I’m glad I am not the only worried one. The national media wandered into a couple of territories with which I am familiar recently: Citizen’s Bank Park and Imperial Valley, CA. They told some disturbing, important truths about where our country is headed.
Jacob and I were at the Phillies game when the teenager got tasered by the Philadelphia policeman. A hush fell over the crowd where I was, followed by boos. I don’t think any of us knew quite what to think as we saw the kid fall on the ground. Although Gov Rendell thinks it should not have happened, the polls seem to be going in favor of tasering trespassers. People seem to just be happy the authorities are tasering instead of shooting bullets!
It makes more sense than ever why my youngest friends are so hesitant to speak up about being a Christian among their friends and workmates. The last ten years have seen a steady erosion in the respect for people who express a “suspicious” mentality. Running around on a baseball field is hardly defense-worthy self-expression, but watching someone getting tasered for doing so sends a message: the powers that be can stop you and stop you hard. I kind of wish all the seventeen year olds in the stands had rushed the field and run around in protest. But, as it is, I think people digested the message that the police are prepared to do what it takes to keep us in line. We are all terrorists until proven innocent. If you suddenly bring up a picture of Jesus being questioned by Pilate in your mind, I think that might be appropriate.
Another story someone mentioned to me makes me understand a bit more about how hard-hearted our government is prepared to be. Something has been happening along the southern border of my old home state, California. Had I found a way to do it, I really wanted to get involved in calling for justice and love at the center of the immigration debate in neighboring Arizona by trekking with some people at the end of May along the “migrant trail.” Out in the desert, desperate people too often die trying to get to some work in the U.S. CBS had a segment on 60 Minutes about drownings in the All American Canal which was even more appalling to view than the tasering.
After about 16 years of the government burying victims in Imperial County, CBS said something about it. The fence the government put up in the urbanized areas nearer San Diego works. It sends people out into the desert to cross the border, where they meet up with the All American Canal – a swift-moving aqueduct bringing Colorado River water to San Diego. It is like a moat for California. The canal has no escape devices for people who fall in or dive in. Scores have died. The Imperial County officials seem to think that if you are doing this illegal thing, you should die. There is a growing collection of graves for unknown drowning victims. It is horrifying how willing the populace is to accept the deaths of foolish and desperate people in the All American Canal, and the whole Sonora desert.
The incident at the ball park and the militarization of the border are both examples of how we are all being tempted to accept our government’s commitment to violence as the best way to solve problems. I don’t want to be silently complicit as the culture develops in that direction.
We, as the members of the Lord’s body, as the light of the world, are the alternative to the evils of the world. We should not be so threatened that we make our cell meetings a secret we fearfully hide lest someone make us illegal. The new humanity is built by obedient followers of Jesus who don’t care if telling the truth about evil puts them at odds with the same fearmongers who killed Jesus in the name of national security,