It has been proposed that America shift to a policy which emphasizes “merit based immigration”. While a decision to break out of a cycle of negative thinking and confirmation bias has led me to be less than prolific in my writing on political matters lately, I could not help but ask a few questions about the concept of merit.
I have said many times in the past that I am grateful God doesn’t share my sense of fairness. I say that because I have not always lived the life of an upstanding, taxpaying pillar of the community and helper of little old ladies trying to cross the street that I do today. Believe it or not, I have committed crimes, dodged responsibility, set a bad example, and been less than Boy Scout-like in my approach to life. And each of those events have happened as recently as this week. Yet still, every day, I am granted another day and another opportunity to set things right and move forward. I am given a clean slate. I am allowed to pass Go and collect the proverbial $200. And sometimes, when I remember to, I pause and wonder to myself if I would be so generous with others in my life. Would I be willing to wipe clean the slate of someone I know to be a responsibility dodging criminal who sets a bad example? Maybe. Maybe not. And the odds of forgiveness go way down for that person if we haven’t met. In short, I am a typical human being when it comes to forgiving others.
But that is just one aspect of a skewed perception of merit. So often, characters in some old, melodramatic movie would sigh deeply and say “What have I done to deserve this?”. And when I read the news about merit based immigration this morning, I had to take a moment to run through my own list of things where I need to occasionally ask about my worthiness of receiving. This is by no means a complete list, but it is a healthy start.
What have I done to deserve:
- Waking up in a warm bed with clean sheets and a pillow
- Walking approximately 20 steps from my bed to find a source of clean, running water waiting for me to simply turn the handle
- Having skin that is of a color which mainstream society has decided is not threatening or menacing
- Having the native intelligence required to learn, string a few sentences together or exercise the skills required to secure stable employment
- Being born in a part of the world where the greatest threat to my survival comes not from famine, pestilence, war, or wild animal attacks, but from engaging in behaviors very foreign to much of the world (driving a car, flying in an airplane, recreational activities)
Notice I am not saying I should apologize for any of those things. I am not ashamed of having been born white and living in a first world country. But I AM saying that these are accidents of birth. I cannot tell you why I was born into the family and the country that I was. And neither can I tell you why someone else was born into a life of walking miles every day to find water for their family.
But this I know from personal experience; when I practice gratitude for those realities instead of behaving as though they are my birthright, my life becomes an abundant flow of seemingly never ending riches. But once I begin to question whether or not you are worthy of those blessings, as soon as I approach the question from a position of merit, I am immediately transformed into a miserly, terrified, bitter person who I cannot stand to be around.
I did nothing to deserve the blessings in my life, and I stand to lose them all the moment I endeavor to deny you access to those same blessings. So instead, I say this:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”