The Shame of Murrieta

Murrieta, California.  Photo credit:  R Lee E / Wikimedia Commons.

Murrieta, California. Photo credit: R Lee E / Wikimedia Commons.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 

Matthew 18:5

In this great country, teachers and school staff members have often thrown themselves in front of the bullets of shooters to shield their young students from harm (and that, by the way, is how a truly good person stops a bad guy with a gun); elderly and infirm grandparents have taken on the daily care of their grandchildren when parents are absent; single mothers and fathers have offered themselves in daily sacrifice to the welfare of their offspring. In spite of our craven worship of Founding Fathers (where, if you please, are the Founding Mothers?), the true backbone of this nation has always been a profound commitment to its descendants—a devotion to its children. This is what fuels our belief in the American Dream, and what fires up our irrepressible hopes in the future.

In the past, the United States has welcomed children fleeing a murderous tyranny (I was once one of these children), and has offered them sanctuary from oppression and persecution. That is why the recent events in the town of Murrieta, California, are a stain on the national honor, an affront to the American spirit, and shameful to every decent citizen of this bounteous land.

In recent months, 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have entered the U.S. Early this month, like a medieval mayor warning his constituents of the coming of the Black Plague, Alan Long, mayor of Murrieta, told the residents that “they should make known their displeasure with the federal government’s decision to move … immigrants to their city”  (New York Times, July 1, 2014).

On July 1, 2014, dozens of protesters stopped “three busloads of immigrant mothers and children” from being processed at a Border Patrol Station. The protesters carried U.S. flags, and shouted “go home” and “U.S.A.” The buses were routed to a Customs and Border Protection center in San Diego. At a community meeting with federal officials in a high school auditorium the next evening, residents of Murrieta voiced their displeasure:

            “What happens when they come here with diseases and overrun our schools?”

            “How do you know they … aren’t some kind of drug cartel?”

            “Why can’t we just transport them on a bus to Tijuana?”

Rejecting accusations of racism—as if racism were the sole province of Anglo-Americans—Mayor Long told his audience that both his mother and wife were Hispanic, and introduced his father-in-law, who had immigrated “legally” to the U.S. (New York Times, July 3, 2014).

Put aside the ghastly irony of a mob of Euro-Americans screaming at the direct descendants of Maya Indians to go back to their “country;” set aside the ignoble verbal abuse of women and children by adults who should know better; the shame of Murrieta cannot be washed away by the cherished American ritual of scapegoating. The bullies of Murrieta only enacted with unspeakable vulgarity the sentiment of the majority of North Americans. The President—himself the offspring of an immigrant father—intends to return the Central American children to the drug violence of their home countries, which is caused by the insatiable North American appetite for the consumption of drugs. The clownish Arizona senatorial delegation of John McCain and Jeff Flake has introduced legislation to expedite their deportation process.

"The Massacre of the Innocents" (1860), painted by Angelo Visconti.

“The Massacre of the Innocents” (1860), painted by Angelo Visconti.

Perhaps there are good reasons to return the immigrant children to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. But the U.S. has fought a decade of war in Iraq which caused the death of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. This nation has occupied the Middle East and spent billions of dollars based on the premise—since no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq—of bringing freedom, liberty and democracy to the oppressed. And yet when we have, at our own borders, the influx of thousands of children fleeing assassinations, persecution, and drug violence, we see no profit in offering them freedom, liberty and democracy. The very best we can do is to send them home to another Massacre of the Innocents.

Let us then proclaim ourselves a Diabolical Empire and send them home. Let us never again be believed when we raise the flag of freedom, liberty and democracy as justification for engaging in war and occupying foreign territories. And let us never—from now till the end of time—engage in the abject hypocrisy of calling ourselves a Christian nation. For His commandment is clear in this instance, and His warning pure and resolute: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6). His gospel has a way of kicking us in the teeth, and shaking us out of our blindness.

“Little Murrieta has taken the lead,” proclaimed Mayor Young; shame on us if we follow Murrieta’s Gadarene Swine over the cliff.



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