|Sat, Nov 01, 2014 02:52 AM
|Issue of October 29, 2014
August 27, 2014 | 09:02 AM
It seems that much of the news these days is about who is permitted to come and who is permitted to go. Maybe it has always been that way. After all, the Bible starts with the casting of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. In other words, they were deported from a great place to live because they didn't follow the rules.
Today, the debate in state and federal government is who should be allowed in to the United States and who should be kept out or sent packing. Internationally, the issue of secured borders is discussed in the Middle East unrest and the Russian movement into former Soviet Union countries.
It is always easier to get along with those who adhere to our own traditions, ethnic backgrounds and political ideologies. There is truth in the old saying "birds of a feather flock together." It is comfortable to be with people that we understand because the awkward moments spent wondering what is expected of us are reduced. Our roles are fairly well understood, and the systems of our societies are set up to facilitate our ability to carry them out.
In such a community, one can hear the words "we have always done it that way" as the reasoning for a decision or action. It is a comfortable and predictable way of life.
But sameness also has its down side.
In Harrison County years ago, we had few restaurants and they all cooked their green beans the same way. I remember when the first Mexican and Chinese restaurants came to town. Why did it take so long? No one's pallet was accustomed to the tastes. Now, think what everyone was missing!
In the old Soviet Union, the leaders of the Communist Party thought they knew what everyone should think and do. The consequence for thinking or creating "outside the box" was deportation to Siberia, imprisonment or death. They established a system where everyone was to be the same. People were put into big, bland apartment buildings, worked in communal large farms and factories and were taught to conform. No room for individual differences in the Soviet system.
Today, the debate rages on about how to mix individual rights and needs on the one hand with community privileges and responsibilities on the other. Into this mix are added geopolitical considerations, economic forces, high-tech mobility and plain old human greed and fear. It's no wonder we are all jumpy about population shifts. And so we have the complex issue of immigration in the United States.
We all point with pride to the Statue of Liberty that welcomes foreigners to our shore. It is our hallmark. We are all children of ancestors who came from "somewhere else" and pushed Native Americans from their homelands. Our country is sometimes referred to as a "great melting pot" of different nationalities. We commonly find, when tracking genealogies, that our ancestors came to America because of hardships at home, i.e. wars, conscription, famine.
While in Russia, the Baltic States and Moldova recently, I heard a lot of talk about the need for "secured borders." Speakers told of the difficulties in Ukraine and Moldova due to their allowing undocumented squatters to build settlements within their countries. Ethnic Russians have been "accused" of implementing this as a secret way of preparing for a future land grab.
In the United States, we are in an unpleasant debate over illegal immigration from poorer fragmented countries to the south. Political groups have taken positions that they believe ought to be drafted into law. There are no easy solutions without negative consequences. The debate is essential and must be civil. It will be weighing our "caring and carrying capacities." We must have compassion for all of our fellow mankind, but each community has a limit to what it can handle in a realistic manner. It is hard to find a balance between what serves the individual and what is needed to hold a community together, between compassion for others and an acknowledgment of limited resources.
My great-grandmother was 13 when she left Germany by herself and came to America to live with an aunt. I think of her today as brave and strong. How is this different from the parentless children entering our country today from impoverished and crime-ridden South American countries?
I realize that our health care system is in transition and is strained. Our educational programs are under attack and underfunded. These are the institutions that are needed to develop such immigrant children into healthy, productive citizens. Finding caring families for these children will be the responsibility of all of us, and most of us feel overextended already.
Indiana presently houses only 245 illegal immigrant children while they await processing. However, I realize that the southern border states have populations that are overwhelming. This will take some creative and complex thinking. There are no obvious or easy answers.
Dana Milbank, in The Washington Post, writes, "This is not merely about a fresh labor supply, but about the fresh blood needed to cure what ails us. To benefit from such a transfusions, we not only need to welcome more immigrants, but also to adopt pieces of their culture lacking in our own, just as we have done with other cultures for centuries."