My long-held view on immigration is classically Republican, as opposed to the view held by many modern members of that political party: a republic is a nation governed by laws, and if those laws are not enforced there’s nothing left holding that republic together. The modern Republican view is classically American: we don’t like foreigners and will use laws to keep out as many of them as we can, even as our hearts swell with pride when thinking of the Statue of Liberty. I say “classically American” because while the Republican party is presently the home of most xenophobes, hating people who look or sound different is an idea that’s historically right up there with apple pie and “give me your tired.” We love the idea that people want to come here (we’re number one!), but once the neighborhood is packed with folks talking in another language, it’s a different story.I try to avoid such hypocrisy. Sometimes, I even succeed.
Being a stick-to-my-guns sort of guy, I’ve gotten in a few online tussles with people over my “enforce the law” position, even after I started clarifying that “enforce the law, or change it to a law that you’re going to enforce” is fine by me too.
As I sat watching my local elected officials work out some kind of sanctuary law, listening to the testimony of people who live under threat — often, but not always, deserved — of detainment and deportation, it was very important that I wrap myself in my journalist’s mantle of dispassion. Otherwise, I knew that I could end up writing up my opinions, rather than actually reporting what happened. This is a mantle which often hangs loose about me, but this was one of those times when pulling it tight would be needed to make sure its work was done.
When I wrote the editorial about journalism as ministry, it wasn’t just that I see reporting news as a vital service. When I notice similarities in the way I approach my work as journalist and priest, that means I see serving the gods and speaking the truth to be closely aligned on a sacred level. It is a place from which I deeply listen to discern that truth, to the wagging of tongues and the moving of spirit. What settled over me was an understanding that I needed to let go my righteousness.
I’m surprised that no one in the room that night heard the grating, crunching sound of a paradigm shifting without a clutch. Maybe that falls short in explaining what went on in my head. It’s not that I suddenly understood reasons differently; no, I was just getting new orders and it didn’t really matter what I thought about them. Sometimes divine presence, for me, can be compared to physical sensation: floating, tingly, an emotional response. That was not the case this time; what I got was a thought dropped cleanly into the logic center of my brain.
Zeus is keeper of the law. My respect for law honors he who oversees its enforcement. It was some weeks after my experience before I realized he’d had a hand in reconsidering this question. Yes, Zeus is god of law, but not only mortal law. There are divine laws which also govern my life, and one of them, xenia, he wants me to put before immigration policy. Moreover, he shifted how I might interpret the relationship between host and guest; where I previously would have branded the alien an enemy for disregarding the law, I must evaluate em now as stranger, a person unknown who should be treated with respect and hospitality.
What’s changed? Expectations, more than attitudes. I still feel that a republic — a country governed by laws — should only have laws which are enforced, and that all others should be discarded. I still am likely to bristle a bit when I think about people ignoring the process for immigrating to this nation, rather than working to get it changed. Those thoughts, and the logical sand emotional steps I took to reach those conclusions, were not erased. However, I’m not to act on those opinions. It will take time for my worldview to shift, aligning itself with this directive, if it ever does. All I know for certain is that this particular set of laws is not one I am to defend. Perhaps, like tectonic plates settling after an earthquake, the change will be a gradual one that I scarcely notice. For now, I wait.