D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: american dream

Lent 2017: Myths

To be honest, I feel overwhelmed at the task of learning about and sharing information on undocumented neighbors in the US. There is so much to learn. It is all very complicated. There are very large and very pervasive lies that are spread in order to increase fear and discrimination. It is clear that there is no one article I can point you to to convince you of anything; instead I just think about how there are millions and millions of stories, and each is so very different and unique.

So perhaps we should start with some myths about immigration. I think probably the most common response to undocumented immigrants is: why didn't they just do it the legal way? But to be perfectly honest, at this point I feel like if someone is asking that question, then they probably do not want to know the real answer. Because the truth is, there are very few paths to citizenship for people from Mexico and other countries, and there are not even nearly enough temporary visas. Why is this? I don't have all the answers, but from all of my reading it seems clear that our economy is one that thrives on the shadows created by an immigration system that is inherently broken, unjust, and only enforced sporadically.

It is unjust in that it only creates a few legal pathways for visas (and fewer still for citizenship) and yet depends on the labor of so many migrant workers. By only enforcing the laws (deporting people) sporadically, it makes examples of a few in order to keep everyone else without proper documentation living and working in fear. This means employers can threaten deportation while paying people poverty wages in horrific conditions, essentially meaning that many of our warehouses, factories, restaurants, and fields are filled with workers submitting to multiple human rights violations in order to make our economy run. My life, my food, my neighborhood, is built on suffering. And yet here we are, enjoying the fruits of underpaid labor, all the while vilifying the people who are working the hardest. 

Of course, another myth centers around crime. Why would we let all these violent people into our country? This is the message we have gotten from our President, and countless others. To be sure, there are violent offenders and people involved in criminal behavior who are unauthorized immigrants. But the percentage (3%) is lower than that of the average US citizen (6%). So it's not really about crime. It's about demonizing an entire group of people in order to gain political power, which is sadly one of the oldest plays in the book. Are we paying attention?

There are other myths, and perhaps we will get to them on another day. But the bigger myth I want to talk about is the one that continually gets shattered in front of my eyes: it is the myth that America is a land of opportunity for immigrants, a place where life, liberty, and the pursuit of a small scrap of happiness is available for anyone. The more you dig deep, however, the more you realize that this does not happen for most. America works out pretty well if you are white and if you have money and are from a Christian background (it also helps if you are male). Beyond that, things start to get very messy, 

Here's the truth: we have closed our doors to the vast majority of people seeking a way out of poverty, war, and famine. We capitalize on fear and monetize it. The people who cook our food sometimes don't have enough to eat themselves, and we don't know this because we live and operate in completely separate worlds. America is not a great nation, and it never ever was. It has always been a mess, full of promise and ideals and yet also built on the backs of dehumanization and exploitation the likes of which history has never seen. 

This is the myth that is the hardest for me to deal with. This is the myth I will have to spend the rest of my life coming to terms with. This myth is slowly being revealed in front of all the world for the lie that it always has been. Is this a silver lining? That seems too bright of a phrase for it. All I can do is pray along with the author of Isaiah 58:

"And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in."

I pray that one day, our foundations might be full of justice, instead of inequality. That we might honor those who work and live and raise families in our country, instead of oppressing and exploiting them, all the while claiming that God is on our side. 

 

 

 

 

Resources/Notes:

 

Here's one woman's personal story of being an undocumented immigrant. 

Here's a website which talks about the complexities regarding the elusive (and fictional) "line" that people can get in in order to become a legal immigrant. 

Here's a NYTimes article that lays out the complexities pretty well (including crime statistics, and a breakdown of countries where undocumented immigrants are from). 

The Baby Boomer's Inadequate Gift to Us: Guest Post by Shawn Smucker

You can read my intro/interview with Shawn from Tuesday here

 

 

 

The Baby Boomers’ Inadequate Gift to Us--guest post by Shawn Smucker

 

 

 

“We expected something,

Something better than before.

We expected something more.”

 

The National

 

* * * * *

 

We watched the sun set, all of us sitting there by the fire pit but it was warm so we didn’t light the fire. Deer wandered through the waist-high grass at the edge of the woods, and as darkness seeped up from the shadows and spread towards the sky, the lightning bugs began to blink.

 

My daughter, five years old and full of optimism, ran inside for a jar, then dashed back and forth through the night. She saw a light and ran towards it, but by the time she arrived, it was dark. Another light, another mad dash. Another light, another flurry of activity.

 

Darkness and empty jars.

 

* * * * *

 

“The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.”

 

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

 

* * * * *

 

One can easily spend a lifetime chasing these fading dreams. I see it now all around me, as successful baby boomers stand in their quiet four-bedroom houses, their children gone, their retirements secure or completely lost, their businesses booming or folding. I see them as they look around, emptiness in their eyes and golf clubs in their hands.

 

They move some money around and spend some of the principal on a house where they can get away while all around them the world is crumbling. The poor are getting poorer and there are more slaves than at any point in the history of this planet. But they made a large contribution to their church’s building fund so they sit quietly in their seats on Sunday mornings and manage to bear the service by thinking of the fun they’ll have on their upcoming family vacation.

 

They bought into the lie that happiness awaits if you plan a responsible life, work hard, save and make your decisions based on financial data points. This formula will usher you to the grand old age of 65 where you will find happiness, wealth and the opportunity to pass this life strategy down to the next generation.

 

But so much of it is darkness and empty jars. Our generation has watched the generation before us arrive at retirement with good credit scores, a nice house, and a growing sense that they somehow missed out on a life worth living.

 

* * * * *

 

“… hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone but will fulfill the deepest desires of our heart...”

 

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

 

* * * * *

 

At the root of our culture’s chronic unhappiness is an inability, or sometimes flat-out refusal, to live in The Now.  We dull our not inconsequential pain with hours of television, prescription or recreational drugs and staying very, very busy. We use every tool at our disposal to distract us from today, to numb the pain we feel, and to take the focus off of our unhappy lives.

 

We work hard to avoid The Now because it is a difficult place to exist. It requires intentionality. It requires things like forgiveness – otherwise the past will not remove its claws. It requires a tenacious hope – otherwise the specter of an unknown future paralyzes us.

 

Enter Materialism, the great idol of our time. Materialism gives us something to look forward to: the next big acquisition, the next big purchase, the next notch in our social standing. Materialism offers the great escape from this present moment of boredom or unhappiness. And because we sacrifice our time at the foot of its golden altar, we hold tightly to the “gifts” it gives us in return.

 

Each present second ticks by, quickly becoming a past we’d rather forget.

 

* * * * *

 

My whole life I have been surrounded by well-meaning encouragement to go 'higher up,' and the most-used argument was : 'You can do so much good there, for so many people.' But these voices calling me to upward mobility are completely absent from the Gospel.

 

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

 

* * * * *

 

To me, the essence of Downward Mobility is best characterized by living in the present moment. Living in The Now. When I live a life of Downward Mobility I become so deeply entrenched in today and in what Christ is calling me to do, now, that the future and past no longer control me.

 

Living in the The Now allows me to enjoy what I have without always striving for what I want to get tomorrow or next month or next year. My obsession with material things evaporates when I begin to explore how I can contribute to the Kingdom of Heaven today, with what I have now.

 

In a word, Downward Mobility is abiding.

 

* * * * *

 

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

* * * * *

 

Shawn is the author of "Building a Life Out of Words," the story of how he lost his business, his house and his community, then found happiness making a living as a writer. He lives deep in the woods of southern Lancaster County, PA, with his wife and four children. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

For more information on the Downward Mobility series, click here. For all posts, click here

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