Come, talk politics with me. Deep end, prepare yourself. Caution, I toss you to the wind. Kindly bear witness as I expertly chase off half my audience before this blog even starts. Hey, at least we’ll all know where we stand, so there’s that. This isn’t a political blog in general (although there’s no topic I’ll avoid), and I do hereby solemnly swear that every post from hereafter will be lighter (and shorter) to the very best of my ability (so that’s a maybe). But if you do read through today, you’re a kindred spirit or hold a high regard for differing viewpoints. Either way, I like you already.
However, by virtue of putting this particular perspective in writing, I’m aware that I’m inviting dislike on myself. When some people disagree in today’s political culture, I mean they DISAGREE (with a capital “you’re an idiot lacking brains or heart”). Respectfully agreeing to disagree (without being character assassinated) hasn’t really come to the party of late when I’ve expressed my political opinion. If that’s the case, and my logic or opinion on this prevents someone from seeing me as smart, loving or giving, so be it. We each get one voice.
Listen, don’t we know we need to discuss politics? (We do keep rampantly trying on Facebook.) Any civilized society has to think things over and through; foregoing contemplative conversation isn’t a luxury a republic can afford. If we take easy offense or ourselves too seriously for civil debate, strife will (is) eat(ing) us alive. I imagine our founding granddads (they seem too old to be fathers at this point) would sternly lecture the lot of us for the bedridden depression or skip work, self-indulgent nonsense happening when we face disagreements or disappointments (then they’d give us a lollipop and send us off with a do-better-next-time pat on the head like all doting grandparents).
I want to at least try to maintain a country where we can differ with appropriate deference, so I will talk about how I disagree that “borders are bad, bridges are good.” I’ll verbalize that I don’t think America’s moral compass has run entirely afoul based on current immigration limits, but I respect your right to disagree with me and oppose the authority with your vote. I hold out this post as an olive branch. Let’s still be friends whether we agree or not. Let’s keep talking. Let’s be the United States of America where disagree with one another doesn’t mean destroy one another. So, let’s put on our big boy/girl undies and talk U.S. borders and immigration. Breathe in, breathe out … and now:
I was born empathetic to a fault with a big old bleeding heart and considerable sense of responsibility which led directly to a tendency toward boundary-less-ness. I was also highly involved through age 25 in a Christian denomination (that I truly respect and I’m still firmly Christian) that I’m pretty sure would disagree with me on this topic (I speculate since it wasn’t really discussed in Sunday School aside from “fences bring freedom”). I can safely say that I’ve greatly contemplated the political position–and supporting motives–against which I’m about to argue. If your perspective on today’s immigration policy is one of moral or general outrage or grief, I do feel you on some level. And yet, I can’t bring myself to a “walls are bad” or “Christianity/compassion has failed” response to the new President’s attempts to tighten immigration vetting or enforce border laws put into place by previous governing bodies (and believe me, there’s a lot put into place by governing bodies that I’d like to lock and load in a missile launcher and catapult to wherever the sun never shines).
This issue of who do we let in and on whom should we have “compassion” is such a macro issue, because this is such a macro world. It’s a BIG topic (HYUGE with a silent ‘h’) even without getting into the technical definitions of compassion (but do google “idiot compassion” if you’re unfamiliar). When a thing feels this macro-immense, it seems we forget to apply simple-micro logic to it. We don’t boil it down to fundamentals that we already apply to our everyday, walking around lives. Everyone implements some version of micro-border control in their lives (e.g., not picking up hitchhikers or taking the random homeless guy in) without accusing themselves of being hateful but then ironically starts screaming (crying, maligning, assaulting) “haters” at those who would apply macro-borders to the U.S.’ interaction with the world. Um?
On the issue of borders, common micro-sense includes things like, 1) you can’t help everybody, 2) not everybody wants help, 3) don’t go down with the ship, 4) no one is entitled to your personal space, 5) your concentric layers of responsibility begin with your immediate circle and move outward, 6) taking something from one person so another person can have it (traditionally called theft) isn’t charity (so the government isn’t a charity, because that’s all it can do), 7) the government’s job is to protect its citizens (so citizens can do charitable work if they freely choose, altruism being a personal choice we can’t force on one another) and 8) you generally can do the most good on earth when you’re alive, so martyrdom, literal or figurative, isn’t often called for (leaving debates about what “taking up your cross” means for another day, Christians, because I too believe in doing so), and under no circumstances are you entitled to choose martyrdom for your neighbor.
Let’s illustrate simply. Take ten people who ask you personally for financial help, and you’re glad (the opportunity to give is an honor, no argument). They claim emergency status–no food or roof over kids’ heads at sundown. So, without asking question numero uno, you bring all ten home and hand over your MAC card with directions to the closest ATM (please, oh mercy, please tell me that already gave you pause). Let’s say nine of the ten have no intent to take advantage. Oops. Game over anyway. The following day the one malicious sort empties your bank account, runs off with your valuables after messily feasting from your fridge on your La-Z-Boy while watching your DVR’s (and then deleting, how depraved) while you’re at work. Your own family and nine other needy souls now have nada while the bad guy took your everything.
Next, let’s say none of the ten have plans to rob you blind, but five out of ten actually have another source of help (including their own efforts) unbeknownst to you but are choosing you as their preferred method (maybe for obvious reasons based on your gullibility in the previous example, food for thought). Not everybody’s story can be taken at face value nor can you believe you’re able to take in everyone who asks unless you’re the most naive or unrealistic of types. If you assist all ten again without hesitation, you’ve just doomed your ability to help anybody at all if you didn’t first evaluate your resources (not only financial). Maybe not as quickly as in the first illustration, but without fail your resources will run dry with the same result that your family and no one gets any sustainable benefit. Nobody can rely on you. And you missed helping the ones who truly had no other option. Ship sunk again. There are natural limits to how much everybody–every body, including government–can give.
Obvious alternatives? Ask wise questions, investigate the truth of stories, reject anyone who is a privilege abuser or disrespects your stated boundaries of help. Turn down the folks who’ll steal your capacity to help others and turn down others just because filling up further will threaten home base stability. Then require reciprocity, when appropriate, instead of demeaning others by assuming they have no work capacity or anything to prove while accepting your generosity. Narrow it down and help the five in true, desperate need without sacrificing anybody else’s well-being to the cause and do so reliably until they no longer need help. Don’t make promises to all ten that guarantee some of them or your own family lose (keeping promises was as valuable a character trait as compassion, last I knew).
Congrats. You’ve realistically estimated your situation and set appropriate borders while meeting your primary responsibility to yourself, family and community. Kudos on successful compassion. The common sense math always adds up the same: Helping five is greater than helping zero and hurting many every, single time.
Back to immigration, specifically, then. The federal government has a duty to its citizens first, and it isn’t a charitable organization with unlimited resources. There are no money trees, and printing presses come with dire consequences, say like, hyper-inflation and soup lines, for us and the immigrants relying on us. Even a charitable organization with unlimited resources (which doesn’t exist, because there’s no such thing) rightfully chooses extremely carefully who to assist. (You know, there’s the whole give-a-fish or teach-to-fish argument and the more modern if-they’re-gonna-steal-the-fish-or-attach-a-bomb-to-it one). Besides, the federal government is the absolutely most (laughably) inefficient organization at handling our money (talk about too macro), and there’s no immediate accountability as they spend it. There are other superbly better, more reliable ways to get money to the refugee cause if it breaks your heart (and it does mine).
My point is, if anybody chooses to be without borders of some kind, micro or macro, they will fail to help anyone. Instability will abound. Big bummer. It’s a compassion bust, despite stellar intentions. Plus, trying to bring a statistically significant number (in the grand world scheme) of refugees or country-dissatisfied here via immigration is impossible–a futile, failing numbers game. We can’t make a noticeable dent in the problem of world abuses and poverty that way (nor should we be delusional enough to think it’s all on our shoulders).
However, the amazing, fantastic, brave, admirable, stunningly bright and bold people already out there helping the displaced and oppressed every day can change the world, or come much closer than the efforts that open immigration or lawless borders advocates would have our government choose. I wonder what would be accomplished if everyone that’s now picketing and protesting (yelling) would go home and partner (quietly) with these private organizations. Why are we waiting for the government? I’m not. There’s plenty to do and plenty of groups to do it with in much more socially appropriate, efficient and effective ways. A ten-second google search (“how do I help refugees”) will bring up scores of options, because they’re out there.
And on that point, my skeptical side offers a perspective (if you have no cynical side, back away from the screen now slowly and no one gets hurt). Does the personal giving and sacrifice of those screaming the loudest for the government to give and sacrifice match the decibel of their voices? Does accusing, “The government should be more compassionate!” assuage a feeling of compassion without any actual, compassionate action taking place? (Stats I’ve come across seem to support this, unfortunately, so maybe it’s not cynical after all.) It’s pretty human nature to tell other people to do what we don’t want to. I have found that if somebody wants to help suffering people, they will help suffering people. And the most generous people I know do it privately, humbly and proactively. Then they lie down to sleep at night knowing they actually helped someone that day instead of demanding that someone else help someone that day.
Clearly, then, I can’t support the implication that walls, limits, analysis of resources, tough questions and healthy skepticism at our borders means we lack compassion. Quite the opposite; I think they define smart and balanced compassion and that borders are a key to retaining the ongoing ability to help those in true need. For goodness sake, even the touted Good Samaritan gave from a safe distance in order to go about his regular business, putting a trustee in charge of the hands-on humanitarian aid. Where did we think he was going to get the money to put the injured guy up in a hotel and pay all his expenses anyway?
If you’re a Christian, you know that even the pinnacle gift of compassion (salvation by the surrogate death of Jesus Christ) came with one caveat, a single condition: You can’t mock, reject or abuse it if you wish to receive it. If a decision to be adversarial is enough for my Boss to disallow entrance into His presence, it’s good enough for me in evaluating potential U.S. residents. To be sure, God will pursue you and love you from whatever distance you insist upon by your choices, but ultimately the gift receiver determines the outcome and proximity of the relationship.
But the problem remains, God intimately knows hearts and minds. We are in the next-to-impossible position of having to discern intentions of potential immigrants, but try we must, in a way that’s not too cynical and not too naive. And we can’t ignore actions blatantly hostile to our laws and land as we do our screening. (It doesn’t seem like that would need to be said out loud, but as I listen around today, it seems it does–ahem–Sharia law.)
To my mind, then, those who argue I should give generously of my resources or risk some safety and comfort for immigrants are correct, and those who say I should pre-qualify, screen and limit the number of immigrants are also correct. These aren’t mutually exclusive actions; they’re balanced ones. Look, isn’t this standard stuff? Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting another when the plane’s going down. Our country hasn’t kept its oxygen mask on–kept itself in a state of readiness, strength and stability–to offer inordinate emergency help, ironically because of not enforcing borders and boundaries in a plethora of ways. Nor have we put on our wisdom hat every time we say, “Yes, stay!” no matter whether the lock on the door was picked to get in.
In addition, times have changed ferociously. Insidious, vicious, underhanded (to say the least) games to infiltrate and kill by any means necessary are afoot. Someone who is capable of murdering is also more than capable of lying, cheating and stealing to get into a position to do it. There are no observed war rules of engagement for terrorists, just a deluded vision that they’re valiantly honoring Allah by blowing us up and that the ends justify any means, as spelled out by Islam’s leader, Muhammad. (“Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi is a must-read on this if you doubt me.) It’s real, and it deserves to be considered as we protect our house (country) while helping those we can wisely bring into it. But let’s tiptoe along out of that landmine (pun intended, groan)….
I’m calling for compassion with borders. Should we abhor the horrendous circumstances causing people to flee their countries? Can we feel heartbroken compassion? Yes! Please, yes, Humanity! If we lose a hurting heart for those abused and threatened, we’ve failed. I, however, don’t see a temporary suspension on some immigration in order to evaluate or strengthen vetting procedures (or for whatever other security reason a Commander in Chief may not be able to publicly broadcast) as that failure. I don’t see enforcing respect for border laws as failure but as immigration sustainability via U.S. stability, sovereignty and self-respect. I don’t see anything wrong with temporarily refusing admittance to the hospital for the day because the beds are full or coffers dry as anything but real life and limited resources. I don’t see singling out countries harboring religious fanatics as discrimination against an entire religion (we haven’t temporarily suspended all Muslim countries) but as a strategy for requiring change. I don’t see a problem with acknowledging that all non-domestic terrorists today are Muslim, although by far not all Muslims are terrorists, of course.
We all want justice to prevail if we’re directly affected by a lawbreaker. Let’s not only offer empathetic compassion to potential immigrants but also to our fellow countrymen abused by terror or lawlessness. Let’s not support immigration entitlement by taking away the rights of our immediate neighbors. Let’s not ignore the money we pay to finance illegality just because it’s a relatively hidden noose. This isn’t rocket science, it’s justice for all, and it can’t be played as if it’s a zero sum game if anyone at all is going to win.
Having said all that (and I realize it was a lot, but we’re making our fore-granddads proud so time is of no consequence), again I repeat that this isn’t a political blog. But this is the issue of the day. For those who stuck with me but disagree, I believe I understand you enough to know that you’re supremely kindhearted. And I claim no monopoly on intelligence; intelligent people disagree, and it helps the world go ’round. I simply offer up this viewpoint from my one particular seat on our spinning sphere.
With Hope and Heart in Hand,
P.S. After writing this I found a kindred spirit. If you’d like to read more on immigration (that I wish I’d have written myself), let me suggest http://www.AFutureFree.com (a purely political blog): “Dear Daughter: Here’s Why Daddy Didn’t Skip Work Yesterday” and “Yes, Christians Can Support President Trumps Immigration Order.”
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