Last week one of my relatives forwarded me a petition, couched in the tin-ear common-man literary style I associate with Rush Limbaugh. Ordinarily I just delete such junk, whether from the right or from the left. But this one was singularly obnoxious.
Dear Mr. President:
We, the undersigned, protest the bill that the Senate voted upon recently which would allow illegal aliens to access our Social Security. We demand that you and all Congressional representatives require citizenship as a prerequisite for social services in the United States.
We further demand that there not be any amnesty given to illegals, NO free services, no funding, no payments to and for illegal immigrants. We are fed up with the lack of action about this matter and are tired of ‘paying’ for services to illegals!
I was supposed to sign it, and forward it to as many others as I could. The copy I received already had 933 signatures; instructions were to send it to the White House when it reached a thousand. The cover letter included this line:
If the government gives benefits to ‘illegal’ aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave those of us who have paid into Social Security all our working lives?
Set aside the gross misrepresentation of the proposed legislation, and set aside the bogus “don’t break the chain or we’ll lose the signatures” warning. What we’re dealing with here is jingoism, xenophobia, or to call it by its real name, prejudice.
Searching through the header, I found about five dozen names of people who’d already received the petition. I set up a new box at g-mail, and sent to each of those people the following letter.
You recently received, as I did, an e-mail chain letter, in which the central issue was summed up in a single question:
“If the government gives benefits to ‘illegal’ aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave those of us who have paid into Social Security all our working lives?”
I will not forward the petition. Nor will I take up your time with a tendentious counter-argument.
I will ask a different question, one which also is frequently circulated in e-mail. “What would Jesus do?”
I think the answer is found in Luke 10:25-37.
It’s the parable of the Good Samaritan.
So far only two of the five dozen have responded, both of them family members. One bitched me out for having tried to embarrass the person who sent it to me; one thanked me for having the courage to answer back.
I’m not a practicing Christian, but I was brought up in a Christian family, and I have enormous respect for the tenets and goals and — above all — the practice of genuine Christianity. Sunday, by lovely coincidence, CBS broadcast a story about a real Christian, or at least a man who would get my vote as the role model for Christian leaders. I urge you to watch it. Here’s the 60 Minutes intro:
From the time of Jesus, there have been Christians in what is now Iraq. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east.
But now, after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee — persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq’s religious civil war. You’d have to be mad to hold a Christian service in Iraq today, but if you must, then the vicar of Baghdad is your man. He’s the Reverend Canon Andrew White, an Anglican chaplain who suffers from multiple sclerosis and from a fanatical determination to save the last Iraqi Christians from the purge.
Several metaphors come to mind. My favorite is The Good Shepherd.