The Kind of Wall We Should Be Building

I just got back from Mexico after visiting my family. I always find it interesting, and, of late, depressing, to view the United States and our government through the eyes of those who live somewhere else.

One of my aunts said, “How did that guy get to be your president?”

I said, “Well, best as I can figure, there were just a lot more of angrier white guys than anyone realized.”

“Nobody here understands how you put up with him. He’s a clown in a cheap circus.”

The best I could think to say at the moment was, “Well, I sure didn’t vote for him.”

Anemic, I know. But it gets exhausting coming up with newer and fresher ways to express my contempt for the cynical money-power grab among those elected to serve us.

Oh, I know that when it comes to cultural and political powerbrokers, this country’s always had to contend with shiftless swindlers and sociopathic perverts. And I confess my own indefensible naïveté (i.e. willful ignorance) about the depth of the problem.

The whole thing is just so dispiriting. I’m tired of the reflexive self-justification, the rationalization of bigotry on such a shocking scale—as if finally believing women about the often horrid and demeaning conditions under which they’re expected to labor constitutes a feminine power grab from under-appreciated and overly put-upon males.

How did we get to the point where a significant number of people who identify as Christian apparently find it impossible to imagine another person’s anxieties about surviving with any humanity or dignity intact? As if having to bake a cake for someone you don’t respect is just as much a threat as having your life or your dignity stolen from you by those who’ve promised to make your world a living hell.

As if seeking to hold law enforcement to account for the ways they disproportionately target black men is somehow more egregious than the disproportionate targeting of black men by law enforcement.

As if suggesting that Muslims and Sikhs have just as much right to practice their religion as anyone else is a betrayal of some fundamental Christian doctrine.

As if trying to understand the bone-deep terror of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers is an imposition that people who don’t live in fear that their families will be ripped apart shouldn’t have to bear.

According to Jesus, the most loving thing we can do for the oppressed, as well as for the oppressor is to say “no”—to refuse to sit silently by while more pain is inflicted and more suffering unleashed upon those who are most vulnerable.

But this is a culture that doesn’t like to hear the word “no.” If you say no to bigotry or sexism in our country right now, it can’t help but be heard as a personal attack—which too often provokes a violent response, even on the part of those who are the first to drape the words of faith like a shield across their shoulders.

But see, here’s the thing: If someone is about to set themselves and everyone else on fire, the most loving thing for all involved is to try to prevent that person from doing it. That is to say, sometimes the most loving thing we can say is “no.”

We’re not going to “agree to disagree” about whether an administration cheered by hipster Nazis, bankrolled by plutocrats, cheered on by those whose driving political motivation is just to make sure that all the arrogant Volvo-driving liberals get put back in their place.

And I want to be quick to point out that being against unjust policy isn’t necessarily opting to “be negative all the time.” Taking a stand against injustice is a necessary part of seeking a more just world. You can’t be pro-woman and not get sideways with men who commit sexual crimes against women.

If you say you’re not homophobic, you don’t get to simultaneously pursue a world that reserves the right to tell LGBTQ kids that they’re defective and unwanted.

You can’t be pro-African American and not speak up about the ways in which our country and its economic and judicial systems are designed to disadvantage black Americans.

How’re you going to say, “I’m all about supporting the Constitution,” but then treat everybody who’s not a Christian like a gate-crashing interloper.

People who claim to follow Jesus are supposed to be monumental pains in the ass to any politics that dehumanizes the very people with whom Jesus spent most of his time, and for whom he regularly risked the wrath of the big shots in charge.

We need to build a wall, all right … between the oppressed and their oppressors. I can actually see Jesus supporting the building of that kind of wall.

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