Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sak Pasé

Living in Miami, you get to know people from a lot of different places. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that you have the opportunity to get to know people from a lot of different places, as well as the opportunity to stick to your own kind. Either way, in my neighborhood, I can go a few blocks north to the Chinese grocery store, around the corner to the Haitian restaurant, and a quarter mile south to an Indian/Caribbean roti shop. There's an African goods store up the street from our church, that sells mostly clothing and some other items. I could throw a brick from my front yard, in any direction, and I'd probably hit a Cuban restaurant, bakery, or at least a food truck going by with pastelitos de guayaba on board. We used to have the best Jamaican restaurant in the world just a couple of miles away, but the owner closed it down and retired, so now we have to go to one of the other three that are closer, but just don't make the curry chicken patties the same.

Down here, ethnically mixed families are pretty common, and they come in all kinds of different combinations. It's not unusual to have households where two are three languages are spoken, especially during an argument. I often wonder how my family, with African-American, Jamaican, Jewish, and European roots, would fit in to other cities and towns around the country. Overall, I feel lucky to still live here.

We know people whose families have been in this country as far back as they can remember, or who are second or third generations of their kinfolk who immigrated here. Some of them are still trying to work out something with Uncle Sam before it's too late, and some are already too late, and don't know what to do about it, or who to trust enough to ask for help. Some of our neighbors have taken that oath proudly and become citizens Others are content to be legal residents, saving as much money as they can, with dreams of returning to their home countries and enjoying retirement in a place they love, where the American dollars they've worked hard for will let them live well for the rest of their lives.

So when we hear our president say the racist and degrading things that he says about immigrants, about foreigners, about people in color in general, we get riled up. We get angry. When we think about the kinds of policies that he might enact in the next three years of his term, we get concerned. We get scared for the people we love. Already, he's closing down avenues to residency and citizenship that many of my neighbors were counting on to fulfill their American goals of freedom and prosperity. We look around and wonder how many of our neighbors and friends wouldn't be here if he gets his way, how many of our wives and husbands. 

But when we hear otherwise normal people, especially people who claim to be Christians, defending those racist and oppressive ideas, or minimizing them in an effort to prop up some vague and dubious political agenda, we get hurt. When we hear some church leaders endorsing this president, again and again, regardless of how vile he behaves, we wonder if the American church has any real sense of justice or compassion, or if it has completely sold out to politics for the sake of one or two hot-button issues.

We start to wonder if it's even about those issues anymore, or whether these Christians and church leaders actually agree with what this president says.

In the first part of Thomas Paine's "Crisis" pamphlets, he says that one good this about panics and crises is that "they are touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever  undiscovered." Maybe this is the crisis that will allow us to really know the people around us. The hard part is to continue to extend love and grace even as we confront these issues.

So I have a challenge to everyone who still supports Trump, still thinks he is a "baby Christian" like Dobson said, or a "good candidate with flaws" as Grudem called him, before backpedalling and asking Christians to vote for him despite the fact that he was not a good candidate or even a decent person. My challenge is to look around and determine how many of your friends and families would be affected by his racist policies. If you don't see any, then make some new friends and try to get to know some people that are outside of your current circle, people who don't look like you, people who may come from some of the countries that the president is disparaging. Tell them how you think that Trump's positives outweigh his negatives, or how he didn't really mean what he so emphatically said. Listen to them when they tell you about the major issues that motivate their politics. Try to get a different perspective that the one you're used to. Don't do this on Facebook or social media either. Look them in the eye and have an honest discussion about it.

And to those brothers and sisters from Haiti, Nigeria, Zambia, Swaziland, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, and Trinidad, who left a nation that they love to follow a dream, there are a lot of us behind you, wishing you the best, and willing to use our hands, ballots, and voices to support you. When you feel the heat, we're in the fire with you. N'ap boule.

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