We now add immigration amnesty to the arsenal of styrofoam clubs Republicans use for beating Democrats and driving voters to the polls. “We need immigration reform,” so we hear, “but the President has violated the Constitution!”
For most Republicans, the “path to citizenship” is not a question of “if,” but of “when.” They talk of the humanitarian crisis that would ensue, if not continue, were the millions of [insert the current p.c. term] not recognized or at least treated as American citizens, by which they mean full-fledged human beings. America, being an idea and having an embarrassment of riches, belongs to every “citizen of the world,” and perhaps to citizens of Mars and the Hale-Bopp Comet as well. The very notion that violating our laws to get here is somehow a violation of our laws is dismissed as understandable, given that the nonpapered preamnestieds were worse off wherever they came from. They are no different from us, except that they are better than us, and because they are different from us they make us better, except that if you recognize that they are different in any way (except “better”) then you are a racist. One way that they are different from us is that they can engage in complex actions of subterfuge without knowing they are doing wrong, except that when they knew they were doing wrong they weren’t really doing wrong, because our wrong trumped their wrong, because we have something (our “idea” and our embarrassment of riches) that we weren’t willing to “share,” by which we mean “have stolen from us.” But stealing from us is impossible, because we are they, and they are we.
So really, there is no we.
Americans, especially conservatives, have embraced the “America Is an Idea” ideology, and now Americans are paying for it. Our children, according to polls, increasingly believe that every valley should be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, so that more from the Third World may come. That makes America the Promised Land, the Kingdom of God on earth, and in the new gospel, Barack Obama says, “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
When the tongues of fire descended on the Feast of Pentecost, Our Lord’s first disciples began to speak in languages they hadn’t studied, so that the Good News might spread to every nation populated by the visitors to Jerusalem. There would be no barrier to the Kingdom of God that faith in the Divine Word would not overcome. And there must be no preference, rich or poor, red, yellow, black or white, male or female, at the Table, for all are redeemed by the same precious blood. Indeed, to show His compassion and that He is not a “respecter of persons,” Christ favored the poor.
That is the Church, and that should describe our churches. That is not a description of a country or a nation, except in the heavenly sense.
In other words, that is not a description of the United States.
Governments exist to protect their citizens, and a just government should act justly. If the home-countries of all of the nowamnestied futurecitizens (is it too early to say “Democratic voters”?) are the hellholes they are made out to be, and many of them are, then our government should treat them as such, and that should be reflected in our foreign policy, which might even seek punitive damages. Similar damages should justly be sought from the industries who have abetted the foreign invasion while aiding their bottom line.
But governments do not exist to pedal a false religion to the world, to invite the drowning onto the ark, to blend all languages into one. This is not a question of compassion, but of function. A government cannot show compassion by refusing to govern. It certainly cannot do so by harming its own citizens.
We used to have a religion in this country, more or less, but from before the beginning, false notions of America-as-God’s-Kingdom led to political subterfuge. Today, the two denominations, Democratic and Republican, battle not over theology but for members. They already agree on the central dogma that government exists to serve them and not to protect the people. But they are Elmer Gantrys and not holy men, and it is our job not to be taken in by their New Thought evangelism.
We may begin by remembering that we are a “we,” and that borders are not evil. Even Heaven has them.
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).