Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Great Debate

Bienvenidos a mis amigos! Como estan Ustedes? Estoy bien y esta semana es muy interestante. Lunes, en la ciudad de Chicago, habia mucha gente que.....

...What's that? You want me to speak English? Oh. Okay. Mind if I ask why?

Where'd you hear that? There's no official language of the US. If we were in Europe something like nine out of ten people would be fluent in multiple languages. But I digress, I really wanted to talk about a simple little word with a huge impact on society.

We'll make this a guessing game but I'll be nice and give a few hints....
It's more than two syllables...
Ends in "-ion" (pronounced like "shun")...
Greatly impacts people not born in the United States.....

Did you guess "Immigration????

Sound the bells and whistles 'cause you're absolutely WRONG!
But I do have a lovely parting gift for you....

See, the word I want to talk about is Compassion. Funny how it doesn't come to mind immediately when we think of all that's been in the news lately... But before we even consider being for or against guest worker programs or paths to citizenship, perhaps the wisest thing would be to have something of a heart check. I don't mean a stress test or an EKG, rather I mean we need to see where our hearts are at in looking at the situations others find themselves in. It's walking the proverbial mile in someone else's shoes that can lead us not only to the best laws for our land, but to the best relationships with our neighbors.

Walking to work yesterday I overheard a conversation between two women about the protests in the city and I found that their words shocked and angered me. "All those Mexicans are just stealing jobs from US citizens," one remarked and the other one responded "Yeah and then they send all their money back to their families so it completely drains the economy." My jaw hit the floor and only a lack of comprehension in their belief system (as well as the fact that my temper wanted to follow my intended words with fists) prevented me from jumping into their argument. So I shook my head - wanting to shake off their opinions - and walked a little faster. But their words stayed with me and bothered me more as I pondered them.

First of all when did "they" become a "them"? I understand that immigration is a hot button topic right now but who made this an us versus them issue? We're all living and working in this country. We all want safety in our jobs and communities, good education for our children, and for the government to protect our rights. Aren't all of us in the same boat? Is it too much to ask to seek common - which is usually higher - ground?

Secondly - and perhaps this was the part of the comment that most incensed me - why in the world is anyone allowed to refer to this particular group of people as "those Mexicans"??!? Comments like this remind me of three awesome Latinas that I am friends with from college. One has grandparents from Bolivia, one is Colombian and the third has her roots in Puerto Rico. Not one of them is "Mexicana" yet all three have testimonies of being incorrectly labeled as such. Sure the march in Chicago had a large supply of Mexican flags waving but there were plenty of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian and Venezuelan flags also - just to name a few.

Thirdly, and back to my main point, what about compassion? Where did the attitude arise that Latino immigrants have it easy? Most of the so-called stolen jobs immigrants work in are not the types of things that many of us would classify as highly desirable employment. Forgive the possible stereotype but it is true that a majority of immigrants are working in basic labor jobs - housekeeping, manufacturing, janitorial service and other necessary positions that many of us take for granted. And many non-immigrants are quick to gripe that life would be easier for all of us if "they" would just learn English. And - really - is it too much to ask to expect "them" to work sixty hours a week at three minimum wage jobs to feed a family of eight and take time and money out of "their" pockets to learn a new and totally un-phoenetic language? After all there are LOADS of night and weekend ESL classes being offered to "them"......

It's about compassion folks. No one said the life of an immigrant is easy. Let's quit assuming it is. I'm not saying it should be a cakewalk, laws and legislations can be good for all of us, but lets at least quit making it harder than it needs to be. The best wisdom I've heard on this topic was someone who said the following:

"If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you."

Who said that? Who was this wise individual imagining a society of peace and harmony between neighbors - a place where compassion is lived out in tangible ways? Who could this brilliant speaker be??

Oh yeah, it was God. (Leviticus 25:35)

2 comments:

Greg said...

Enjoyed the post, Lisa. I'd have been frustrated overhearing that conversation too.

I took German in high school, but now I wish I had taken Spanish. I've made some attempts recently to learn Spanish, but I haven't gotten far. This, of course, is my own fault... I haven't (completely) given up yet...

lisa :) said...

In case you or anyone else is curious the opening sentence says "Welcome my friends! How are you all? I'm good and this week is really intersting. Monday, in the city of Chicago, there were lots of people that...." But yeah I need to do more research into the various laws being suggested for immigration reform and I'm not certain which ones I want to support yet but overall I think a lot of people (myself included) could use a little more empathy for people looking to make a new life in this country. (P.S. I really liked the post that Westy put up on this topic too.)