Tuesday, May 18, 2010

'Those Immigrants,' Assumptions, and the Catholic Church

"Immigrants:" Depending on a person's background and biases, that word can stir the emotions and call up images of huddled masses, yearning to breathe free; oppressed masses crushed under the iron heel of oppressor classes; or funny-looking people who don't eat regular food and don't talk like 'real Americans.'

Or, in my case, it reminds me of my ancestors and members of my extended family.

The small town in central Minnesota where I live used to be a two-family town. One was German, the other Irish. Both were Catholic. I'm oversimplifying a lot, by the way: but that's pretty much the way it was.

Like I said, both were Catholic, but we wound up with two parishes: one German, the other Irish. I've written about that before. (May 14, 2010)

That was then. We still have a lot of German and Irish names in the phone book, but folks keep coming to America, or moving around inside the country - and a fair number of them settle here.

Irish, German: What's the Point?

Most of us have gotten used to the idea that those Germans (or Irishmen) are okay - and have transferred that understanding to our new neighbors. But the residents of Sauk Centre are, without exception, human beings. And that means trouble.
"For mischief comes not out of the earth, nor does trouble spring out of the ground; 2But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward."
(Job 5:6-7)
I can pretty well guarantee that, if you look, you'll find someone in town who neither likes nor trusts 'those people:' Germans, Irish, or one or more of the newer sets of folks.

What can I say? There are jerks everywhere.

Here's part of what got me started thinking about immigrants today:
"Bishops of the Americas to meet in D.C. to consult on immigration"
EWTN News (May 18, 2010)

"Representatives of bishops’ conferences of the Americas will meet in Washington the first week of June for the 2010 Regional Bishops’ Consultation on Migration to discuss the current situation of migrants in their respective countries.

"Bishops from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other Latin American and Caribbean countries will attend the June 2-4 meeting...."

"...Presentations at the meeting will examine current conditions in countries sending and receiving immigrants; the treatment of immigrants living in or transiting through their countries; and the implications of migration for the Church’s pastoral care, advocacy, public policy and service response...."
The other item is a front-page article in Sauk Centre's newspaper about a training program for local police officers. If everything goes as planned, they'll go to a four-week federal immigration training program. I expect that we'll be reading about racial profiling and the general unfairness of it all, not long after.

Like I said, 100% of the people in Sauk Centre are human beings.

Immigrants: 'Everybody Knows' What They're Like

A (very) few of our new neighbors have not behaved well. The prime example locally is the 'trail rapist,' whose immigration status was dubiously legal, the last I heard. Then, from another part of Minnesota, there was Chai Soua Vang, who killed some folks because - according to him - they called him bad names. Can't say I blame him for being upset: but murder isn't an appropriate response.

Do those two cases, and others, mean that immigrants are dangerous people to have around? I really don't think so. There may be, for whatever reason, a somewhat greater chance for one of 'those people' to get stopped for traffic violations. But would I be worried about one of "them" moving in next door? No.

Let's put it this way: to the best of my knowledge, the folks arrested for running a meth house a few blocks over, back in 2003, looked as Anglo as I do. The same goes for folks who shot out windows about five years ago.

Don't get me wrong: aside from those two incidents, about the worst that's happened in the neighborhood over the last 20 years is the occasional driver skidding into the curb during winter.

The point is that, If I wanted to, I could make an emotional plea that those Hispanics were dangerous - or that those Anglos were dangerous. Either plea would, I think, be silly.

But, what would I know? I'm one of 'those people' - in some circles.
"...Exactly. Because what in your experience as a white male in America has ever led to your being discriminated against by how you look?..."
(February 25, 2010 comments)
I've done serious time in American academia, so I have a pretty good idea as to what assumptions are behind that remark. Wisely or not, I addressed the issue of white male oppression of minorities and women:
"...Addressing the matter of my being "white male in America:" I grew up in the sixties, and spent quite a bit of time in colleges and universities after that.

"Yes, I'm 'a white male living in America.' In the particular subculture I was immersed in, being given labels like male chauvinist pig and racist oppressor didn't result in having the privileged position one might think...."
(February 25, 2010 comments)

Oh, Dear: Why Don't I Just Apologize for Being Male and White?

Since my career does not depend on a feigned acceptance of the dominant culture's preferred reality, I don't need to express shame and remorse over what I am, and who my ancestors were. I don't think that folks whose ancestors came from northwestern Europe are better than everybody else - but I don't think we're the cause of all the world's problems, either.

But then, what would I know? I'm a 'male chauvinist pig racist oppressor.' And 'everybody knows' what they're like.

You can't argue with logic like that.

While I'm thinking of it - there are very seriously disordered ideas about how men and women should relate to each other: particularly in marriage. Two extremes are the folks who read part of that Ephesians thing; and the old-guard feminists. (Ephesians 5:23-25) (May 8, 2010 footnote 2)

Catholics Aren't American

In fact, the vast majority of today's 1,000,000,000-plus Catholics aren't American citizens, and don't live in this country. Which makes me a member of a minority group in Catholicism - there's an odd thought.

That meeting of bishops from the United States, Canada, Latin American and Caribbean nations represents a comparatively small sampling of global Catholicism. But I think its international character highlights an important aspect of the Catholic Church: We really are "catholic" - "universal." I think we seem 'out of step' with national cultures and customs because we are an organization which is older than almost every nation that exists today, and that we follow rules that transcend national boundaries, ethnic identities, and contemporary fashions of the mind.

I don't know what the bishops will come up with - but I can be pretty sure that some folks aren't going to like what they say one bit. It'll be 'soft on criminals,' or 'insensitive to minorities,' or maybe 'vague.'

I may not like what some of what they say, myself. But I'll listen, anyway. And I'll do what I can to pay attention to what they say, not what some establishment reporter says they said.

I've followed the news too long to believe their paraphrases and analysis: particularly when the Catholic Church is concerned. It's not that we're being singled out, so much. I think it's that American news media has a really hard time understanding people who don't conform to the standards of America's dominant culture.

Vaguely-related posts:


Brigid said...

Punctuation missing: "Both were Catholic I'm oversimplifying a lot, by the way:"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Got it, fixed it: thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.