Tree-house

The tree grew from within the house, all on its own, slowly taking it over. The owners were amused at first, but then they had to move out. It hadn’t simply eaten them out of house and home; it had grown so that finally there wasn’t any room left for them. It had taken years, of course, so they didn’t realize that was what was happening. All they knew was that they felt an increasing pressure, a cramped-ness, an overwhelming sense of smallness. They thought they had outgrown their house, but actually it had outgrown them.

The Mueller family had bought the house back in 1976, back when they had moved to Philadelphia. Of course it wasn’t called Philadelphia when the area had first been settled, all those hundreds of years ago. Back then it was Coaquannock, named by the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The name meant “Grove of Tall Pines” back then. Now there was no grove, because the pines had been cut down by the new immigrants, the new settlers from across the sea. They cut down the trees to build their beds, their chest of drawers, their homes.

They had moved in just like this tree, quietly, surely, intending to coexist side by side. But then they too grew too big and started pushing out the people who were there. Back then it wasn’t just a house, but a whole area, a city, a state, then the entire country. They set up their own rules, their own laws, even their own names for the towns they had taken.

So much for “City of Brotherly Love”, the meaning behind Philadelphia. They only wanted peace for themselves. “Brother” meant people they fellowshipped with, not everyone. They followed the letter of the law and not the Spirit.

Perhaps this tree was trying to right a wrong. Or perhaps it was simply following in the settler’s footsteps. Or perhaps karma is real.



(Written 6/22/18)

Advertisements

The illegal alien

Charlie Jones was an extra on the set of a second-rate science-fiction series, but he never took off his costume. He couldn’t. The other actors just thought he was a method actor, that staying in his costume meant staying in character. They didn’t know how he could possibly endure the heat in that suit, or how he got the fake fur to be so lustrous and soft. The trick is that it wasn’t a trick. He really was an alien. Sure, he wasn’t a “Graglethorp” or whatever silly random assortment of letters the writers came up with. He was an Acthun, of the planet Acthunis, in the Gamma quadrant. Of course, his people didn’t call it the “Gamma” anything, seeing as they didn’t know Greek and they certainly didn’t think of themselves as third in line. “Gamma” only makes sense if you think of yourself as first (Alpha) and you’ve already found your first neighboring quadrant with more planets. It was kind of how many indigenous cultures simply called themselves “The People” since they had no reason to differentiate between themselves and other humans. As far as they know they were the only humans.

Charlie Jones had an Acthun name, but it wasn’t pronounceable to humans. Their tongues would need to be bifurcated in order to get the right trill. And even if he said it humans tended to cover up their ears because the pitch was so high. So he came up with a “normal” name, one that wouldn’t mark him as foreign. He really needed this job to work out and couldn’t afford to be discriminated against, even unintentionally. He had a family at home that was depending on him to send back money.

He couldn’t wire transfer it, or mail it. PayPal wouldn’t work for off-world bank accounts (not yet). So once he got his check cashed, he’d photograph half of the money, email the picture to the neighborhood administrator (who had a Gmail account like everybody else) and then burn the money so he couldn’t use it. The administrator would then credit his family’s account with the appropriate amount (once the exchange rate was taken into consideration) and then they could pay their bills.

There weren’t a lot of bills to pay, but even a little is too much when you don’t have an income. Only Charlie was allowed to work, being the only one in the family above 20 and below 50. And male, of course. Everyone else was forbidden by law to work, it being seen as too much of a hardship. Most Acthuns worked the same job nonstop for 30 years and then retired, some to plenty and some to poverty. The jobs were chosen for them in high school. It was believed that by then your personality and aptitude were locked. Everyone took a series of tests and their appropriate career was computed for them. Some care was taken to ensure that the job would be something they would like and be good at it, but it wasn’t an exact science. Mistakes were sometimes made, but usually the citizen just quietly endured, or took up drinking cactus wine to cope.

But not Charlie. He’d been unhappy with his job since the first week, after the (inadequate) apprenticeship was over. He was sure the counselor had made a mistake, maybe swapped his test with someone else’s, or transposed a number when typing in the data. S/he assured him that wasn’t possible because s/he been doing this job for 20 years and there’d never been a complaint.

S/he was an exception, a non-male who was allowed to work. Not a female, and yet not a male, but something other, undefined. The Acthuns understood that there were shades of reality, that rarely was anything 100% one way or another. They understood the concept of “gray” and were amused that was the term for extraterrestrial visitors used on Earth, along with “alien”. So they had a third gender, and these citizens were allowed to work if they wanted to, and could choose any job not already assigned to a male. But they were not obliged to work and could collect the same communal salary that unattached females and seniors were entitled to if they had no male to support them.

But Charlie had to work. It wasn’t optional. And he certainly didn’t want to work in the factory he’d been assigned to. Not for even a year, and certainly not for 30 years. He just couldn’t bear the idea of it. Why had he chosen to be born male? All children were told us – told that they had made a “soul contract” before being born as to who they be. This may or may not have been true, but it was a good story to keep the citizens in line. This way, they thought of their lot in life not as something done to them, but somehow their own fault.

Charlie was a renegade as far as the Acthun way went. He refused his assignment, rebelled against the convention that he chose his unfulfilling and frankly unsuitable career, and even his gender. So he sweet-talked a former classmate and stowed away inside the first transport ship to Earth. The Acthuns regularly made trips to and from Earth to restock and refresh from the vast breeding supply of cows there, who they used as mates. Their own gene pool had gotten shallow over the decades-long war/famine on their planet and they needed new blood. After enough survey teams had tested Earth’s nearest analog to their biology and found it acceptable, the ships began removing cows to use as broodmares. They never took bulls after that first unfortunate incident. It was decided that Acthun males could mate with the cows, but the females would only mate with other Acthuns. The cows were shipped back after five seasons, out of concern some do-gooder would start expecting them to be granted citizenship. Imagine that! A cow, a full citizen! It had been brought to the planet as a servant, a slave, even.  It could not be thought of as even remotely equal to them. That would upset the entire social system.

Charlie had no plans of being an Earth citizen. He was on the planet illegally, a true alien. So he kept a low profile – as low as possible, looking how he looks – and tried to make enough money to support his family and hopefully enough more to pay to get a second (and hopefully better) career assigned to him when he returned.

A different take on the immigration issue.

shirt

(Image credit – Lupito’s Photography)

A friend posted this image on social media recently, and while some of his friends understood the message, some decided to take it another direction.

Ed S. said “It wasn’t stolen they fought among themselves until a third player beat everyone…has happened before…pick up a book.”

My friend replied “A third party that steals is still stealing.”

Grant A. replied “Who can claim domain first? Different tribes utterly destroyed each other from the beginning of time, well into early American history. Should Mexicans give Mexico back to the Mayans, Aztecs, Toatecs and Omatecs? They are after all in all essence Spanish by decent for the most part. This is a question deeper than we will ever know. Who was here first originally and has the original claim?”   and added “correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t early settlers/government call westward expansion imminent domain? I haven’t studied history concerning this since college.”

To which my friend replied “The thing about history is that it is written by the victors”

And here is my reply –

“I’ve heard this line of reasoning before. Is it a script? Because it doesn’t justify how we took their land and forced them onto reservations. Maybe deep down the fear of immigrants is rooted in karma – that they will do to whites what our predecessors did to the people who were living here. Maybe it is time to break the habit of history repeating itself. Maybe there is something in the message of Jesus feeding the masses, that if we give thanks to God for what we have, and share it with those in need, there will be more than enough. Maybe I’m an idealist, but so was Jesus. And he is worth following.”

 

 

On the recent immigrant crisis and the Christ-like response

There are a lot of very unsettling things about the immigrant crisis in Europe. It isn’t just the sheer numbers all at once that is the problem for many of the governments. For many of the governments, it is the fact that the vast majority of the immigrants are Muslim. They are concerned because of previous acts of violence that have been perpetrated by other Muslims. They are concerned, and playing it safe.

If you want to break into someone’s house, the easiest way to do it is not to break in. Instead of trying to break down the door and threatening someone with a gun, try simply knocking on the door. Say you’re a traveling salesman. Or better than that-look injured. They’ll open their door and maybe even take you into their home without a fight.

Here’s a terrible thought, what if the immigrant crisis that is going on in Europe is exactly this going on? What if these aren’t refugees from a war but they are invaders? What if this is an invasion using no weapons and relying on our compassion to destroy us?

Without a fight, without a lot of lives lost, and for very little money an immense amount of people can invade a land and take up residence in it. It’s genius.

Consider the 9/11 bombers. They didn’t fly over in their own planes. They came over quietly, legally, and learned how to fly a plane here. They then hijacked our planes and flew them into the trade towers. This is using our technology against us. This is using our compassion against us. It required very little outlay of their own resources.

However, Jesus says “Turn the other cheek”.
Jesus says “Pray for your enemies”.
Jesus hung out with people who everyone else thought were sinners.
We are reminded over and over again to be kind to the stranger because we were once strangers.
Jesus says “He who would save his life must lose it”.
Jesus tells us that we can’t be harmed by anything – not snakes, not poison, if we are acting in His behalf.

If Europe, a majority Christian area, attempts to keep out Muslims out of fear that they are being invaded by Muslims, then they are going directly against the commands of Jesus. Even if Europe is taking over, even if these refugees turn out to not be refugees at all but are invaders, we are commanded to be kind to them.

For Europe to close its borders and close its heart is not Christ-like at all. They would not be preserving Christianity but making a mockery of it. Who knows, perhaps the Muslims might notice our compassion and not see us as chumps but as Christians, as worthy of joining. Perhaps instead of taking over us we will overcome them. Perhaps they will notice our love and through us see the love of Jesus.

Refugee crisis

There’s this huge refugee crisis going on in Europe. People from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (among other countries) are escaping war and crushing poverty any way they can – often by foot or by overcrowded boat. Some are landing in Greece, up to 30 boats a day, having walked through Turkey. The countries they are coming to aren’t prepared and are reacting by putting up borders or posting guards. If there are refugee camps, they are sad states, with tents and no running water and one toilet for every 100 people.

The refugees are complaining, saying that they thought things would be better in Europe. They are saying that dogs live better than this. They are saying it is inhumane. They are complaining to any country that will listen.

Yet what can be done? The people have no money and no jobs. They aren’t legally immigrating. They have no passports or visas. Then they are expecting to be fed and housed for free, indefinitely. Countries such as Greece already have austerity measures for their own citizens – they don’t have extra for these people they didn’t expect.

Let’s think of it this way – If a hundred people show up at your doorstep and insist on coming in your house, but don’t have any money to buy their own food or any extra clothes, do you take them in? How long do they get to stay? If your house is big and you have a lot of extra money, this won’t hurt you much. But what if you are just making it as is? You don’t suddenly have more money because you have more people staying at your house. There will be less to go around. You didn’t invite these people, yet they are ungrateful that they are getting gruel to eat and have to share beds or sleep on the floor. They are complaining to the mayor and the governor.

Jesus says that we are to welcome the stranger. Jesus says that we are to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked. Jesus tells us that he is not of the world, and that we, as his followers will have otherworldly abilities through him. We are to do these things not out of our excess, but out of God’s excess.

Yet this all sounds like a fairy tale.

Jesus made food appear out of thin air. He fed 5000 people at one occasion, and 4000 people at another, with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. He wasn’t prepared – he didn’t even provide the fish or the bread. He used what was there and it became enough. We are supposed to follow his example, but it seems something has gotten lost in the translation. Over these 2000 years, we’ve not learned the trick of how to do this. We don’t know how to make food stretch and expand. We can’t heal by a touch or a word like he could either.

But maybe that is the problem. Maybe we can if we stop saying we can’t. Maybe we can if we stop getting upset that the church leaders didn’t teach us anything useful and kept it to themselves, and then forgot it because they kept the secret so well. They were so concerned about the secret getting out that they hid it even from themselves. Maybe there isn’t a secret. Maybe it is all about trusting.

Meanwhile, people are showing up. Last report I read said that 340,000 refugees had escaped their countries just this year. This is similar to the great exodus that happened in WW2. And Europe is finally coming to understand what America has been dealing with (or not dealing with) for years.

Immigrant / Refugee

These words are on the Statue of Liberty –
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But they don’t mean anything anymore. They sound good, but we as Americans don’t really mean them. We like to think we do, but our actions and policies say otherwise.

Remember when “immigrant” wasn’t a dirty word? Now, with the large group of Mexican children at America’s border, the word has shifted from “immigrant” to “refugee”.

That is what they are. That is what they have always been. They are looking for a better life. They can’t make it there, so they are trying to make it here.

This has always been a nation of immigrants.

The Puritans, seeking religious freedom.

The Irish, escaping famine.

The Chinese, in search of jobs where they can earn a living wage.

Layer upon layer, they come and add to the flavor of this country. This country is made up of mutts.

But Americans are scared. They don’t want “them” to take away their jobs or use up their resources. Public education and healthcare isn’t free – they are supported with tax dollars. If you are illegally here, you aren’t paying taxes. You are using resources that you haven’t paid for.

And then we gripe about having to change our signs and paperwork to be in English and in Spanish. That costs money too, money we don’t have.

We may say that America is the richest country, but we are in debt up to our ears. We don’t have the resources to take care of ourselves, much less everybody else. We don’t have room, or time, or much of anything else left over.

But what we do have is more than what they have.

Mexicans are fleeing drug cartels and police on the take. They are fleeing crushing poverty and illiteracy. They are fleeing lives where the only thing to look forward to is death.

For years they were referred to as “illegal immigrants” – but now with this huge group of Mexican children at the border, the term has shifted to “refugee” to garner sympathy.

So what do we do? Take them in? Adopt them out? Put them in foster care? Who is going to tend these children? Where is the money going to come from?

Should we make every Mexican in this country “legal” – drop all immigration limits and expect everybody to work and pay taxes and learn the language? Make a rule that if you want to come here, you have to pull your weight just like everybody else?

We all have to be on the same page.

We aren’t united. We are rather divided. And we are falling. We have a chance here, a choice. We have a chance to be “A Christian nation” like we like to think we are, and welcome in the stranger and treat our neighbor with the same kindness we wanted.

But how? With what money? We had to shut down the federal government for weeks last year due to no money.

We say we want to do the right thing, but when push comes to shove, we’d rather do what hurts less.