Face Value

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Refugee_Central America

The Face with which the Other turns to me is not absorbed in a representation of her face.*

To hear her destitution, which cries out for justice, is not to represent an image [of the destitute person] to myself. It is to posit myself as responsible, both as more and as less than the human being who presents herself in the Face.

Less, for the Face summons me to my obligations and judges me. The human being who presents herself in the Face comes from a dimension of height, a dimension of transcendence whereby she can present herself as a stranger without opposing me as obstacle or enemy.

More, for my position as an ethical subject consists in being able to respond — finding resources within myself — to this destitution of the Other.

The Other who commands me in her transcendence is thus the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, to whom I am obligated.

~ Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity

*Such as the photographic image posted on this page.

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Ecce homo

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Refugees fence

Their first act when they enter our country is to break the law.

~ Herr Drumpf

For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked’.

~ Luke 22:37

You know, the wicked. Transgressors, law-breakers, people who cross borders outside the approved points of entry. People who are hated by the righteous. Those are his people. Now, if we want to say he was only pretending to be counted among the wicked to prove a theological point, then we must question our belief in his absolute solidarity with the very least. If we question that, then we must question our “personal relationship” with him. The whole structure becomes a house of cards.

The kindness of Nero and other illusions

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Family separation at the border

Refugee families have been given an apparent reprieve from the morally obscene practice of separating children from their parents at the border. Unfortunately the cruel root of the issue remains: the “zero tolerance” policy toward desperate families who attempt to enter the country outside the approved points of entry. Concealed by Trump’s Executive Order — and even more so by the bipartisan consensus on the “problem” of illegal border crossings — is the fact that the apparent reality of “illegal immigration” (with its inhuman corollary, the so-called “illegal immigrant”) is an illusory construct of restrictive immigration law. That law, which Pope Francis has deemed unjust from a Christian point of view, is the handiwork of Republicans and Democrats together. Until we attack the bipartisan roots of immigration barbarity, the evil tree will continue to grow.

Geborgenheit, for you and me

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germany-pegida

A conservative friend, a fervent nationalist, once said to me, “These Trump people, whom you deride, they’re good people. They’re salt of the earth. They’ll always have your back. Can you say that for all your bleeding heart liberals?”

Of course, every tribe looks after its own. Within the snug enclosure of community, I’m “there for you”. You’re “there for me”. Together we feel the warm glow of security, what the Germans call geborgenheit.

I ask my friend to explain, what of those who find themselves outside the charmed circle? I get no answer.

Things get more uncomfortable still, when I see my friend — who’s always there for me — look away when the “others” are herded onto buses and prodded into cages. A chill runs through me, when I see my friend — who always has my back — draw his finger across his neck, and I hear him say, “They don’t belong here. The law must be obeyed. Romans 13.”

When I see my völkisch friend — this Christian friend who loves his own (Luke 6:32) — make such gestures of exclusion and I hear him rationalize deportations, I have to ask myself, who is this person?

Jesus Fish Redux

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Spray painted red
on buildings marked for post-
Arab Spring cleaning, the letter
Nun looks like a cyclops
smiley face: have a terrifying
day and please don’t let
the door hit you, bye
now. Nasara house tags
morphing into hashtags
of a social solidarity
movement. Echoes
of signs, crossing
millennia.

Perilous token

traced in dirt, passed between
two conscripts joined
by ankle iron in dust and haze
of a traveling Roman circus:
Syrian Christian and converted Jew,
one hundred seventeen years from
when the Christ was hanged.

In those days, faint
little fish bones whispered
a dangerous Name.

Dorsal arc drawn
by gnarled finger
adjacent absent thumb,
tremulous ventral by
palsied hand –

how long, this ancient
line of suffering, silver
fish on pickup bumpers,
stuck there next to a shout:
Migrants Get Out.


© 2018 David A. Welch

Why Not Open Borders?

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Greece to Dismiss 750 Refugees to Turkey: Report

The question of open borders is complex, to say the least. I reckon most people in the United States, whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, oppose the idea of open borders. Even Bernie Sanders opposes open borders! I’ve only recently begun to give serious thought to this question. While I’m certainly in no position to make an argumentative case for open borders, I can at least point out a few of the weaker arguments against it.

Consider, for instance, the assertion that we can’t have a country without borders. What that’s really saying is that we can’t have a country without restrictive immigration laws. Such an assertion is patent nonsense. Open borders doesn’t mean no borders. It means borders across which all people can pass with relative freedom. It doesn’t mean there’s no longer such a thing as individual nations with laws, customs, and, yes, citizenship requirements that are unique to a particular land mass defined by a set of geographical boundaries. Nor does it mean we no longer have a process for scrutinizing people who cross our borders, in order to prevent terrorists or dangerous drugs from entering our country.

As for what open borders does mean, why it is a morally compelling idea, and why the current border control regime is immoral, the following article makes an interesting case:

7 reasons why we should have open borders

The poet A. E. Stallings has written evocatively and powerfully on the question of borders. Here is one of her epigrammatic poems about the refugee crisis:

Proposed epitaph for drowned refugee children

Go tell the bureaucrats, passer by, that all is ship-shape, fine.
The stuff that trickles from your eye is only a little brine.

~ A. E. Stallings