The story of us
The problem with the story of us is that it is written by other hands. Told by other tongues.
But the true story of us is only breathed by our asbestos-filled lungs, shaped only by our bruised and calloused hands.
The story of us is portaged only, on our bending, bowing backs …
The problem with the story of us is that it is not written by us.
It is instead, a story borne out of fear. In fear’s narrative, we are described in the most unkind terms possible. As “users” of services, as a “drain” on our economy, as thieves of jobs (never mind that a job is not something you steal but something you work), and most commonly our children, our sisters, our mothers, our reverend grandmothers and grandfathers, are described as ILLEGAL ALIENS.
While this fear-based narrative is admittedly unkind, most importantly, it also incomplete. Left out of this narrative is the fact that the 50 million Latinos who live and work in the U.S. make significant contributions to the economy of this great country. For example …
In 2011, Hispanic spending power is estimated at $1.2 trillion a year.
Undocumented workers generate goods and services worth more than $120 billion a year in the U.S.
Documented and undocumented Mexican immigrants pay $25–$30 billion in taxes each year. In Oregon alone, undocumented immigrants pay over $154 million to $309 million in state taxes every year.
Indeed, the narrative of us, the story of us, is most incomplete, or still, the truth of it is distorted, is bent by the gravity of fear.
And fear has a shrill voice. You hear these shrill voices on the radio. There are many and they are loud. Recently, one of these distorted voices has come under examination: Rush Limbaugh, while attacking a woman who was advocating for women’s reproductive freedoms, referred to her as a “prostitute.”
Since then a great many things have been said about Limbaugh and his choice of words for women seeking to protect their reproductive rights. There has been international condemnation of his fear-based hate speech. He has been called a “fear mongerer” and “a sexist pig” by some. While these labels may be accurate, it is important to see what else Limbaugh represents.
For over a decade Limbaugh and his sponsors have been railing against immigrants in the most unkind terms possible. And largely, there has been a great resounding silence from all but the pro-immigrant advocates. Not until this latest outburst has a great and previously silent voice been roused from its slumber. Women, in their full ranks have been roused to action and those who have provided financial support for Rush’s hate speech are now paying attention.
We are grateful for this awakening voice. And so, while Limbaugh represents the worst of our intolerance, he also represents a kind of mindfulness bell, reminding us that when the least of us is prosecuted, when the least of us remains unprotected, through our silence, that it is just a matter of time before that unabridged hate, that rage, spills over to the rest of us.
In fact, it is neither the multiplicity, nor the volume, or even the tenor of these shrill voices that is the problem. Rather, I have come to believe firmly that the problem is our collective silence which allows this fear and hate to stand.
The problem then, is not, I repeat, is not the shrill voice of intolerance but our own muted silence. The problem is not with fear’s narrative or the fear mongerer, but with our consensual silence, which permits these untruths to root in the fecund field of our consciousness. We cannot and must not allow this giving over to hate, this bending toward ignorance and intolerance.
This has me thinking about sin. But a different kind of sin. It has me thinking about silence as sin.
Two years ago, after embarking on a year’s sabbatical, I did something which I had wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I took a vow of silence. For a month. For 30 days and nights, I did not speak to my loved ones or anyone else.
Why would anyone do this, you may ask. And to this day, the only answer I can give is that every morning when I wake, I am surrounded by so much mystery, that the only appropriate response in the face of this mystery is silence.
And so for me to talk about silence as sin is not an insignificant departure. But so profound is the absence of our voices, that I have no choice than to conclude this:
That silence in the face of injustice is a sin.
What then is Limbaugh or even the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin? They are a reminder. A reminder to us of our interdependence. But most importantly of all, it is a reminder of the resting power of our collective voices calling for justice for ALL.
Este artículo también está disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
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