Fear and Ignorance Need Not Prevail

A few days ago there were a flurry of stories about how Newt Gingrich was causing himself trouble among voters in the primaries by suggesting that it would be bad policy to deport “illegal” immigrants who have been in the country for 25 years. Gingrich said something to the effect that if someone has been here 25 years, raised a family, been law abiding and a pillar of the community, it makes no sense to break up such a family by arresting and deporting a member. The other Republican candidates jumped all over the opportunity to accuse Gingrich of somehow being soft on immigration.

What a sad state of affairs! Ironically, his statements on immigration are, in my view, about as close as Newt comes to being reasonable on any issue. I confess that I have never been a fan of his.

What this episode says about “conservative” voters and our country is frightening. There is plenty to be frightened about.

Blocking Maricopa County Jail entrance

While I have been involved in protests regarding Arizona’s SB 1070 and policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the truth is that the more recent anti-immigrant law in Alabama is even worse. This speaks to the level of fear and ignorance in our culture.

By the way, note that I put quotations around conservative in the paragraph above. What we are seeing in America and in the pandering of the far right today is not conservatism as it has been known for centuries. Classic conservatism is founded on a conviction that traditional institutions perform a vital function and a skepticism about social engineering. Classic conservatism also values the private sector and fiscal caution. What we are seeing on the right today is a reactionary fear based movement much closer to classic Fascism—a frightening mixture of militarism, religious fundamentalism and racism.

In such a time, our upcoming Justice GA in Phoenix is vitally important. And so is educating ourselves and preparing ourselves spiritually. These are times when we are tempted to withdraw to defensiveness and combativeness. I keep hearing inspiring stories of our congregations seizing this opportunity to learn and to reflect.

Your UUA is preparing resources on immigration that can help. The way we are doing this might be as important as the resources themselves. Our staff, with the able and dedicated coordination of Gail Forsyth-Vail, has engaged in a kind of “crowd sourcing” of resources. In addition to developing resources at headquarters, we are involving dedicated UUs across the country. The work has been aptly named “Cooking Together”—invoking the image of a bunch of people in the kitchen preparing a feast for a multitude.  Join us in the kitchen on the Cooking Together blog and check out the full collection of resources on the UUA’s Immigration Justice web pages.

Fear and ignorance need not prevail. We must be voices of compassion and understanding. Together, having prepared ourselves, we can be a powerful force for good.

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