sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

water in the desert

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm

So apparently giving thirsty people a drink in the desert is now against the law. I am incensed. Here’s where the politics/class/money piece shows up, because I can’t believe that this is happening in this century in this country. A man has been sentenced to 300 community service hours and a year of probation because he left water bottles in a desert refuge that is frequently crossed by illegal immigrants.

My father is an immigrant, a legal one. He came here as a student, got employed and stayed. He married my mother and has lived here as a tax paying, community participating member of society since then. In my eyes, the difference between him and these people crossing the desert is one of privilege, accident, age, education. Are we not the land of opportunity? What does the Statue of Liberty mean, anyway? “Send me your tired, your poor,” it says, “your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores; send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Emma Lazarus). I sang those words in third grade as part of a school performance; they had been set to music by one of our teachers. Immigration is one of the many things on which we are built. Yes, empire-building and destruction are another, yes we have our struggles, all of us. But what of compassion? What of care for fellow humans?

When Universalist Clara Barton was doing war relief work, she didn’t distinguish between Union and Confederate soldiers; she eventually founded the American Red Cross, which serves all people. If someone is thirsty and we have water, we have it because we must share it. Our common humanity demands it.

In what world is compassion justifiably a crime?

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  1. It sets an interesting precedent … if leaving containers of food for other people in public spaces is littering because the recipients *might* leave the empties behind, then so are food drops for mountain climbers… and candy thrown from parade floats… and free samples at state fairs. But since the recipients in those cases are wanted, I guess Santa Claus doesn’t have to worry about being charged with littering.

    I have a different view on immigration, as you know Leela, due mainly to the fact that today’s rates of immigration (both legal and illegal) are significantly higher than they have ever been in history, for any country ever. But it’s not the immigrants’ fault, so there’s no sense in making their situation worse.

    • Let me be clear: I don’t think indiscriminate immigration is any kind of answer. I do think that keeping people from dying when they cross the desert is important. And I do think that as one of the lower-density countries in the world, we have some obligation to suck it up and deal. If we actually believe that it’s not right for a tiny percentage of the population to use a vast amount of the world’s resources, we have to be willing to share–including share space–as well as cut our carbon footprints.

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