What we resist not only persists but may eventually become our landlord

Posted by on 09.08.10 | 16 Comments
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‘The parts of us that remain unloved will eventually turn against us.’ –Carl Jung

This is a submission for a synchroblog on Christian perspectives on immigration reform. Check out this link (Facebook) for some great thinking about this topic.

Here are individual posts from synchrobloggers who are writing on the topic:

Cuban refugees arriving in crowded boats during the Mariel boatlift crisis. This picture looked like a luxury cruise compared to how many of the boats actually arrived on the Florida coast.

I really have no wisdom to add to this discussion. I don’t even know why I’m writing about it, other than that it stirs a memory of a trip I made to Haiti in the early 1980’s with a mission group. We went with medical supplies and the desire to be of service. We helped with a school up in the mountains. We held clinics. We listened to the drumming of the ‘witch doctors’ at night from our compound. And we traveled through Port au Prince. It was there that I experienced a desperation that I will never shake.

I grew up on the Atlantic coast in South Florida in the 70’s where boatloads of Haitians and Cubans were as common as hurricanes. I didn’t think them strange, only slightly disturbing. Those were the days when I had faith in our system of right/wrong, and I was oblivious of the grayness of the US immigration policies and practices. The Mariel boatlift in spring/summer of 1980 opened my eyes. Excerpts from the wikipedia edition of that event:

Due to ocean currents and Cuba’s proximity to the United States, the refugees who were able to leave headed to Florida, with the majority landing in Miami. Approximately 125,000 Cubans arrived at the United States’ shores in about 1,700 boats, creating large waves of people that overwhelmed the U.S. Coast Guard. Cuban guards packed boat after boat, without considering who the boats were carrying, and without considering weather or lifejacket safety, making some of the overcrowded boats barely seaworthy. 27 migrants died, including 14 on an overloaded boat that capsized on May 17, 1980.

Upon their arrival, many Cubans were placed in refugee camps. Others were held in federal prisons pending deportation hearings.

Crowded conditions in South Florida immigration processing centers forced U.S. federal agencies to move many of the Marielitos to other centers….Some refugees were discovered to be undesirables; for example, criminals or mental patients who’d been released from Cuban prisons or other institutions. The exact number of undesirables that arrived in the boatlift is disputed, with estimates ranging from as low as 7,500 to as high as 40,000. The generally accepted figure comes from a 1991 Congressional report which estimates that roughly 10 percent of the 125,000 refugees, or 12,500 people, were undesirables of this type.

The majority of refugees were ordinary Cubans. Many were professionals; physicians, attorneys and skilled tradesmen who took advantage of the opportunity to leave Cuba unnoticed. In the end, only 2% (or 2,746) of the refugees were classified as serious or violent criminals under U.S. law and denied citizenship on that basis.

The aftermath, which is still fresh in many Cuban-Americano hearts, of this amazing upheaval of life as we knew it in South Florida made it clear at least to me that our government was clueless about how to truly be of assistance (which would have been to deal with the Cuban embargo—but that’s a different post…) What happened to some of us in the social chaos that ensued was the ripping off of our eye-scales to better see the issues with starkness and clarity.

When I went to Haiti a few years later, walking the streets of Port au Prince in a country far more impoverished and systemically wounded than Cuba, seeing the hills—literally hills—of refuse and human and animal dung in the streets, seeing women washing their clothes and cooking with water running through the gutters, seeing the ‘tap tap’ (buses) loaded to the gills with school children and militia sitting next to each other, smelling the running sores and observing the easily treated diseases that end up taking many children’s lives: the combination of all these experiences changed me in a way that I can’t describe. The best I can do is to say that I knew without a doubt that if I were Haitian, I would climb on a piece of floating Styrofoam to leave this place—with a 5% chance, hell-with no chance, of making it to somewhere, anywhere.

A Christian perspective on immigration? The complexities of the topic are far too confounding for my small mind. But my larger mind, the one that can take in layers of information and feeling says that what we try to defend against, turn away from and label as stranger will find its way to us in ways that we can’t imagine.

Yet another aphorism: what we resist persists. Part of the breakdown of western culture will come from that which we have resisted–put behind walls of a variety of prisons, locked away, kept outside our borders while we manipulated the land and resources across those borders, and those segments we have forced to live in scathing marginality.

Where is Christ in this picture? To say that Christ has turned His/Her back on this mess would imply that humanity has become the Stranger; that is not possible in my theology. So I can only imagine that Christ weeps for our smallness, our corporate lack of imagination, our inability to see beyond our own fenced yards.

For those of you who find images more helpful than words, you may enjoy or benefit from the critically acclaimed movie

timeline

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