The Forgotten

Charles Carpenter
George Murray
Nolan Harmon
Paul Hardin
Joseph Durick
Earl Stallings
Edward Ramage
Milton Grafman

In towns all across America streets are not named after them.  School children do not learn about them.  No one waits in line to see the homes where they were born.  They are…simply forgotten.

They weren’t necessarily bad men.  They weren’t unimportant men.  They were men of influence, men with a voice and the respect of their community.  Most would have agreed; they were good men, according to one, “men of genuine good will.”  While evil men are remembered and great men are enshrined, these men…. just forgotten.

Forgotten for being on the wrong side of history.  Men forgotten for being silent when “a word fitly spoken” could have made a difference.  Men who are forgotten for valuing comfort and stability over justice and compassion.  Forgotten because they were unwilling to call out the status quo, and show it for it was… cruel and unjust.

These are the eight men on the other side of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  The recipients.  Eight well educated white pastors, priests and rabbis who by God’s providence led reputable congregations in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.   At a crucial time and at a crucial place they made choices that destined them to be forgotten.  King warned that, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”   These eight men are forgotten because for too long they chose delay and denial, calling King’s actions on behalf his black bothers and sisters in Birmingham “unwise and untimely.”

King was not from Alabama.  Birmingham’s problems were not his problems.  Criticized for joining a fight that was not his, King wrote, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”  He inserted himself into a situation where his life could make a difference.  His example calls us to do the same.

Immigration is not my problem, deportation, not my concern.  My family will never be personally harmed by the injustices of a broken system.  But I care about immigration reform because injustice is here.  I care about immigrants, with or without documentation because I have recognized “the interrelatedness of all communities.”  From his jail cell King wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly….  Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”  The men and women who I see at Walmart are not “outsiders” or “illegals.”  They are husbands.  Mothers.  Neighbors.  People who long for the same things that I do, friends, jobs, places to worship, and homes for their children.

I am a privileged person, blessed with a good education and endowed with opportunity.  I’m part of the group that generally gets hired first and fired last.  My view of poverty is from a distance.  My taste of discrimination and prejudice is just that, a mere taste rather than a meal or a lifetime of meals.  While it is true that I have worked hard and typically tried to be responsible, many of the blessings and privileges that I enjoy are influenced heavily by the group to which I belong.  My group, the educated, white, American middle and upper class is a blessed and privileged group, a group with little personal reason to take up the cause of immigration reform.

King noted that, “history is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.” He noted that while “individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture,” groups seldom do.

I am an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform because I believe that unless people are moved by virtues like courage and boldness to stand against the injustices of our current broken system (a system that limits access based on skin color, weakens the family unit, and dehumanizes my fellow man) justice will be delayed and broken policy will go without repair.

My reasons for supporting immigration reform are many.  I believe it is good for our economy.  I believe that it is in keeping with the deepest values of my Christian faith, values of kindness, self-sacrifice, and care for the stranger.  I believe that comprehensive reform will make our nation more secure and be a blessing to our global neighbors.

But one of my reasons for supporting comprehensive immigration is less focused on the immigrants themselves, and more centered on my own desire for an honorable legacy.  I don’t want to be forgotten.  Forgotten for being on the wrong side of history.  Forgotten for being unwilling to stand with those bearing the wounds of a broken system, and for failing to recognize Augustine’s warning that “an unjust law is no law at all.”  For these reasons and many others I am an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

For more Information on an effective response to comprehensive immigration reform go to and take the “I was a Stranger” Challenge.

Carl Ruby

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  • Katherine Harms

    I believe we should reform our immigration laws. I don’t believe we should abandon the notion that people who come here from other countries must come through legal channels. Those who avoid legal channels must be identified as illegal and they must be returned to their own countries. Those who believe that this country is where they can best earn a living for those in the country of their origin, must, nevertheless, come in legally or not at all. Our country is not obligated to provide for the whole world with no accountability. To allow undocumented immigration to continue is to further degrade the rule of law, not men. It is to allow men and women to decide what is law without any consultation or permission to do so. I am sorry that Mexico is not a better place to rear and provide for a family, but it is not my fault, and I am not obligated to fix it. In the USA, we have a history in which people who recognized unprincipled oppression rejected it and established a nation of laws, not men. Let Mexicans who want their lives to be better do the same thing. It costs blood and treasure. But it is worth it. Let them pay the price our ancestors paid for freedom and then let them enjoy the fruits of freedom and the rule of law. Do not let them sponge off our fruits and divert them to people who have not paid the price.

    • gimpi

      Katherine, I understand your views about following the law, but it’s important to remember, the Jim Crow South was following the law. Laws written by duly elected lawmakers, laws that reflected the views of the majority of the electorate. Those laws were still wrong, and the people who opposed them, from freedom riders to voting-rights activists, were right. We can’t allow rule of law to trump our shared humanity. The idea that people in Mexico haven’t “paid the price” for freedom, and so deserve to suffer is a bit creepy, and shows a distorted view of history. We in the states have made our share of mistakes, and been generally far luckier than we deserve. He to whom much is given, much is expected, or to quote Stan Lee, “With great power comes great responsibility.”