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Some 191 million people now live outside their country of birth and migration is a major feature of international life, U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan reported on Tuesday.

Migration has always been true. When your own country runs out of space, and is still undesirable, then it’s time to find a country more suitable, whether for financial, professional, or psychological reasons. There’s not a great society that didn’t depend on being attractive to others.

Of course, in losing the people those back home get the benefit of not having to provide for said people, and in many cases getting a piece of the new found income of the person. However, this also creates a dependency and decreases the urgency to improve their own infrastructure to keep people home, happy, and working. With this an almost permanent class stratification of the global community takes place. There is nothing inherent to this status whatsoever, it’s just a matter of habit or the pernicious effects of corruption within the “lower” countries. Ireland, for instance, showed quite clearly that new policies and an ambitious people can rise from an impoverished people exporter to a thriving economy in a matter of decades.

But, the money coming in from the migrant workers is a hard habit to break. Mostly because it is easy money for the government to keep coming in. The worse they do, the more people leave, and the more money comes in for the government to take a little (or a lot) off the top.

This easy money is also a whole lot of money. As this next quote illustrates, adding a bit of a surprise at the end.

Worldwide, money sent home by migrants totaled $232 billion in 2005, up from $102 billion in 1995. One third of global remittances went to just four countries, India, China, Mexico and France.

France? Where are all the French going? And why? Methinks there’s something we’re not being told about the state of that country.


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Like I was saying about immigration. It is the Christian thing to respond to people with dignity. It is also the Christian thing to respond to the source of the indignity.

Help the man beaten up on the side of the road. But stop the thieves from beating him up if you at all can.

The Church, in all its forms, needs to move the spotlight to where it belongs.

another side of the issue

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The foreign minister is coming to Washington in order to lobby for the illegals already here. He wants to make sure those who have made the journey can be given the honor of staying without being kicked out. They came illegally, yeah, but he thinks they should not have to be forced back, especially if they are doing good honest work.

So all you pub owners with illegal bartenders, you may have some breathing room.

a bit on immigration

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So, if you’ve caught the news, or your favorite politically minded blogger, recently you may have heard there’s a bit of a ruckus concerning immigration. For those native to Southern California, or Southern Anywhere In The Southwest, this is not a new topic of consideration. It’s sort of like a volcano, always seething under the surface erupting when some tectonic plate moves up or down, right or left.

Most folks are aware of the problems involved. There’s a lot of people coming into this country, illegally, to do what is mostly a whole lot of work. They make a big effort to do things we wouldn’t really want to do with no effort, all because, for the most part, such jobs may be bad but they pay, and I know how irritating it is to do a lot of work for no pay, or no work for no pay. Both are very poor for one’s diet, which is a problem, and more of a problem when a person is responsible for the diet of others.

Cardinal Mahoney, the LA Times, and others came out against the most recent attempts in congress to fix this issue once and for all. Honestly, I haven’t been paying attention to the details. Call me cynical, but I think it’s mostly all smoke and mirrors, with little that will be changed. But, after seeing the demonstrations, and reading a some bits on other sites, I suppose I’ll weigh in with my thoughts. Being I took sixteen weeks of Latin American history way back in Wheaton land, I am, of course, somewhat of an expert. Well, not really. But that and my own personal family history does inform my thinking.

Some have said this is the Civil Rights issue of our generation. I couldn’t agree more. I think this is absolutely a Civil Rights issue, not quite at the level of slavery, but definitely up there with the Jim Crow era, and child labor issues, and big labor disputes.

However, I don’t think Congress has any part in this. At least not our Congress. This is the biggest Civil Rights issue of our generation, but this is a problem of Mexico. The problem in the United States is we are forced to come to terms with problems that should not be problems, and make decisions in which no side can be righteous because the problem at the core is unrighteous from a much earlier source.

Let’s pretend for a moment. Imagine if the situation were reversed, that we were living in Bizarro North America, where up is down, where brown is white, and where Americans were eagerly making there way underneath fences and through badlands to get to the underclass jobs of the thriving Mexican economy.

Now, I can say I know a few Americans. If Mexico decided this method wasn’t working out for them, that they could not support two countries worth of people, who would we complain to? Would there be a mass demonstration in Mexico City led by people of all colors to insist that the Mexican government have better schools, better jails, better conditions for all the anglos who just want to eat? No. Of course not. We’d be in Washington. We’d be making this a political issue in every election from the local water board to the President of these United States. My goodness, I remember the last Presidential election and one of Bush’s big marks against him was the perception there would be a net loss of jobs in this country. Not a net loss of people going to other countries to find jobs, but a net loss of jobs, because of a recession, that was already changing.

Imagine if a vast number of people in our country had no hope of a job and had to scurry through the desert to do something silly in Mexico? That would be a Civil Rights issue of profound importance speaking of the failure of the American States to serve our own poor. Roosevelt faced just this, and radically changed the American scene.

So what now? In ethical circles today, however, there is no other moral agent besides America. There is no other cause, no other subject besides America. If there is something wrong. Blame America. This is particularly non-Christian, however. For a Christian, who in this world recognizes no borders as a limitation nor nationality as a badge of distinction should not just be about willing to criticize their own politics. A spade, to a Christian, should be a spade.

Which means, to me, the most Christian thing to do, the best illustration of ethical principles, would entail taking it to the governments most responsible, and making a major show of change. We don’t need Democrats or Republicans to do a thing. We need the Mexican government to stand up for its own people, to fight its own corruption and rebuild a country that does not force millions of its own citizens to leave their family and homes to go to something stupid in a foreign country.

In my estimation Jesus would not be saying a word to Bush, but would be down there chatting with Fox, chatting with the various Bishops, encouraging the people to take a stand, and encouraging people up here to take a stand in the way that really matters.

Otherwise, it all just looks like the same old dumb politics dressed up in religious and ethical clothes, but cares very little about actually helping people in the ways that count.

The Christian response to all of this? Get Mexico in order. Get all those countries with starving populations in order. Until they do their part, until their leaders of churches and politics are willing to step up, America can never do the right thing, and it’s a waste of time for us to think we can.


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The number two Christian missionary sending nation? South Korea

This certainly is no surprise to me, as my time at Fuller Seminary and at Wheaton, informed me that Koreans are among the most passionate and dedicated Christians around. This doesn’t mean they are without their own ecclesial issues, of course, many of which mimic the mega-church issues we have here.

This does reality raises a couple of curious thoughts. If Korea is #2 in sending missionaries can we in any way call Christianity a Western religion? Is it back to being what it was in the beginning, an Asian religion?

Second, what does this say about the Korean War. Certainly, had the whole north and south become communist the Koreans would not be sending missionaries to other parts of the world. War helped stop the tide of a destructive force, and gave room for an enlivening force to grow within South Korea, and throughout the world. Can I say all wars are wrong if the #2 missionary sending nation now is in its present existence precisely because of a very fierce war in the early 1950s?

History is a curious thing.

Israel and Palestine

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Well, Hamas won the elections in Palestine, which likely will have all manner of people putting on sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. However, when I first heard about it this morning I had a different reaction. Maybe its because I have a strong inclination to shaking things up if there is entropy or stagnation. If it’s not working, juggle things around and see how it lands. The worst situation to be in is motionless, especially if the place of non-motion is altogether awful for all involved.

Yes, things may get worse, and that’s a definite risk, but things may also get better. Either way new questions will have to be asked and people will have to become active again in answering these questions.

Hamas now has to do in action what it has done in rhetoric. It is in charge, and the state of things will now be on Hamas’ shoulders. Either this will result in Hamas becoming appropriately responsible for the people, rather than using the people as human fodder for political extremism. Or they will show themselves to be unequal to the challenge, thus exposing their leadership as frauds and thus in future years destroying their support. The Palestinian people have heard the rhetoric of Hamas for decades. Now they give them a chance to step up to the plate. And this, in the long run, is a good thing. Put up or shut up, Hamas.

So, while I felt I should be bothered, I’m actually pleased, and when I got to reading this excellent perspective on the subject by Emanuele Ottolenghi I agree even more with my initial reaction. He notes:

There will be no excuses or ambiguities when Hamas fires rockets on Israel and launches suicide attacks against civilian targets. Until Tuesday, the PA could hide behind the excuse that they were not directly responsible and they could not rein in the “militants.” Now the “militants” are the militia of the ruling party. They are one and the same with the Palestinian Authority. If they bomb Israel from Gaza — not under occupation anymore, and is therefore, technically, part of the Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers in 1988, but never bothered to take responsibility for — that is an act of war, which can be responded to in kind, under the full cover of the internationally recognized right of self-defense. No more excuses that the Palestinians live under occupation, that the PA is too weak to disarm Hamas, that violence is not the policy of the PA. Hamas and the PA will be the same: What Hamas does is what the PA will stand for.

Continuing to pursue a violent path will automatically switch off all international aid. Perhaps Hamas intends to offset the resulting loss of revenue by hosting Holocaust-denial conferences in Gaza and terrorist training camps in Rafah, but it will still have to explain to the Palestinian public why it’s better to renounce public aid to wage war.

So far the Palestinian people have been far more damaged by the corruption of their own leaders than anybody else. This election, if nothing else, pushes out those who have proven to be corrupt, and lets in those who may be violent and wicked and misguided, but may also turn out to at least be honest in helping those who depend on them. Responsibility is a maturing force, and it will be interesting to see how Hamas now transistions into political adulthood.

“One shot over the bow there, Mr. Pullings”

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In a Jeffersonian tale, the US Navy captures a pirate ship off the coast of Somalia.

I don’t know what it is, but this is a cool story.

thoughts on nationalism

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I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this but I was thinking about it this morning for whatever reason and feel interested in noting it now.

I find it a curious thing that I come down on one side of the political fence, and a good many of the people I would call friends come down on the other side. Indeed, there are people who I would agree on all manner of topics who would become quite angry at me when I talk about certain issues relating to war and patriotism.

Patriotism is a mixed word these days, no one wants to deny having it, but a good many people are suspect of those who seem to have too much of it. Patriotism, in this way, is really our civil religion. Pull it out for holidays and parades, but leave it at home for the most part and don’t make a show of it for others who think differently.

I, however, like waving the Flag, value the Pledge of Allegiance, and think the Star Spangled Banner is a rousing tune. I don’t think America is a force of evil, nor moving that direction, and I think a show of patriotism is a wonderful thing, even when others may disagree with the sentiment.

Having a civil fervor seems a dandy delight, so I wonder why some are so suspect. I think it has to do with having a different understanding of what it is such people like me are about when we wave the flag and rouse the American conscience.

Europe had a bit of nationalism over the last several hundred years, and it caused all manner of problems. That I think is how America is understood. European nationalism was defined in terms of contrast. I am German, you are not German. I am Italian, you are not Italian. I am Russian, you are not Russian. And with this contrast comes an attempt to define their being in some way, which gets tricky when everyone basically looks alike. Sure there are language differences, but sometimes these aren’t firm lines, and people move around to different locations. The uniting force then became this vague since of national identity, where one is not just part of a nation but birthed from a Nation, and it is the vague understanding of Nationhood which forms the identify for the people within. Thus Germany is the Fatherland, and a patriotic resident of Moscow speaks of Mother Russia. People are defined by their national identity, and thus protection and defense of the national identify in contrast to other national identities forms the basis of each person’s own understanding of being and value.

Then, like with individuals, the assertion of being often becomes the assertion of oneself over another. To be approved one must conquer, and to be supreme one must vanquish. The national identity is challenged by other national identities, and thus wars result from this curious nationalistic psychology. Thus, to recover its own sense of being and value after World War I, the Germans felt it entirely right to do so by invading others, and seeking to rid their society of anyone who did not meet their understanding of what it meant to be German, which was, above all, a dedication to Germany as the height of identity. Any other identity, whether it was Jewish, or French or Russian, was rejected and anathema, so must be destroyed in order to affirm the fullness of German being. Paternity does not like being challenged.

So, when Americans wave their flag, and invade other countries, and assert that we are, in fact, #1 not only in warfare, but also at the Olympics and in strip malls per capita, people get worried. The Brits, and the French, and the Spanish all had a go at this and affected global politics profoundly. The Germans got their national identity together a little late to join the carving up of lines of longitude and so when they tried to do what the others did, they mucked up the whole show, but it wasn’t because they were doing something new. Now, each of these countries had various levels of success in their attempts to assert their Alpha Nation status upon the world, but all have been marked by that arrogance and attitude of master and slave, which the master finds quite all right but the slave would rather do without thank you very much.

Now, people think we think it’s our turn. We’re the Alpha Nation now, and when we wave our flag people think we too want our little stars and stripes in the corner of the Iraqi or Afghani or Korean flag.

This is where the trouble in understanding each other can be found. Some of the people think this is how we think, the rest, including me, understand America in rather entirely different terms. Ours may be nationalism and patriotism but it is entirely unlike the German, or the Spanish, or even the British form of such.

I, for instance, can be entirely patriotic, but it would be entirely awkward for me to say or hear “Mother America” or speak of returning to the Fatherland when I am overseas. I am entirely American, however, with my roots being here as thoroughly as can be found, with only the occasional sprinkling of new blood from the old countries mixing in during the past hundred years or so. One side can be traced back to Texas, the other back to North Carolina. Records do not say where Oden comes from, nor my maternal side McBride, though supposition suggests a Celtic land for the latter and a Nordic for the former. My identity is American, and a Western American at that, which in my opinion is a particularly American sort of American.

But, I don’t think in terms of American forming my reality, inspiring my devotion and forming my being. I don’t think of being part of this overarching reality called America, to which I am just part of a long line of participants in the Form of America, to which I must conform or be rejected. European Nationalism is a top down sort of reality, starting with National Identity in which participants must attune themselves in order to assert their being.

American Nationalism is something different. It is a bottom up sort of nationalism, defined not by assertions of America as forming a people, but as a people forming America. Waving the Flag is not an expression of Nationhood, as much as it is an expression of allegiance to my neighbors, in space and time. America is a symbol of the people who make up America, which is why we are a changing sort of people, contentious with ourselves, and adaptable to new realities. Our identity is not formed in contrast to other identities but in the sharing of particular values and emphases and struggles. America is not diminished by there being a Mexico, nor weakened when Japan has an unhealthy trade imbalance. Because we do not form our identity in contrast with others, we have the inherent abilitity to working well with others, if they want to work with us. Indeed, the American consciousness values the assertion of others. We do not want to make a little America in Iraq, rather our American values and sense of identity wants to assert our being by helping Iraq become fully Iraqi, letting the people there define their reality in their way as we define ours in our way.

We the People is the hallmark of American patriotism, not the fatherland or the motherland or antipathy towards other identities. Ours is a bottom up nationalism, and in my estimation this kind of nationalism is thus far entirely new to the stage of World History, and thus comparisons of past versions of nationalism may show similarities, but have a different sort of heart at the core. Our language, our singing, our flag waving may look eerily similar to societies past, but we approach this all entirely differently, which makes us confusing and threatening and hopeful all at once. Democracy, we showed, can work for a people used to a king. And maybe, just maybe, our form of nationalism may also work, which is a nationalism rejoicing in other nations finding themselves, because we are whole in who we are, and want others to find the same wholeness.


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Yudhoyono, in a speech marking the anniversary, said the tsunami had afforded a “golden opportunity” to end the conflict and suggested the peace deal was “an example of how a new hope for peace can emerge out of the ruin of destruction.”

After 30 years of fighting the rebels in Indonesia decide the time for war is over. Thanks to the tsunami.


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Saw a commercial today and it made me pause. It consisted of a number of people with darker skin saying “thank you”. An announcer talked about the progress in Iraq. I assumed it must be a Republican thing. Turned out it was made by Kurds.