Monday, July 7, 2014

Despair Kills Babies

Dear Jeanne,

I’m searching for my notes about Albuquerque, not to argue about the Latino vote there, but to make a point about our disagreement.  After your remarks about the vote there, I went to get all the data I could (not much), and I was convinced that the data available was inconclusive.  It did offer soft support for your conclusion, in the sense that I could follow your argument about the data; but there were significant holes, and I thought one could fit the data into a nearly opposite conclusion.  (The Latinos did not carry the day for life: true.  Also true: the vote became a partisan vote, and pro-lifers failed abysmally to reach across party lines: that was the most obvious lesson from the polls.)  I am disinclined to get near the same kind of fight about interpreting statistics about immigration and abortion in the way you propose.  I think that the data available shows that the abortion rate has been climbing rapidly all over Latin America for 30 years, that people who choose life but are hard-pressed are likely to flee, that the abortion rate for illegal immigrants in the USA is lower than the abortion rate for people stuck at home, although the abortion rate for second generation immigrants climbs.  But I do not think that there stats about ANY of those categories that are reliable enough to draw the conclusions you suggest, nor to strengthen the argument that I make.

I don’t think that the statistical comparison that you suggest is relevant in any case.  I think that you are comparing apples and oranges – or, more specifically, coercive abortion and seductive abortion.  I think that you assert that seductive abortion (a la USA) is more deadly within a community than coercive abortion (a la Guatemala).  [“More deadly”:  creates a situation in which more children die.  “Coercive”: includes economic situations that are manipulated deliberately in order to put pressure on a person to act in a specific way, as in the Chinese coercive programs.]  As I said above, I think you are wrong about the facts, but I admit that I do not have data to prove you are wrong.  But much more important: the comparison you suggest is not relevant.

I think that the ways one resists seductive abortion and the ways one resists coercive abortion are different – not totally different, but with many significant differences in details.  It seems obvious to me that a pro-lifer would want to resist both coercive abortion and seductive abortion.  I cannot imagine why you would propose that we choose between the two.  It seems to me obvious that when a woman is subjected to coercive depopulation pressure, we want to alleviate that pressure, in order to help her and the child.  Later, when (if) she shows up in the USA and is subject to seductive abortion, we want to help again, in a different way.

You know better than I that when sidewalk counselors meet a woman outside an abortion clinic and offer help, the offer has to be genuine, but it is rarely the offer that matters.  When people catch on that giving birth is possible with a little help, they can usually line up the help themselves.  I taught a student once whose grandfather had wanted to kill her.  In utero, she was diagnosed with spina bifida.  I heard about the situation, called him, talked about this and that, but also offered to line up adoptive parents for the child who, he feared, would be a severely disabled.  I asked him for 24 hours to find a couple ready to adopt.  Actually, it took me less than two hours to find and talk to a person running an adoption agency specializing in placing kids with spina bifida.  They had potential adoptive parents on a waiting list; estimate wait time, seven years.  So she was ready to place the kid overnight; grand-dad could negotiate all kinds of conditions about the adoptive parents.  I called grand-dad back.  Convinced it was possible to raise the kid, he chose to support his daughter’s decision to give birth.  Grand-dad didn’t need help; he needed hope.

Applying that: a Guatemalan mom may or may not decide to emigrate.  But what American restrictions do is to make it easier for population controllers to convince her that she is trapped if she gives birth.  She doesn’t need a ticket to America; she needs hope.  Opening the door does not mean that Guatemala will tip sideways and dump everyone north; it does mean an increase in immigration (and an end of the problems associated with illegal migration), but mostly it just means hope.  I have options.

I reject utterly the proposal that voting for a program that was deliberately designed to put pressure on her to abort is excusable – even mandatory, if I understand you – because it protects her from seductive abortion programs.  I think that the proposal, unpacked, is transparently bizarre.

Please tell me if we are in agreement about the following:

1. American immigration laws were written by eugenicists.  Stopping indiscriminate immigration was a key program of the eugenics movement.
2. The American immigration policy supported the Nazi population policy.  The link between population policies and immigration policies is not hypothetical; we can list some names of Jews who were refused entry and later died.
3. The Golden Venture incident shows several things.  First, President Johnson’s immigration reforms did not fix the problem; America’s immigration policy after the last major reform still supported depopulation policies elsewhere.  Second, the eugenics movement did not die out after World War II; it was still measurably vibrant in the 1980s, active in resisting immigration.  Third, pro-lifers one generation ago understood the links between immigration policy here and population policy elsewhere; the current marriage of pro-lifers and anti-immigration activists does not have deep roots.
4. The leaders of the Catholic Church globally, nationally, and locally (in Maryland) have taught with great force and consistency about marriage and about immigration.
5. The number of Catholics who agree with the Pope and bishops about both marriage and immigration is small – perhaps somewhere between 5% and 20% of Catholics.

Are the assertions above controversial?  Before we argue, can you please tell me where we diverge?

Threatened by a Culture

I’ve been thinking about a friend's assertion that Latino culture is a threat to American (norteamericano) culture.

I guess that immigration seems okay to me – emotionally – in part because of some specific accidental details in my history.  The first time I noticed an “inter-racial” marriage (cripes – there’s only one race – but that was what we called marriages between people of different ethnic backgrounds) was in high school.  I had a friend whose mother was Austrian, and whose father was Chinese.  Paula: she was lively, quick-witted, intelligent, funny, friendly, and head-spinningly gorgeous.  When someone called it to my attention that she was part-European, part-Asian, I thought we should establish an exchange program to make that happen a lot more.  When I was teaching at Rockville HS, there was a student who was very much like Paula.  This beautiful girl, Annie, never had a class with me, but she was in the National Honor Society, which I advised, so our paths crossed a bit.  Every time I saw her, I thought: “O dear Lord! Immigration is a great thing!”

In “I Shall Be Free,” Bob Dylan sang the same thing in 1963.
Well , my phone rang and it would not stop
It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up
He said, “My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?”
I said, “My friend, John, we need Brigitte Bardot
Anita Ekberg
Sophia Loren
Country’ll grow!”

The first time I dealt specifically with Mexican culture was also a very happy event, in December 1972, when I organized a pilgrimage from Boston to the shrine at Guadalupe.  I loved it!

On the way down, we stopped at a “restaurant” that was really just a family offering hospitality in their front room; they were so open and generous – and patient with the gringos who knew a dozen words in Spanish.

We slept on the stone plaza by the basilica, among thousands and thousands of pilgrims.  We were welcomed.  We had nylon sleeping bags that stuck out; everyone else had blankets; and during the night a few people kicked us.  I thought it was an important part of the pilgrim experience: absorb the resentment, and let it go.

In the basilica (not the current one), there was scaffolding holding up various things; the church (the city) is on soft wetland, and the building was sinking and cracking.   It was part church, part construction site – and this was where Mary revealed herself.

There were balloons caught in the scaffolds and bouncing along the ceiling.  A playful culture.

We were there for high Mass on the feastday, and there was incense.  The altar boys holding the incense in the sanctuary kept the incense smoldering by waving the censer around – sometimes spinning it in full circles, over their heads.  We don’t do that up north.  It wasn’t solemn, but it wasn’t a distraction either.  It was the antics of children, welcome at the fiesta.  I loved it.

Most of the congregation stood.  But there was an Anglo group up in the sanctuary, with chairs.  We were not part of that group, but the Mexicans pushed us up there anyway – gently but firmly.  So we were up in the sanctuary – without chairs, because we were not part of the group.  So, footloose, we moved around freely behind the curtains on the sides of the altar, and we settled down right below the tilma.  Right below.  For an hour, we stood below the tilma, close enough to touch the case holding it.  we had an envelope of prayers from the community in Boston, and we placed it in a crack between the brick wall and the case holding the image.  In the picture, Mary is looking down to her right; that’s where we were during Mass on the feastday.  Because the hospitable Mexicans pushed us there.

The basilica had a small door in the back for the servants – you know, the priests and the bishops and the Cardinal and all those folks.  In front, there were majestic wooden doors 25 feet high; those doors were for the owners, the peasant women who came across the plaza on their knees.  Mary’s people.

We made this pilgrimage in December 1972, and we focused on a very odd thing.  We were praying specifically for unborn children and their mothers, because we felt called to do so.  Roe v Wade was already decided, but it hadn’t been announced, and very few people in the nation were paying attention to the issue.  So from the beginning days of my work on life issues, I have felt that we could and should and would learn from Mary, who appeared in Mexico, who by-passed Spanish culture and got to the heart of the Gospel, using symbols that made sense to millions of indigenous people.

Franklin, it seems to me that it’s still visible in Mexico: this is the culture that was converted to Christianity – not by Patrick or Boniface or Paul or some other determined guy.  No: this culture accepted the Gospel as preached by Mary.  The heart of the Church in the New World is in Mexico.

How can you find that culture threatening?  What bothers you?

Did you ever see the movie “Romero”?  There is a detail in it that moves me deeply, although it is really just a tiny moment in the background.  After paramilitary thugs working with the government had desecrated a church, shot up the tabernacle, and chased the people away, Archbishop Romero starts to say Mass on a table in the street in front of the church.  The thugs threaten him, and the people move promptly to surround him.  Solidarity.  In the movie, in this crowd scene, when the people surround him protectively, one of the peasants is a shapeless old lady with a deeply lined face.  I can’t read her face; I doubt anyone other than her own children can read her face.  But when the threat becomes clear and she shuffles forward, I understand the gesture if not her expression.  It moves me to the core of my heart.  This is my church.  These are my people.  (Yeah, yeah – it’s a movie.  The lined faces are real, and I love them.  The solidarity is real.  Mexico is home of drug dealers and thugs; the Church was outlawed.  Mexico is also home to people who hold to their faith in the face of persecution and violence.)

In my family, there is a determined patriarchal figure in the background.  John A. O’Keefe was a patriarch; his drive and determination built a family that has done great things.  He was the first in his immigrant family to go to college: Harvard, 1881, a bastion of anti-Catholic power and pride.  He had three sons, eight grandchildren, about 30 great-grandchildren, about 80 great-great-grandchildren, and the next generation will larger still.  We are all over the country, doing hundreds of interesting things.  And we are all aware of his determination that shaped us.  Recently, I was blessed to work with a young man who I believe is a new patriarchal figure.  His family is Guatemalan, poor, scrambling.  I helped him get into a six-year program at Brown.  He is the first in his family and in his neighborhood to go to college – and he is in an Ivy League college, planning to be a physician in 2020.  Of course I can’t be sure, but I think many people will remember him with awe and joy in 2120.  I think I have helped – just a smidgin – to launch a great man.  I am so proud of him, so grateful to God for letting me be a small part of this young man’s life.

Franklin, I understand that my experience and your experience are very different.  My experiences of immigration begin with prayer and majesty and splendor and beautiful girls.  You see more drug dealers and hostile guys taking your work.  Perhaps our emotional responses are already set, fixed, immovable.  But still, I can’t help but think that you should make a conscious effort to seek out people from this culture that impinges on your life more and more.  Go visit a family with beady-eyed four-year-olds, and see if you fall in love.