SOLD OUT

SOMETIMES IT'S GOOD TO HAVE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; to be on the inside when the sign on the door says, “Sold Out.” It means you’re in, your place at the table is secure, you have a seat for the show—a show that is worthy of being sold out.

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What it is like to assume there would be room left, a ticket still available? You’ve looked forward to it, you got all dressed up, all psyched up, only to arrive, to come face to face with the “SOLD OUT” sign. You can see the others in the room. They made it. They signed up early. But you’re out: disqualified.

I am sure I’m too stupid to understand something as complex as immigration policy. Add to my stupidity the fact that I don’t  care much about economic theory. I'm intensely skeptical of the statistics regurgitated by ruminants, politicians and pundits regarding increased crime within immigrant populations. Even a hint of attitude of racial superiority makes my old, wrinkly, white flesh crawl.

I have always found anecdotes more persuaisive than analysis. I get that many people love the charts, the graphs, the conclusions drawn from some suspect concept of historical perspective, but I am persuaded when I hear a brilliant, eloquent law student from the Congo tell his story about how he gained access to the USA just days before new, heightened immigration policies, enforcements and theories, while his equally brilliant wife, whom he met in a refugee camp in Malawi, was not so lucky. Her paperwork wasn’t processed until a few days after the changing of the guard. He’s on one side of the door, she on the other.

Don’t try to explain it to me. I’m too stupid to see it all as anything but stupid.

Speaking of “selling out”, can we think about Faustian Bargains* for a moment. In my naive, stupid, liberal mind and soul, that is a threshold too costly to cross, but we do it? Why?! Why does that have to be a part of our human story?

Would you believe me if I said I’m not trying to be political, just human? But, I guess it inevitably has to be about politics. If so, here’s a viewpoint on one thorny issue of the current immigration debate which even I can grasp:

"We should have a better understanding and better relationship than we've ever had. Rather than talking about putting up a fence. Why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?” —Ronald Reagan speaking of Mexico as "our neighbor to the south." Houston, TX, 1980.


*Faustian bargain, a pact whereby a person trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for some worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches. The term refers to the legend of Faust (or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus), a character in German folklore and literature, who agrees to surrender his soul to an evil spirit (in some treatments, Mephistopheles, or Mephisto, a representative of Satan) after a certain period of time in exchange for otherwise unattainable knowledge and magical powers that give him access to all the world’s pleasures. A Faustian bargain is made with a power that the bargainer recognizes as evil or amoral. Faustian bargains are by their nature tragic or self-defeating for the person who makes them, because what is surrendered is ultimately far more valuable than what is obtained, whether or not the bargainer appreciates that fact. —from Encyclopædia Britannica

To wrap things up on a lighter note—here’s my favorite rendering of the Faustian bargain.

O Brother Where Art Thou

O Brother Where Art Thou

Patchwork

We have a “comforter” at our house. Although I have watched copious amounts of HGTV and have logged several hours in a Pottery Barn or two, I don’t claim to know my comforters from my quilts from my duvets.

To further clarify, I’m not necessarily speaking of this type of “comforter”:

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.” —Ecclesiastes 4:1

That’s for another day perhaps.

So here is a photo of our comforter. It is from IKEA®, so I guess it’s an immigrant comforter—Scandinavian, I believe. (I’ve also spent a few hours in IKEA®. It’s by design that you go there and stay awhile. If you’ve ever been in one you know you can’t get out until you reach the end—sort of like when we elect politicians to a four-year term. I can’t be certain of the comforter’s origin. It may actually be from Bangladesh. I cut the label off even though it warned that I was doing so at the risk of severe penalty. I can be anarchistic like that.

The comforter delivers on its promise. It is comforting; and warm, and utilitarian. Not once though, has anyone ever come to our house and said, “What a beautiful comforter, who made it?!”

However there is another covering in our home. Every time someone sees it they comment on its beauty.

While being mass-produced by the thousands and shipped from Sweden or Bangladesh is a story, this other covering has a real story. It was lovingly made by hand, by my daughter-in-law’s great aunt, Elda, who had curated the fabrics over time, selected the pieces with some kind of theme in mind, and then stiched them together just so. It was given to us as a gift.

It is comforting, warm and artful.

It is called a “crazy quilt” by people who know their coverings.

Now to the metaphor:

What if we could imagine our earthly collection of humanity as a jointed fabric of sorts—woven together by the things we share: hopes, dreams, water, air, sun, moon, food, beauty, strife, illness, hunger, love, hate, compassion, spite, courage, fear, selfishness and selflessness?

I really do understand the worldview that somehow it is more comforting to hunker down in perceived safety under a protective, homogeneous blanket, secured tight around it’s edges. I get that. But is it realistic? Is it beautiful? What about the stories that will never be written or told.

I am not bragging, but rather celebrating when I say that I have close friends who are young and who are old, who have a wide mix of religious views and thankfully are passionate about their beliefs. Friends who are of varied races, who are of varied sexual orientations. I have dear, dear friends who hold Donald Trump in the highest regard. And I have friends whose skin crawls at the mention of his name. I love them all. I’m grateful that my life is somehow stitched to theirs. I’m glad my quilt is crazy.

Is a “crazy quilt” crazy? Is it risky? Yes, that’s life. Do I believe in providence? Yes, in a weird sort of way that likely defies all logic but my own. Would I prefer the snowy white comfort of a utilitarian blanket over the crazy, wildly colored haphazardly stitched-together stories of flawed humans? Absolutely not.

Franklin Graham recently said, “Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized—and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”

It is also true that every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be a neighbor who contributes beautifully to the artful craziness of our American quilt, just as all who have formed this immigrant nation have.

I prefer the hope-fullness of this passage over the hopelessness of Graham’s words:

“Gather the people together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living among you—so they can listen well, so they may learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, and diligently keep everything in this Revelation.
And do this so that their children, who don’t yet know all this, will also listen and learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, for as long as you live on the land that you are crossing over [emigrate] the Jordan to possess.” —Deuteronomy 31:12-13