I got an email forward last night taking a political stance on Arizona’s new illegal immigration policies. And now I write.
The email came from someone I love, and though I apparently disagree with her on this issue, I’ll not berate her for committing the heinous crime of having an opinion that’s different from mine, nor for spreading her opinion around. After all, that’s what I’m doing here, right?
But I won’t shy away from saying that the sentiment behind the email had me sad, discouraged, and angry all wrapped up together with a bow.
I feel no need to reprint the entire email here for the sake of discussion. (If you really care, you can grab the excerpt below and google it.) There are plenty of them going around on this topic on both sides. I’m sure you’ve gotten one or two. Here’s the spin this one was sporting. It was comprised of a series of images of a desert wash littered with trash of various kinds. The text indicated that the path represented a trail frequented by illegal human traffickers from Mexico into Arizona. An excerpt of the text:
And of course the trailisleading out of the wash into our city, heading directly NORTH to Tucson, then leads toYOUR town tomorrow. They already came through here. Isn't Arizona just beatutiful, America?...THE TIME IS OVERDUE TO PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND OURSELVES, BY CLOSING OUR BORDERS.JOIN THE FIGHT WITH ARIZONA, NOT AGAINST US.
Forgive me the spelling errors and pardon the shouting. I’ve posted it as I found it.
The point of view that the email was taking was that tremendous environmental damage was being done to the desert ecology due to littering of trash and human waste along these migration trails.
I don’t want to speak to Arizona’s new immigration policies specifically. I want to talk about Us versus Them. They have come through our city and your town so fight with us, not against us.
This land was made for you and me.
It’s an interesting point of historical note that the United States took this scrap of land I’m standing on from Mexico by force in the 1840s in the Mexican-American War. Mexico had only just ousted the Spanish who colonized the land against the will of the indigenous peoples who have as near to original ties to this ground as is possible, and perhaps they are the only ones with any divine rights to be here. My own ancestors were mainly Irish and received hardly kinder a welcome from the powers of the day than those crossing our southern border now.
It’s all lines on map, folks - these divisions that we’re making between people. I make lines on maps all day at work so I’m the first person to tell you how arbitrary this stuff is. And what we’re saying here is that the folks on this side of the fence are different from those ones...they...the others.
The email specifically references the countless soiled diapers in the midst of this trash and the human footprints leading through it. I think the point was probably to show the human indecency going on here with them, those others. But I hear that, and I think...mothers. Mothers with babes in arms walking (how long, how far) through all that. Why would a mother take her child through that filth, at that risk? The answer: she doesn’t have a choice.
I’m a mother. I have a little boy who is bright and sweet and has a beautiful soul. I can’t wait see who he’ll grow up to be and what he’s going to do. What do you think I would do if someone told me that my child could have had all these chances, treasures like education and health care, but I was born on the wrong side of the fence? The wrong side of the arbitrary line on the map?
These are families, folks trying to do right by their kids, young folks trying to send a little money back home to help their parents. These are people. Human beings on Planet Earth.
I’m not professing to have all the answers here. I know that if our country were ever to manage to truly seal tight our borders, the economies in we border-states like California and Arizona would collapse. We depend on those that immigrate to our country illegally so we can pay them next to nothing to work our farms and do the work we don’t want to do. I also know that if we knocked down our fences and threw open our arms to anyone and everyone that wanted to live here, we would also face economic devastation.
This isn’t an easy issue, folks, and there are no easy answers.
All I’m saying is there isn’t an “us” and a “them.” The people on the wrong side of that arbitrary line on a map are just that. People. The way you and I are people. And my friend who sent the email, and all the folks who she sent it to, are people. You might get your evil villain in the easily distinguishable black hat and curly mustache from time to time – on both sides of that line – but, by and large, we’re all just folk. Just folk doing the best we can for the people we love with the choices we have.
You don’t have to listen to me. I’m just one person in the people sea. But I’m going to ask you anyway. Do me a favor and look at yourself – descendant from the unwanted and the outcast just a few generations ago – and look at the folks crossing the line on the map. Look hard and tell me you can’t see something of your reflection there.
You and I? We are the people of the United States. A century and a half ago some dead guys drew a line on map with the barrel of a gun. You and I ended up on the more fortunate side of it, through sheer dumb luck. Mind where you place your pronouns.