Car­a­van of mi­grants a test for govern­ment, each of us

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - jdavich@post-trib.com Twit­ter@jdavich

If you were Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, how would you ad­dress the swelling car­a­van of des­per­ate mi­grants mak­ing their way through Mex­ico to the U.S. bor­der?

I asked this ques­tion to my so­cial me­dia read­ers and re­ceived more than 400 re­sponses. Every­thing from “Use na­palm on them when they get here,” to “In­vite them into our homes.” My re­sponse, which I’ll get to, is some­where in be­tween.

Not only is the mi­grants’ pil­grim­age to the promised land in the news ev­ery day, it’s also on Amer­i­cans’ minds and in their hearts. Each day, I’m hear­ing from new read­ers sharing their un­so­licited opin­ions with me, re­veal­ing their bi­ases one way or an­other.

“Are we not a Chris­tian na­tion, filled with com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy?” asked one woman.

“If we let them into our coun­try, how many more will come af­ter them?” asked a man named Henry, from Grif­fith.

Both of their ques­tions are ex­cel­lent, yet unan­swer­able.

Their op­pos­ing re­sponses says more about them and their vi­sion of Amer­ica than about those trav­el­ing mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica. Un­like most of my read­ers, and our pres­i­dent, I have more ques­tions than an­swers.

Are we be­ing in­vaded and need to pro­tect our­selves, as many Amer­i­cans sin­cerely be­lieve? Is this a po­lit­i­cally-trig­gered stunt, from the left or the right, on the cusp of the cru­cial midterm elec­tions? Will this car­a­van be called a mob by the time it ar­rives on our bor­der?

De­spite the re­al­ity that some form of this car­a­van will even­tu­ally get to our gated com­mu­nity, U.S. of­fi­cials have no con­crete plans about what to do. Trump has threat­ened to cut U.S. fi­nan­cial aid to Hon­duras and El Sal­vador if the cru­sade isn’t stopped. Can he? Will he? No one knows for sure.

Trump also has threat­ened to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency, pos­si­bly en­abling him to send U.S. troops (not only the Na­tional Guard) to the Mex­i­can bor­der to deal with the thou­sands of mi­grants en route here. Again, will he? Yes, I think he will.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free,” are iconic words on the pedestal of the Statue of Lib­erty. Is this only a prom­ise on a plaque or is it a fun­da­men­tal doc­trine of our na­tion?

This in­com­ing cri­sis, as it’s been called, is an­other test of our core val­ues as a peo­ple. It’s forc­ing us to choose which we value more – our safety or our em­pa­thy, our im­mi­gra­tion laws or our moral laws?

With its tim­ing so close to Elec­tion Day, our lead­ers are us­ing this cri­sis to bol­ster their po­lit­i­cal stances. Of course.

The left is ac­cus­ing the right of play­ing a role in launch­ing the car­a­van from Cen­tral Amer­ica. The right is ac­cus­ing the left of not play­ing a role of any kind with im­mi­gra­tion re­form. And con­spir­acy the­o­rists are play­ing both sides from the fringes of their imag­i­na­tion.

Trump, who can’t re­sist dous­ing a rag­ing wild­fire with gaso­line, sug­gested that “crim­i­nals and un­known Mid­dle Eastern­ers are mixed in” to the car­a­van of mi­grants. In Trump­s­peak, this means that ter­ror­ists are in­fil­trat­ing the car­a­van to in­vade our coun­try.

“They could very well be,” Trump said last week. “There’s no proof of any­thing. But there could very well be.”

Proof isn’t needed for such fear-mon­ger­ing. And make no mis­take, this is clas­sic fear-mon­ger­ing, straight from a script cowrit­ten by ma­nip­u­la­tive lead­ers dat­ing back cen­turies. It’s work­ing on our fear­ful pop­u­lace, just as it has for cen­turies.

Amer­i­can so­ci­ety is light years ahead of our an­ces­tors re­gard­ing tech­nol­ogy, but we’re just as fear­ful as they were. Worse yet, our tech­nol­ogy al­lows us to be just as fear­ful at the speed of light, one Tweet at a time.

In a sad way, our species’ Dark Age has fol­lowed us into the 21st cen­tury.

Will th­ese an­cient fears force vot­ers into the light of day on Elec­tion Day? This is all that mat­ters to me at this point. I’m tired of the rhetoric, the fin­ger-point­ing, the name-call­ing, and the smear cam­paigns. Nov. 6 can’t get here fast enough for me.

In fact, I voted early this year just to get it over with.

The car­a­van of mi­grants will not ar­rive at the U.S. bor­der by Elec­tion Day. It doesn’t need to. Sim­ply watch­ing nightly news ac­counts of the march will scare up votes from the Repub­li­can base. Trump knows this. So does the GOP. It worked for them in 2016. It might work again next month.

As for those mi­grants or refugees or in­vaders, what­ever you choose to call them, they fled their coun­tries with noth­ing more than hope and faith in their pock­ets. Yet they’ve been turned into a talk­ing point by politi­cians, li­on­ized by sup­port­ers, and vic­tim­ized by too many peo­ple along the way. In­clud­ing me­dia.

They are merely fod­der for us from thou­sands of miles away. They’re not yet ac­tual peo­ple with faces, feel­ings, and Amer­i­can dreams of their own.

They rep­re­sent some­thing dif­fer­ent to each of us. Maybe it’s an op­por­tu­nity to show our Christ-like com­pas­sion. Or a chance to dis­play our grace. Maybe they’re strictly a threat to our na­tional se­cu­rity. Or ex­hibit A for tighter im­mi­gra­tion laws.

To me, the mi­grants rep­re­sent a liv­ing, breath­ing car­a­van of hard choices for us to make. For ex­am­ple, would I in­vite one into my home for long-term shel­ter? No. Would I want them to be harmed in any way at the bor­der? No.

I want our coun­try to show com­pas­sion with­out rolling out a red car­pet to an end­less car­a­van of other car­a­vans. Is this even pos­si­ble? I’m not sure.

It’s a no-win sit­u­a­tion for our govern­ment.

It’s a de­ci­sion such as this that makes me thank­ful I’m not a pres­i­dent of any­thing, let alone the United States. I’m cu­ri­ous how Trump will re­spond. But I’m more cu­ri­ous how you would re­spond. You should be, too.

PE­DRO PARDO/GETTY-AFP

Jerry Davich

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