I was lucky enough to finally get down to the border this Sunday after two months of living in Tucson! I went down with a group from the U of A that was looking into the similarities between the recent militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the Israeli-Palestinian border. While we discussed this topic in passing, we actually mostly discussed the economic, social, and political realities surrounding the border at our current point in time.
I hold no false pretensions that I understand the border. I have only been exposed in a select few situations to what is going on, most tangibly on my trips to Mexico building houses during college. While I've been in Tucson, I've learned a lot about the plight of migrants dying in the desert, willing to risk their lives seeking a better life for their families. I've learned a lot about how recent Arizona legislation affects the lives of all Arizonans, not just those of Hispanic descent. But going down to Nogales and seeing and hearing the perspective of an American citizen with dual citizenship who has grown up on the border, freely traveling and visiting family on both sides, brought out more questions than answers.
I think Socrates was onto something when he said “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” I think the border is an issue that the further you delve into it, the deeper it gets, the more breadth it has, and the more frustratingly complex the system becomes. I left feeling completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes that need to take place for all people to live in a just system, and disgusted that I am part of a system that is blatantly disregarding basic human rights. A part of me no longer feels like a small cog in a giant machine that is creating change, but instead like a small pebble simply washed along with the current of the river.
So how do we react?
I think the main thing I can do personally to start removing myself from an unjust system, and eventually changing it, is educating myself as to how my actions are impacting others. How do the foods I buy support companies that are fair and just to their workers, or support companies that are abusing an economic situation and have created an unjust system for its workers? How about my clothes?
This process continues onto larger levels: How does my church support companies that are doing things right? How about my family? Do my friends know the ramifications of buying that coffee from a major manufacturer that pays its workers an unlivable wage?
Finally, and this is where it gets really overwhelming (but also very exciting)—how do we tackle the government systems that enable Americans to live the most extravagant lifestyle in the world while a)millions of our fellow Americans are stuck on the streets without a job or home and b) while workers in foreign countries lose their jobs because the company they are working for was undersold by an American producer? I'd like to think if we really knew the affects of our decisions we would choose differently.
Mostly importantly, how do we handle these issues in ways that give dignity to all involved, both the oppressors and the oppressed? There are no enemies in this challenge. We are all striving to find ways to live, and each of us have the same blessing, the same sacred right to walk this Earth.
I think of MLK. “The nonviolent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding. Our aim is not to defeat the white community, not to humiliate the white community, but to win the friendship of all the persons who had perpetrated this system in the past. The aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community.”
I am an unabashed optimist. And even in the frustration and bitterness and real, passionate, anger that thinking about some of this stuff brings me, I cling to the belief that we are capable of something more. And I don't think it is possible just because we think we can do it. I think it is the type of community that God intends, and the type of love between people that Jesus spoke of.
MLK shared this hope:
“The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Thanks for staying on this journey with me. Keep dreaming.