Friday, March 31, 2017

The Illusion of Borders

"No Fences, No Gates"

I just noticed that the New York Times now features a regular weekly column published under the heading: This Week in Hate. Every week there are so many instances of violence, prejudice and bigotry in this country that the newspaper feels it needs a regular venue for reporting the atrocities of these ongoing occurrences – a pretty sad commentary about our national life in our own contemporary times.

Yesterday’s article reported on an incident in which a young “American” mother was shopping in a supermarket while speaking Spanish to someone on her cell phone. A fellow shopper accosted this woman, angrily telling her: “Go back to your own country, I just can’t wait ‘til they deport you.”

Newspaper columnist, Roger Cohen, recently made this astute observation about life in contemporary America:

Once unsayable things can now be said everywhere.
‘Go back to where you came from, you don’t belong here’
has become the phrase du jour

In yesterday’s news article I was also struck by the response made by the woman who was maligned in that supermarket as she turned to her attacker and said: “My family has been in this country before it was even this country.”

Indeed the woman who was denigrated for speaking Spanish on a cell phone was an American citizen who was born in California and her ancestors had lived here for generations - from the time when when California was still part of Mexico.  On top of that, she also had Native America heritage in her family lineage, and so she was far more original and native to this land than her attacker in that supermarket who told her to go back to her own country. How ironic!

As I think about it, while I happen to be an American citizen living in California, the place where my house now stands was actually Mexico just a few generations ago and with the stroke of a pen the land then became part of  the “good old U.S.A.”  And even before it was was Mexico, the land on which my house is now placed belonged to the native Indian peoples who originally settled this territory of the Southern California desert. So, in a very real sense, I am the interloper here.

Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once observed:

You are me and I am you
Isn’t it obvious that we inter-are?

As I see it, all borders are artificial, they are nothing more than “human constructs.” The truth is that we all live together on common ground, no one is a stranger or a foreigner and there are no different others because we we all belong to one another.

We all live on a very small and ever shrinking planet, we “are” a web of interconnection and what happens to any one of us happens to us all. We “inter-are.”

Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of El Salvador once said this about his native land:

You cannot reap what you have not sown.
How are we going to reap a harvest of love in our community
if we only sow hate?

In an age where a national newspaper feels compelled to report the multiple incidents of “hate” perpetrated every week in America, this may indeed be the question we all need to ask ourselves in our own country nowadays.

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