07 August 2010

Waters of Redemption

Could it be that Senator Lindsey Graham has unwittingly gone against a classic Biblical tale of freedom and redemption?

Coming out this week against the 14th Amendment and proposing that birth in America no longer confers citizenship, Senator Graham is quoted as having said, "We can’t just have people swimming across the river having children here — that’s chaos." 

Just the kind of chaos that the Children of Israel brought to bear on an evil Egyptian kingdom that sought to oppress them for who they were.  Pharaoh's fear at the time, clearly expressed according to the Biblical narrative that should not be unfamiliar to a good Southern Republican like Senator Graham, was that the Children of Israel would become a fifth column in Egyptian society, possibly uniting with the enemies of Egypt and overthrowing Pharaoh's kingdom.

Water played a critical redemptive role in that early Biblical narrative.  The Israelite women--like the faceless, nameless Latino women who are apparently floating in international waters popping out babies like bubbles rising to the surface of the deep--defied Pharoah's decree and as a result, bequeathed to future civilizations a story of justice and redemption that still apparently needs to be told.

My grandma was born in Russia but her mother, Rebecca, came to America pregnant.  Those children and grandchildren became doctors and lawyers and professors and mothers and fathers and people who love this country and pay their taxes.

It's one thing to be on the wrong side of a history; quite another to be on the wrong side of ancient history.  On the other hand, South Carolina is still fighting to maintain it's connection to the Confederate Flag, a symbol of hatred and slavery that was resoundingly defeated in a Civil War to free the slaves.  Senator Graham would do well to read President Abraham Lincoln's closing paragraph of his Second Inaugural address when considering a subversion of such narratives as birth, citizenship and freedom:
If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope -- fervently do we pray -- that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
The brilliance of this address has long been known.  What I always particularly enjoy is the degree to which Lincoln clearly sees the American struggle as a Divine ordained one, testing us as citizens to do what is right.

People will swim through dangerous waters, pregnant with life, because the promise of America is the light that guides them.

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