Immigration & the Storm Next Time

Immigration & the Storm Next Time April 27, 2010

Last week, I was in Brooklyn taping a few episodes of In the Arena, and one of the drivers, taking a route that brought us past The Green-Wood Cemetery, reminisced about Park Slope, where he had lived all his life.

“We were working class, then. Our fathers were train conductors and shoe salesmen. No, we’d never be able to afford to live here. We’d cut through Prospect Park to Ebbets Field to watch the Dodgers. In the summer, they’d close off four city blocks to create a play area for us kids. I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything. I am glad I grew up back then, because no one seems as happy now. It’s all gone.”

The man was not depressed about it. He was simply noting that the world has changed and will continue to change, and -as with nature- we either adapt or die. Evolution is a slow thing, but sometimes things are changed in an instant, in “the blink of an eye.”

What got me thinking about the driver is a piece by Neoneocon, who wrote of feeling a bit antsy over the stillness (or perhaps sluggishness is a better word) of the news; her sense of the whole world holding its breath for the next big storm:

We have come to expect lies, so that now when we hear “we have the votes” or “we lack the votes,” one means about the same as the other and neither can be trusted. For the most part, our press is no more help to us than Pravda was to the Soviets. We have come to understand that the idea of bipartisan compromise has died a lingering and painful death . . .We assume that the cure will be worse than the disease. We expect that the bills will be rushed through without proper debate and enacted at the stroke of midnight, like evil spells in a fairy tale. We are no longer surprised at the depth and breadth of the corrupt and shady behind-the-scenes deals involved. We know the legislations will be lengthy and complex. We do not think our representatives possess the intelligence to even understand the bills they pass—that is, if they bother to read them at all—and either do not appreciate their negative consequences or actually intend them to do us harm. We know that, just when we think we’ve driven a fatal stake into the heart of an unpopular bill, it rises and staggers forward to attack us.

…these are not passing storms, either—we predict that they are likely to do permanent and perhaps irreparable damage to important structures that have remained in place for centuries.

We scan the skies, and we wait.

I read that yesterday and then, of course, read this and this, and this, this and this today.

All of it validates what Neo writes.

I told Neo that her musings -her sense of a hellacious storm moving slowly toward us is in-line with what some of my Evangelical (and a few Catholic) readers are expressing to me in emails, although they have a scriptural stake in it.

The only thing I am certain of right now is that what we knew of America before 2008 is not what we will know of America by 2012. I know that nothing is ever going to be what it was, and those on the right who think “if we can just get the right people in office, then everything will go back to normal,” are deluding themselves.

Narratives do not go backwards, and we are in a full thrust narrative progression right now. It may well require us to disenthrall ourselves of some notions in order to reassess, realign and regroup.

That is sort of what is happening, right now, throughout the political spectrum. The right has its tea party – a genuine grassroots movement. On the left the head of the SEIU is talking about redirecting the union away from politics and the American President is signaling a divisive strategy is his preference.

Nothing is static. Everything is in flux.

Meanwhile the Democrats and the press (if I am not redundant) understand how well they played the immigration card in 2006 -getting the right all hopped up in May to reap the rewards in November- and so they will be repeating that gambit – manufacturing parades and outrage once again, as they did before. The charges of “racist nazis” will fly; the press will fan the flames, and the situation will become toxic.

I expect that the right -which has done a very good job of ignoring deliberate provocation up to now- will end up losing its composure in this debate, and once that happens, once they let fly with their passions, they will be defeated. The nation may well get behind these new laws but it will not get behind a movement that they perceive to be hysterical, and that is how the right -with the help of multimedia and a few predictable extremists- will be perceived.

In 2006 the right responded to the immigration street theater (mostly organized by A.N.S.W.E.R) with an extreme notion that involved somehow “shipping all illegals back” and rejecting any-and-all plans that included a grandfathering-in of citizens, or what they referred to as “shamnesty.” Demanding a sudden and perfect solution to the problem after 30 years of relative neglect, the right chose doing nothing at all over compromising with President Bush, and so now the issue is still alive, still a potent election tool, and it is in the hands of an opposition that has already proved itself to be ruthlessly willing to do whatever it takes to win, and wholly disinterested in what polls may say.

The political right is not wrong to be concerned about the illegal immigration issue. And it has some valid points to make. But it rather squandered its opportunity to do something comprehensive four years ago. I doubt very much that anything that passes through congress at this point will make the right happy.

So, yes, Neo is correctly sensing a calm before a storm, I think. And this storm is going to be very destructive, indeed.

Let us consider, then this short lesson from Abbess Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, of St. Walburga’s Abbey in Colorado. She doesn’t harangue, but she gives food for thought:

When something is taken, why do we cling to it? Why do we identify with something so much that we would be angry if it were taken from us? Sometimes the things you hang on to the tightest are the very things you should get rid of first; because they’re the very things that tie your heart down. They keep you from seeking God because you spend so much time protecting those things or identifying with them instead of identifying with the Cross.

I think one of the most precious things we have is our opinion. Sometimes we even have to give that to God and let Him dispose of it. We need to be able to give everything to God. Take notice of the things that ruffle you a little. Notice the things that your heart is entwined around. If it’s not the Cross it’s not of God. If we purify our heart we won’t be rooted in the earth, we’ll be rooted in Heaven.

Why do I have the feeling that our abbeys are going to -once again, as they have before- multiply in number, gain in member and become beacons of light and sanity in our teeming world.

Allow me to unravel a spool here, even though some may find it objectionable.

I fear that over the past decade ideology has become an idol for many, that the distinction between what is sacred and what is holy is being ignored. I can’t help but wonder about that. If the world is being inexorably moved toward a certain destiny, and if Christians are supposedly on board with that destiny, then the attempt on the right to put the brakes on things, and “go back” to the way things were seems like cognitive dissonance, doesn’t it?

It makes sense that in order for things to happen other things have to happen; not necessarily things we like to see. But then we are called on to walk by faith, not by sight, to keep our eyes on the prize. And the prize is not this world; it is not of this world, either.

My email is full of missives from people who declare that we are “living in end times, hallelujah, Come Lord Jesus,” and who, in the next paragraph write about restoring America and defeating “the enemy.”

I don’t see how you can have it both ways. But if you believe we are in “end times,” then perhaps your concerns should be more in line with serving others, spreading the Good News and preparing the soul, rather than wringing the hands over the next big storm and declaring: “this far and no more.”

A life in Christ cannot have limits. There can be no limits, not in our understanding, not in our ability to consider a thing, not in our willingness to be open.

Perhaps this is a challenge for us Christians. Rubber-meets-the-road time. No one knows the day or hour, but we must be prepared. Do you believe the things you say you believe, and if so, are you willing to put away the idol of ideology in order to cling to and carry, instead, to the cross of Christ, which we are promised?

America is my beloved country and I hold her constitution and her promise as something sacred; but sacred is not holy. I do not want to miss the holy, or be unprepared for it, because I have become distracted. To that end, I’ve pulled away from feasting on politics and have resumed volunteering at a local hospital.

I write this not to be argumentative, or to indict anyone – and let me just head some of you off the at the pass and declare that I am not saying “just throw America away!” (come on, you know you were ready to accuse me of exactly that). I am not saying “just lay down and surrender.” But I am saying this: understand that to some extent, things must happen in order for other things to happen, and that this world is a pit-stop, not a destination. We cannot forget that. Where you heart is, that is your treasure. I am embracing exile; I don’t want to tie my treasure to anything earthbound.

And for those of you who can’t wait to tell me I am “no conservative” or call me a RINO or CINO, I say save yer breath for yer porridge. I’ve always told you I am neither Republican nor conservative. I belong to Christ first, not to a party, not to an ideology.

If we’re going to say “Come, Lord Jesus,” we can’t simultaneously say “stop – stop the narrative from moving forward!”

Call this a compass check. There is a destination; we are en route to it, and we’ve been told all along that the road would be rough.

If Neoneocon is correct, and we are in a lull before a storm, perhaps the very best thing we can all do is pull over, get a little bit quiet, and pray. That may be the best way to “reload,” before moving on.

Why not an “Ellis Island West”?
Jonah Goldberg
Jack Cafferty

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