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We don't need vigilantes sitting in judgment, making lists

July 18, 2010



I’m an enthusiastic list-maker:  “Things to Accomplish Before the In-Laws Arrive,” “Books to Read,” “Summer Salad Recipes to Try,” “Ways I Could Be A Less Bad Person ...”

Still, I cannot imagine the kind of adult who makes a list of people to tattle on.  The type of person who judges other people —  strangers — and decides that those people should be punished.  The person who even goes so far as to conduct research in order to find people to punish, without knowing or caring what those people’s stories might be.

If I were the maker of such lists — and I really want to stress that I am not, I would put on my punishment list the compilers of a list of 1,300 names of people who may or may not be in the United States legally.  I’d like to see them have to squirm.

Whoever made this list and turned it in anonymously to immigration officials and media outlets in Salt Lake City tattled only on Latino people even though people from any country you can name, and dozens more you cannot name, come to this country, many of them in utter desperation, some of them in fear for their lives.

The least privileged American citizen cannot know the poverty, pain and deprivation, the hopelessness and fear that some people around the world experience.  How can we blame them for wanting to come here?

The very idea that someone, from the comfort and security of a small American city like ours, would observe her or his neighbors and presume to decide who is worthy and who is not worthy of belonging here is so offensive to me that I find my computer keyboard and its infinite possibility of letter combinations hopelessly incapable of expressing my outrage.

The list-makers’ action is about racism, pure and simple.  They may say it’s about resource allocation, about “other” people “taking” what’'s “ours,” but that’s bunk.  It’s racism.  Plus fear, plus hate.

I used to be kind of annoyed by the ubiquitous What Would Jesus Do? but now I truly appreciate it because it’s a pretty good rejoinder to people who pretend to be religious but are really something else.

I don’t know if the list-makers think of themselves as religious people, but I am a native of Salt Lake City and I know how to play the averages.  Let’s assume the list was made by religious people who think of themselves as socially conservative, folks who are in favor of the tea party protests.  How is it that these types so often profess to be devoutly religious yet are often disastrously bad at being good people?

I grew up here a non-Mormon kid, constantly being told by friends and schoolmates that such-and-such was against their religion.  That’s fine, but just the sheer volume of times you’re told that can start to grate on you and at some point you notice the makeup of the list.  Gambling, sure.  Swearing, drinking, OK.  But where’s racism?  Where’s injustice?  Where’s hating?  Don’t they belong on the list?

There are serious problems with our immigration situation and I’m open to humanely addressing them.  This should be a national dialogue, with all kinds of people contributing their thoughts and working together for a solution America can be proud of.

What we do not need are self-righteous vigilantes who have more in common with their forebears from America’s most shameful moments in history, moments where Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, and other groups —- women, gay and lesbian people -— were fair game to be singled out and judged inferior.

That, list-makers, is against my religion.

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Barb Guy is a regular contributor to these pages.

 

 

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