Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Other Shoes

I keep waking up in BIG California, and it makes me realize how small I am. It makes me remember that there is so much I can't control in my life. Often, what we control, or is controlled by others, is so abstract.

Driving north to Temecula from the San Diego's Old Globe Theatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream this past Sunday night, my aunt pointed out where the checkpoints sometimes set up in order to check for drug cartels and illegal immigrants. The 'checkpoints' word seems so far away from my life experience, most especially because I have always lived so close to the Canadian border, and read of checkpoints existing frequently in South Africa and Eastern Europe and in prejudiced Hollywood action thrillers that take place in foreign countries.

A conversation was started about why people cross the border illegally. I claim ignorance to the exact issues that occur daily in Mexico and its southern neighbors, but there is apparent economic unrest and infrastructure struggles along with violence. What was most important in this conversation was acknowledging that a 15-minute drive from my $40 seat, and a man-made border separated me from a world where what it means to live and die and be patriotic are very different. The histories of citizenship and the perceptions of world politics and the values and the structures differ greatly.

What makes me so different from someone born in a town three minutes from my native one? The structures and values that surrounded me. The schools, the jobs my parents had, the money they made, the places they took me. When groups look at the "less fortunate," or, "the needy," churches and other care-giving organizations create "mission" trips, where resources and vocabularies from our American existence are introduced to them to make their lives "better." We transplant ourselves as vessels carrying out values and sharing (hopefully not imposing) our technology and practices onto them.

I am curious what we could learn if a mission trip organized of citizens from a "second world" or "third world" came to a town in the United States and taught children in our schools how to build their own toys or sing their traditional songs, or ponder the same life lessons they have. Would it make the American child more engaged with the point-of-view of a person from a war-torn nation rather than aware of the war-torn citizen's situation? My musings are thinking so, since instincts continue to tell me that the two understandings world in tandem, but are different in what they reveal to and within the observer.

I think these thoughts make it difficult for many to say "yes" or "no" to pardon illegals or invade countries with human rights catastrophes. Perhaps the washing away of these hard-line distinctions is ignored by many for that exact conundrum... it becomes harder to justify cruelty and power when what we do onto others could just well be done onto ourselves if the outside structures shifted ever so slightly.