Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, December 14, 2015


As a rule of thumb, never looks better than when arriving cars thread the rows looking for the last open spaces in the mall parking lot. That's how it went last week. We should have known better than to go shopping in December, but it was December, only 20 days until Christmas.

People everywhere. In the air there's a feeling of Christmas, all right--ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. Store-to-store people. Lugging bundles. Lots of them. Hundreds. Thousands.

Listen, I'm not about to cast the first stone. When last week's first Syrian refugees arrived in Canada they were greeted by Justin Trudeau, our northern neighbor's way-too-handsome and far-too-youthful, brand new Prime Minister. Trudeau was there at the Toronto airport, with his family. Don't look for Ted Cruz in Dallas or Huck in Little Rock or Trump at the Tower making political hay with the same kind of deft move. They'd court their voters by slinging AK47s over their shoulders and standing guard at the gates.

But last week's overflowing mall crowd included more than a few young Middle-Easterners, immediately distinguishable by the women's veils. I rode the elevator just behind a whole bunch of Muslim millennials jabbering away in their own language. Barely a week had passed since San Bernadino. I was, I admit, uncomfortable.

I'm not proud of saying it, but I couldn't help wonder why on earth their women would wear hijabs right then, as if they were proud of their spiritual heritage. My nativist reactions surfaced in anger and fear. I'd rather not feel what I most certainly did. And I get it. I understand how, unlike Canada with its outstretched arms, Americans would rather keep the Syrians away. I get it. I got it in me too.

We've been reading Exodus as of late, and Moses is no great help. Pulled from the Nile by Pharaoh's daughter, he comes heir to the best education money can buy. He's raised in the court, fed on extravagance, treated as if he were a child of the king, a child of royal privilege. He becomes indistinguishable from his adopted siblings. He's no slave boy; he's silver-spooned Egyptian.

But as if he can't help himself, one day, after he's grown up, the Bible says, "he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor." What on earth made him think that the Israelite slaves were his own people? He'd gone to Yale or Harvard, did an internship on Wall Street, had a season ticket at Yankee Stadium. He knew more Egyptian history than Egyptians. But with his bare hands he kills the Egyptian beating the Israelite slave, the man who is "his people." 

So he takes off out to the desert, where one day he comes to the aid of seven sisters getting abused by some redneck shepherds. When the girls tell their father what happened, they explain it this way: "Some Egyptian showed up and sent those shepherds packing."

Who was Moses anyway?--was he Egyptian or Israelite? The girls' father gives this Egyptian one of his own daughters, a sweetheart named Zipporah, who, the nuptials behind them, then has a son Moses names Gershom because, he says, "I have become a stranger in a strange land."

I wish all of this were less confused, but it's God almighty who, it seems, finally determines Moses's identity when he tells him that he's seen the anguish of the Israelites and he's chosen Moses, this obscure desert-dweller who's become a Midianite, to be the actor and return to the Jews from whom he came, a people who are suffering in his own native Egypt at the hands of the people who raised him.

Everybody knows what follows--one of the most important stories in human history, the Exodus.

If Moses's story has any meaning in our present political crisis, it suggests that the matter of identity, the matter of our sense of home, isn't easily resolved. Can devout Muslims become American? That's the salient question, isn't it? Can they, like every other ethnic group, fit in here? Will they take their place among the shoppers at the mall at Christmas? Or will they turn, like 
Syed Rizwan Farook, into cold blooded killers?

Canada is betting they can become Canadian. We're putting our money elsewhere.

The choice is stark, but not easy: love and fear. Justin Treadeau himself was at the Toronto airport last week. He's chosen love.

Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Terry Branstad read it differently.

And I get it. I understand why.

But I don't agree.


Anonymous said...

Depends on your definition of love, right? Aren't other definitions of love just as viable? Your definition just follows the lefty party line, right?

The most loving response to the Syrian refugee crisis could possibly be to have them remain in their own country. Loving countries could establish a "safe zone" where conditions would provide Amazon-free influences. When living conditions improve the Syrian refugees could return to their home towns.

Sounds loving to me....

Anonymous said...

It is written: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not an easy thing to do; but, it is written.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, I would give my kids a swat on the butt for running into the street. While they were having a crying jag you would have thunk I was the most unloving parent on the planet... I loved them enough to keep them out of eminent danger and possibly death... I was the president of the "Mean Parents Club".

Today they are all over age 30 with kids of their own.... each has thanked me for crushing their self-concept, lowering their self-worth and causing permanent damage to their psyche...

Anonymous said...

The Rothschild tribe wants to break down all ethnic cohesion except their own. This is a blatant double standard. At one time 40% of Rothschild marriages were to 2nd cousins or closer.