foreigner

February 11, 2017

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I don’t talk about politics—mainly because I feel ignorant enough to be afraid to speak up. That said, there are a few oftentimes-political topics that I feel strongly about. I didn’t know that I cared so much until I started to weep at any book or film that broached these topics. One example is Amistad. I saw this movie in the theaters when I was in high school, going with a group of my girl friends. I got so overwhelmed during the showing, however, that I ended up putting my head in my lap as I wept uncontrollably. When my friends tried to console me, though, I insisted that I was fine, and I refused to leave the movie. It is one of the movies I now consider an all-time favorite.

The issue of slavery, and mistreatment of people (adults or children) is a major button-pusher for me. As a result, the refugee issue is one that I also care deeply about, though I must admit to not having found (made) the time to research all that goes into the current debates, so I am wary to voice any specific opinion.

The other day, however, I almost paused in mid-swim as I heard a passage from Malachi in my daily audio Bible podcast. I had never before heard a version like this, in which the people are warned about those “who turn away immigrants” (3:5). My interest was peaked and I decided I was done with my ignorance and on a mission to educate myself. So far I have listened to one interview on the topic (thanks to Anita Lustrea) with Dale Hanson Bourke, who wrote a book simply titled Immigration. I also read some of her blog posts and portions of the book.  I really appreciate her focus on educating the public, with the idea that many people are riled up, on both sides of the fence, without having a real knowledge base on the facts (such as the difference between a “refugee,” an “immigrant,” and an “asylum seeker”). Another point of interest for me was her explanation of how difficult the U.S. makes the process of gaining status as any of the above. She explained that if given the choice people often opt for another country (such as Australia) to avoid the amount of time, paperwork, and confusion that the American process includes.

From there I went on to read articles from news sources that have different leanings on the spectrum, via the website AllSides.com, which features “left,” “right,” and “center” viewpoints for current news topics. Frankly, my head is still swimming a bit, and I still feel rather ignorant when it comes down to it (living outside of the U.S. for much of the past 8 years or so probably doesn’t help!).

I do, however, have a sense that there is an underlying issue feeding all the chaos bubbling in this immigration/refugee pot. Or maybe I just have a bunch of questions:

Could it be that the root of the problems the world is facing is a tendency to want to “turn away immigrants”? This is certainly not an American problem, either, lest you think I’m just blaming that country. Everywhere I have lived, there is a word for “foreigner” that is called out to those of us who are, obviously, different from the norm. This generally means white-skinned, in my experience. Here I am pointed at and called “obroni!” In China I was “waiguoren” (or 外国人 if you are like my husband and prefer using the characters). In Afghanistan it was “horaji,” and in Zambia “mzungu.” Though I don’t enjoy these labels, I am also highly aware of my privilege—I know nothing of true discrimination; nor of hardship related to my nationality.

I do, though, know what I have seen, experienced, and observed—a world full of people prone to want to surround themselves with others who think, act and, yes, look like them. It is a part of human nature, I think . . . of our fallen nature. And maybe—just maybe—what the world needs now [is love, sweet love?] . . . ok, seriously: what we need is a hard look at the ways we all [I] “turn away” those in need for the sake of our own ideas of what we [I] need in order to preserve our own comfort and security.

*photo is a flash back from last year’s post, and from the village dance in which I was welcomed in, white skinned, rhythm-impaired, and all

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