Smart Borders

All future postings from blogger Matthew Webster will now appear on:

http://smartborders.wordpress.com

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We have nothing to fear but our reaction to fear…

     Despite our loud exclamations otherwise, change brings out fear in all of us. Though change may be a constant, our fears and our fear-induced responses are the variable which brings about community and communication or violence and separation. While Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, it is only as true as the misquoted Bible verse “Money is the root of all evil.” Neither is entirely correct, because both leave out the human element which always has the power of making change redemptive or destructive. We have nothing to fear, then, but our negative reactions to fear.

 

     “No matter how much I say I support open borders and immigration, there is still this little part of me that doesn’t want to see all this change,” she says, motioning to Minne-snow-ta. “It seems like all this is pretty good; people getting along, helping each other out, maintaining their own traditions. I want my kids to have this same place.”

     She was voicing something with which everyone inevitably struggles. Mistakenly, our guttural instinct is to preserve what we love, though it be in formaldehyde. Paradoxically, though, the best way to honor that which we love the most is to let it grow and change. If something is worth keeping, it will survive. Though detractors will dub this cultural suicide, it is more akin to a cultural “survival of the finest.”

     This phenomenon can be witnessed by simply driving through our nation’s urban centers. New York, that wonderful amalgamation of cultures and races and tastes and lifestyles somehow manages to be a cohesive whole. The Dominicans in Washington Heights learn English out of necessity, using it on the subway and at the bank even as they continue frying plantains and yucca for their dinners. Israelis, Germans, Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, Kenyans, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Korean, Russian – all of these and more find their way to the 5 boroughs, releasing some of the less desirable characteristics of their culture while maintaining the finest of their homeland.

     Although this might seem overly optimistic, it is possible. Certainly the United States has much to learn from other cultures and other country’s ways of thought; to open ourselves to renewed immigration would strengthen our most praiseworthy and fundamental values while complementing our culture with the best of the world. Rather than listening to xenophobic shock jocks such as Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, or other fear-monger media sources, the inevitable effects of a globalizing population must be greeted with an informed welcome. We have much to learn from the world, and as “perfect” as certain corners of our country may seem in their idyllic state, it would be fear-based and fear-producing to build walls when we should be building bridges. Ultimately, our nation cannot hang a “No Vacancy” sign on the outstretched arm of Our Lady Liberty; at this Christmastime, it is all too easy to realize what and whom we might be turning away out of ignorant fear.

The Quest for Quality Quarreling

     Quakers know how to quarrel. Perhaps that is how they can be pacifists. According to a good brother of mine, Friends table their disputes until the next day of the meeting (every meeting is more than one day). If the dispute still exists, then the two Friends at odds participate in Two Men Standing. This involves standing beside each other for hours in silence, usually in a very public place. One person eventually cracks or comes up with a compromise/solution, and the dispute is solved without violence and without bitterness.

     If it’s one thing our country’s politics need, it’s civil discourse. Barack Obama has repeatedly voiced his stance for civil discourse, and to the extent that he and other candidates have engaged in such discussion throughout their campaigns, our nation has seen a much more respectful campaign trail. While it is important that our politicians civilly disagree, it is even more vital that we as Americans discuss common issues with respectful dialogue. “Illegal alien,” “welfare queen,” and “terrorist” are all incendiary terms which do little to progressively engage the issue but do much to inflame opinions and summon the worst in human biases. Lou Dobbs, I hesitate to mention his name for fear he might use it for further publicity, is solving our nation’s disputes about as well as a border wall will resolve our border insecurities. Such bombastic hate-speech separates us from our neighbors much more than a border wall, and it further discriminates those legal immigrants from the countries which have been targeted as chief senders (ex. Mexico).

    People are people, and to peg them as issues is to divest them of their sanctity. Civil discourse does not judge an entire race or gender or subculture on the actions of a single individual. Civil discourse does not try to beat one’s opponent but seeks eventual harmony between both sides. I wonder if shock speakers like Lou Dobbs would take up my challenge and stand beside me outside the U.N. Building in New York, agreeing to wait in silence until we had some words of peace and reconciliation for each other. Our country, I think, could do more with these standing disagreements than with a standing army.

Published in: on November 10, 2007 at 9:43 pm  Comments (2)