There are so many conflicting opinions, thoughts, diatribes and, yes, even support for what is taking place at our borders that as of this writing, seems an insurmountable problem of humanitarian aid and treatment of so many seeking a better world. Their desire is for a better life for them and their children and how easily we can all relate to such yearnings.
But if we step back a moment to what we are witnessing under the cloak of “policy” and “following the law” with distorted quotes from scripture and its interpretation, we must see what is taking place as a crisis of culture and a blaspheming of humanity. It is what despots and tyrants have practiced throughout history: the calculated and measured effort to strip a human being of his or her innate spiritual unity and integrity as a person. This process goes to the very core of what makes us human, with our innate desire and ability to care for others, to walk in another’s shoes, to empathize with the plight of those suffering and a natural sensibility to help others in need.
These human qualities are being truncated in the face of a misdirected and rightly maligned attempt to make America less than human. Whatever we continue to execute in “the processing” of immigrants as people foreign to our understanding of our own humanity, the more we dehumanize ourselves in the process. It may appear that the immigrants are the losers in such harsh behavior members of our government have constructed, but in fact they are crafting an experience that dehumanizes all of us, where our spiritual and moral center, if not fractured into pieces, is certainly lost in the literalism of “being invaded by foreigners.” It continues to feel more and more like a massive hate crime perpetrated on those who have almost nothing but their desire to save themselves and their family members from further traumatic conditions.
There is certainly nothing new historically in using an individual group or tribe or even race of people for political goals and power. Powerful indeed is the archetypal image of the scapegoat, the outsider, the outlier, for they are easily vilified. We must not, however, miss the fact that all of us have at one time or another suffered the same kind of ostracism for the advantage of another. We have all suffered in this barrel or boat at some point, perhaps without the intensity and violence shown to people from several countries fleeing dictators and regimes that seem to delight in bullying those without power or status. But we know the feeling, the wound, the affliction and the stigmatism of such branding.
That feeling of being excluded should be what we recollect as we witness and even participate in demonizing the foreigner, the immigrant in ways that violate both them and us. To continue to do so mindlessly will summons history to judge us harshly as we have judged and been cruel towards others who have turned to our country for some respite, some asylum to allow them to regain their dignity.
Dennis P. Slattery
Dennis Patrick Slattery Ph.D., has been teaching for more than 50 years, the last 26 of which has been in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, where he is currently Emeritus Faculty.More Posts by Dennis P. Slattery