by Phillip H. Duran
Rio Rancho, NM
June 7, 2010
Arizona Senate Bill 1070 has spawned a flood of reactions from people across the country. Once again, a governor follows the historical pattern and falls back on her vested authority by taking a legal approach. To the average citizen, she is only enforcing the law. But viewed from a moral and historical perspective, could this law more accurately be interpreted as a continuing act of conquest? When a government in power wants to keep a people subjugated, it simply passes laws. But in the eyes of the people, these actions are not solutions; they only postpone justice until the electoral process, which will bring change inevitably, installs officials who will pursue a different approach.
Scantly communicated in the media, if at all, are the relevant historical contexts in which immigration and related issues have arisen. Yet they are crucial to understanding the reactions to this law and the conditions most likely to promote justice, fairness, and peace.
As the pressure to develop a comprehensive federal immigration policy intensifies, we can expect anxiety—and hopefully relief—among people most likely to be affected by the final product. How will Americans react? Will its provisions be enforceable? These are political/legal questions. Will immigrants be treated justly and fairly? Will families be forced to suffer? These are moral questions.
A society that is guided primarily and culturally (i.e., as a way of life) by moral and practical concerns is more likely to see conciliatory and healing effects in dealing with conflicts. In such a scenario, everyone together examines the issues rationally through respectful dialogue, considering also the historical and contemporary context, instead of engaging in confrontational debate where each side argues against the other. There is a flow of meaning instead emotion, and moral concerns are central.
A conciliatory approach is not new among societies residing within the territorial boundaries of the United States. Many American Indian tribes have preserved their traditional values by which they have sustained their communities for untold generations, despite many attempts by government, church-operated schools, and mainstream society to eradicate them. Tribal nations have survived, in part, because of the principle that each generation must consider the welfare of future generations when making decisions. (By the same principle, gratitude is expressed to the ancestors who made sacrifices on behalf of the current generation.)
Perhaps the greatest challenge in considering this alternative approach is creating the right climate. On the other hand, Americans may be sufficiently tired and ready to turn away from the polarized politics, emotionally charged talk shows, anger, and blogger animosity.
Indigenous perspectives on many aspects of life, including conflict resolution, differ strikingly from those of Western societies. The primary objective is to restore wholeness and balance to every individual, regardless of who is right and who is wrong. Americans could learn from their example; unfortunately, many stereotypes have blurred and distorted the true image of the Indian who, today, also suffers from historical trauma and high (50 percent) unemployment.
Some of the perspectives expressed below are probably new to most readers. They derive from a long transformative journey after discovering my own tribal heritage almost two decades ago (I do not have Mexican ancestry). I offer them with the hope of helping create conditions that nurture common understandings, address everyone's needs, and influence future planning and public discourse.
I was a Catholic as a child and later became an active conservative evangelical for more than three decades. I spent 45 years in higher education as a physicist, computer specialist, information technologist, educator and administrator. Outside the campus, the study of American and tribal histories and issues, as well as works from many disciplines and viewpoints, is a continuous and life-long commitment of mine. Also, with my wife, I am personally acquainted with life in several tribal communities, where we spend much of our time. Our friendships extend to all people and we no longer belong to any church or denomination but we are Christians (a personal commitment, not institutional loyalty or ideology) and our spirituality is genuine and deep, respecting other traditions.
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