In Europe, there were indentured servants and after industrialization, working masses. In Asia, the untouchables, the geishas, and the many other oppressed. In this country, we used to have slaves. We still have an underclass of struggling blacks (and whites). Yes, women also were (are) an underclass most everywhere in the “civilized” world. But perhaps the true underclass in the US now is the illegal worker including the migrant worker. They are easy to abuse, despise, deport, look down on. They are not really like us. They look different – shorter, sun-burnt, more worn out, and they often don’t speak English. They, or their parents, broke the law. And in the free-market system, they get paid “fair” wages – the wages that people are willing to pay them. If that wage is not enough to live in decent housing and keep kids steadily in school, well tough luck. They should go back to their country. Right?
My problem is that I know they are like us. They want to make a better life for themselves and their children. They want stability and fair wages. They love their kids and want to help their parents. They are human. They just had the poor foresight of being born into countries with corrupt or dysfunctional governments, into societies with even more dismal opportunities.
I know that we cannot just open up the borders and let all immigrants come in. Uncontrolled immigration would, I suppose, destroy this country or bring it down to the point at which it would no longer be attractive for immigrants.
But I also don’t think it’s right to treat people or look the other way knowing that people are treated the way illegal or poorly educated legal immigrants are. The Bible says and, I believe, most Christian denominations agree that the most important message of Jesus Christ is about love. It says (in the New International Version, according to www.biblegateway.com) that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13.4-7.). There is also “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). I am not a Christian, and I wasn’t raised Christian or (in any other religion for that matter), yet I was taught to live exactly by rules that the Bible here sums up.
It does not fit in my mind, how a country that is on the face of it profoundly religious (much more so than similarly developed countries in Europe) stands for policies that promote or at least allow the mistreatment of people guilty of no more than striving for a decent life. I understand even less how come that the religious right – the ultra-religious – stand the strongest for policies that do so. How do their policies on the military, against gays and immigrants jibe with the most profound teachings of their religion? What do their ministers preach from their pulpits?
Is it inevitable that a class of people have to struggle, no matter the era, the century, the country? Is it inevitable that as one class of people (blacks, women, gays) earn protections, discrimination goes on for other groups? Is it impossible for modern civilization to rise above the shame of every civilization that has come before it? Is it inherent in the human condition that one man’s fortune is always another (dozen’s) misfortune?