affects them? What will happen to these people if they are deported? I don't honestly know if it would change the minds of those opposed to letting these people stay, but it might at least tone down some of the rhetoric of those protesting against the immigrants' presence, which could only be a good thing.

Stephen Colbert, "Questionable Compassion for Child Immigrants"