"faceless immigrants 1-13"
mixed media collage (found papers, acrylic paint, glue) on hardcover bookboard
gregory a. milinovich
i know that this is a divisive subject, and i don't mean to divide. in fact, my sincere hope would be to build and connect. but as i continue to glue things together in a way that expresses what is going on in my soul, i cannot help but deal with some of the discord i find there recently.
the news has been full of stories about immigration, asylum-seekers, and how we maintain borders. these are complicated issues, to be sure, but one of the ways that i find myself struggling as i process the things i see and hear (or sometimes try to avoid seeing and hearing), is to remember that we aren't just talking about an issue here.
when we start painting in broad strokes and speaking in swaths of generalities, we deal in issues and policies and i understood that conversation at that level is necessary and important, but if we hold those conversations without also remembering that refugees are real people with real stories, we do so at our own peril. and the peril, i think, is dehumanization, and demonization. when we forget that asylum-seekers and refugees and even those who have less-innocent objectives are, in fact, human beings, then we allow ourselves to start to say and do things that we would never do to humans. and when that happens, i wonder, who are the real demons?
i am not suggesting that there is always an easy answer here. i'm not asking you pick sides or agree with me. i'm purposefully not being snarky or posting a meme about Jesus as a refugee. because all i'm really trying to do - in these words and in the collage - is to remind us that we are talking about people. human beings.
if we forget that, we become less than human ourselves.
i love this story about a united methodist pastor who took this seriously and traveled to Mexico to journey with some of these refugees, people like Samuel, like Debora, people with names and faces and stories. what pastor Gavin discovered is that the "issue" changes dramatically when you remember that you are talking about real people with hopes and disappointments and dreams and deep fears. people looking for answers. people looking for a way to survive. the way you or i might, if we were in their shoes.
so my hope is to be careful when i hear news stories about "the migrant caravan," or when i find myself drawn into a discussion about immigration or border patrol. i want to make sure i remember that the brown-skinned woman holding her tired toddler in her arms looking into america has a story. i want to make sure i remember that the serious-faced, gun-wielding border patrolman from Texas has a story, too. we are all human . we all have faces and names and a desperate need to really be human and alive. i want to offer that primal gift to myself and others. no matter what.