Thursday, December 8, 2016

Complicated Dreams

Today I watched this video, where, in the words of the media Rick Santorum told a DREAMer "Get out of my country, and blame your parents."

Of course, if you actually listen to Santorum's words, that's not exactly what he said (but of course that doesn't matter to the media). His response was more nuanced than that, but before he had time to explain more he was cut off. I would like to have heard his whole response, as this is not a situation that can be handled by a sound bite.

I feel sorry for Rick Santorum, because he actually tries to have conversations where he dialogues with detractors and honestly tries not to impose one "side" of the issue. This was one of the reasons why I thought he would have made a good president. Sadly, the media, and the nation at large, seem to have little patience for this, but wants to pigeon hole public figures into some simple good/bad position they can tweet. The result of this are candidates like President Obama and president elect Trump.

DREAMer refers to a certain demographic of illegal aliens - those who were taken to the US as children and have grown up or are growing up in this country. They represent an interesting moral problem, which has reared its head throughout history, without satisfactory solutions.

As children, the DREAMers themselves are not responsible for committing any crime. Yet their presence here is illegal. They make the case that this is "their country" because they have known no other, and because they are members of American society. On the other hand, it doesn't change the fact that as illegals they have not been contributing income taxes, jury duties, military service, voting, etc.

So do we enforce the law as written, and deport them, or do we ignore the law and show clemency. Either decision creates a situation of injustice, because of the injustice originally committed upon them. Let's look at some similar moral issues and how they have been resolved.

When slavery was ended there was discussion about whether the ex-slaves should be sent back to Africa. In a sense, this would rectify the situation of them having been forcibly removed from their native lands in Africa. Yet, by the time of the Civil War most of those enslaved had been born on and grown up on American soil. Many had bloodlines, intermingled with that of white Americans, and for most there was no record of where they should go back to anyway. It not only was an unworkable solution, it would create a further injustice on a people so badly used.

We have the reverse situation today, where some people think that whites in America should pay reparation to the blacks because of the injustice of slavery. But again, nobody alive today is responsible for those acts, so extracting payments would be a further injustice.

Consider the case of Israel. The Palestinians point out that their land was taken from them after World War II and given to Jews unjustly. But the Palestinians of today are not the ones who had their land taken, and it would be impossible to determine who should get what land. Conversely, the citizens of Israel are not the ones who did the taking, and also wold have nowhere to go should their land now be seized. Israelis point out that they have contributed to their country and made it the only free state in the area. Once again, evicting the Israelis would not solve the original problem.

Or consider the case of the "snowflake babies" - embryos created via IVF and frozen. They are now not wanted, or in some cases have nowhere to justly go to be born. If they are thawed most of them will die, and if they remain frozen the situation is simply deferred. And if they are thawed and implanted, that creates additional injustices, such as the violation of a couple's marriage vows, and the denial of the right of these children to their parents. Pope John Paul II remarked "there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of "frozen" embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons."

I can think of dozens more situations that fit this same pattern. An injustice has been done, and there is no way to "undo" it without further injustice. So what do we do with DREAMers? I think it's important that we recognize that they are, in fact, law breakers, but also realize that they are not responsible for their current situation. I think it's good that they are speaking up, and putting their position in the lime light. The problem indeed has no "perfect" solution, but like every such issue we must find some measure of justice tempered with mercy.