Globalization: is it Good?
When thinking about globalization, an aspect we must not forget is how it affects community.
"If the church's lack of concern for the poor troubled me, those outside the church were even worse. One of the major commodities exchanges announced the generous giving of their membership to the needy at Christmas time. Five thousand dollars; a whopping ten dollars per member. Generosity of this sort demanded an official announcement? I pictured a person throwing a peanut to a herd of starving elephants.
It was not surprising to find plenty of hypocrisy outside organized religion. Finding it inside was what was so frustrating. But many churches were resettling refugees. Some of our friends took a family all by themselves. I did some more mental calculating: If one out of every 500 families in America could resettle a refugee family, I reasoned, the problem could be totally eradicated. A neat numeric solution to a global problem, but who would be crazy enough to step up and make such a small contribution to such a big problem. Certainly the realists aren't going to do it, they know it can't be done. The atheists aren't going to do it, they need evil in the world to support their world view. That only leaves us idealistic theists who are foolish enough to think that for each problem there must be a solution.
I mentioned the idea to Nancy. 'Y'know,' I said cautiously, almost hoping she wasn't listening. 'Just because we aren't able to get the right people interested in helping us doesn't mean we can't resettle them ourselves.'
' Do you have any idea,' she answered, 'of the number of people who ask me how I can stand living with you?' I knew that this came up from time to time but I was unaware of the precise frequency. 'Oh, yeah, 'How do you take him?' they ask, 'What's it like living with someone like that; inquiring minds want to know?'' I really hoped for a much more negative answer, something like, 'No way, you're outta your mind!'
' I'm trying to be a little serious here,' I went on. 'Just think about it. Are we asking other people to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves? If it's a reasonable alternative for all of America to resettle refugees, then is it a reasonable alternative for us?'
She summarized the issue for most of the West. 'The resettlement of Southeast Asians by the Western world is a fantastic theory. A lot of people can make wonderful careers for themselves by talking about it, writing about it, singing about it, and doing whatever else they do to give people neat little ways of dealing with their guilt. But when you start talking about bringing a bunch of people out of the jungle who don't know so much as what to do with a toilet, certainly they don't know how to use toilet paper, just think about it. Then you stick them into our home, to eat off of our dishes, to rub disease-filled noses with our little boys-well, that's where all that cool theory comes to a screeching halt.'
Now that's just the sort of articulate speech I was looking for. Obviously my conscience had jumped the gun a bit when I came up with this idea about taking a family into our home. How much easier it would be to just go on the stump, to preach about the obligation of the church to meet this need, and to point out the hypocrisy of the clergy. I was already gaining some notoriety as a social critic, why not develop that. The public seems to get some mysterious enjoyment out of having guilt trips laid on them. In any case, I am certainly not going to bring any refugee family into my home without Nancy's 100 percent support. She's going to be the one who gets stuck with most of the work.
A few nights later, at the dinner table, I had already forgotten the subject when out of the blue Nancy said, 'The I love of God compels us.'
' Huh?' I said, and paused, looking at her over my forkful of food.
' Well, doesn't it?' she asked.
' Doesn't it what? Doesn't what, what?'
' Doesn't the love of God compel us to have a refugee family in our home, to give them a new life in this country.' By now I had forgotten all that Statue of Liberty, give-me-your-tired rhetoric. I was the one who was getting tired. Besides, I was back in my job and had my concentration on the making of money.
' I thought we had settled that issue. I'm busy making money now. We'll be giving the lion's share of it to help the refugee situation. I'm sure they need the money we can generate a lot more than they need our home.'
' The love of God compels us.' The way she emphasized the word 'compels' made me uncomfortable. The glory of being self-employed was that no one compelled me to do anything. This conversation called for a change of pace.
' Whose idea was this in the first place?' I asked.
' So now I regret ever having brought it up. Why don't we just forget the whole thing?' Hypocrisy, it had been so easy to recognize in everyone else.
She thought about that for a moment. 'The love of God compels us.' This time her emphasis on the word 'God' made me realize she was serious.
' Look, I'm the seminary grad in this family, I'll handle the God-talk if you don't mind.'
The following evening at dinner I said, 'You know you're the one who is going to get stuck with all the work, all the running around?'
' Oh, yeah! That's what you think, mister! You'll be in this just as much as I will. All the money in the world doesn't mean a hill of beans if a person can't get his hands dirty once in a while.'
' Well, why don't you give them a call and see what the current situation is?'
The next evening at dinner she reported. 'I talked to the people at World Relief today. They still have long lists of people to be resettled.'
' So what did you tell them?'
' Well, they sort of have a special problem. They're able to place a lot of the small families, but have special difficulty in resettling the larger families.'
' How large are we talking here?' I asked.
' Large, large.'
' Uh oh. So what did you tell them?'
' I told them we'd talk it over.'
' May I make a suggestion?' I said.
' Go right ahead. I couldn't stop you if I wanted to.'
' I suggest we relax; watch a little TV. Maybe Hollywood's realistic approach to life will bring us back to our senses and we'll forget all this pie-in- the-sky stuff about solving the world's problems. What do you think, huh? Huh?'
' I think you're as crazy as people keep telling me you are,' she muttered to herself.
' What was that?'
' It wasn't important. Just forget it.'
' I'm trying to forget this whole thing,' I said. And I was, but I knew I couldn't. 'All right,' I finally said. 'Tell them we'll take one of those large, large families.'
' They'll be thrilled,' she answered. And I started wondering what sort of thrills we might be in for.
It was one of those typical Chicago summer days when Nancy and I put Dani and his three-month-old baby brother, Joey, into our Dodge Maxivan and drove to O'Hare to meet our refugee family. We really needed our little sons now; we knew they would provide more cross-cultural understanding than we ever could.
Our refugee family was smaller than we had anticipated. They had nine children but would only be bringing four: an infant, a boy of five, and two teenage boys. The other five had been lost.
Nancy and I stood with Dani and Joey watching six short refugees stumble up the walkway into a new world. It wasn't the same as entering New York harbor and passing under the lifted lamp; the lady of liberty inviting the world to give her its huddled masses. Even apart from the drama of the harbor, I could remember the strains of that old hymn, 'Give me your tired, your poor.' And here they were, headed straight at us; the wretched refuse, the homeless, tempest-tossed. And we, their statue of liberty.
No, it wasn't so dramatic-well, maybe it was for them. One could see their faces bright with that unmistakable yearning to breathe a breath of freedom. They were thrilled to see us even if our initial meeting was about as awkward as one might expect, salvaged only by the fact that the boys were able to give and take loving greetings so much better than we."
Excerpt from God in the Pits, The Enron-Jihad Edition, by Mark Andrew Ritchie
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