This world. This place. This life.

Follow the Water: Immigration & the Colorado River

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I like that the UU General Assembly’s choice to study immigration has provided a kind of filter through which I’m hearing the news.  Today on NPR’s Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with photojournalist Brian Frank about his journey along the Colorado River.  Here’s Kai’s intro to the segment:

The Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado down through Utah and Arizona, along the border with California to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Flow might be too generous, actually. Because we use so much of the Colorado’s water in the American Southwest for both irrigation and development, what used to be a river is actually just a trickle by the time it crosses the Mexican border. Some years, it never even reaches the sea.

It feels to me like I’m engaged in a layer-by-layer unfolding of the issue of immigration.  It’s not as simple as “you didn’t come here legally so we’re sending you back.”

There are other things to consider.  Winona LaDuke’s Ware Lecture, coming on the heels of the decision to study immigration, reminded me to think about the issue in the context of how Europeans came to the United States.  How can we complain about people coming here illegally, I asked myself, when so much about the way “we” came to “own” this land was immoral?

This story about the Colorado River also prompts a question.  What moral high ground do we have to refuse to allow people to follow the water that we have stolen?  The answer, for me, is none whatsoever.

It’s easy to be so busy being self-righteous about other people not obeying little rules that we lose sight of our own transgressions.

Jesus had something to say about this:

‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)


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