Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Immigration Debate: One Planet, One People

"The earth is one country and mankind it's citizens."
Baha'u'llah

Once again, thousands of immigrants and their allies have taken to the streets across America to protest for what they are calling "immigration reform". As a Baha'i, I believe in obedience to law of the land and do not support anyone immigrating illegally to the United States however compassionate I may feel about the desperation of the people who do so. However as I've reflected more deeply on the drama being played out on the streets, in the halls of Congress and in the media, I've began to wonder if there is not an inner, spiritual signficance to what is going on here. The Baha'i Writings describe the crises afflicting our planet as "..aspects of a larger Plan whose Source is God...whose theatre of operations is the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of the human race and the peace of all human kind." This process is driven by a dynamic of "integration and disentegration" as a defective social order born from limited, materialistic conceptions of reality falls apart and a new order emerges based on spiritual and social principles suited to the needs of a global civilization. While there are certainly elements of ethnic nationalism and anti-American sentiment among the voices shouting in the streets, there is also an assertion by long marginalized segments of the human family that they intend to move from being objects of exploitation by privileged elites to being subjects in determining their own destiny. These voices are pushing against the narrow mental constructs of what an "American" is and America's place in the world. One of the harshest criticisms leveled at the protesters is that they are showing a lack of respect for our national sovereignty. The emotional attachment some Americans have to the concept of "sovereignty", must be balanced by a commitment to the oneness of humanity:

"...wars are caused by purely imaginary racial differences; for humanity is one kind, one race and progeny, inhabiting the same globe. In the creative plan there is no racial distinction and separation such as Frenchman, Englishman, American, German, Italian or Spaniard; all belong to one household. These boundaries and distinctions are human and artificial, not natural and original. All mankind are the fruits of one tree, flowers of the same garden, waves of one sea."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 117)

"Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life."
(11 March 1936, published in "The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters", pp. 162-63, 201-4)

I'm beginning to understand that the challenges involved in illegal immigration are symptoms of a deeper problem, the resistance by many to the truth that humanity is a single people, the earth is our common homeland and that we have to work together to create a social order that reflects that reality. How best do so should be at the heart of the debate over immigration reform.

"For this reason must all human beings powerfully sustain one another and seek for everlasting life; and for this reason must the lovers of God in this contingent world become the mercies and the blessings sent forth by that clement King of the seen and unseen realms. Let them purify their sight and behold all humankind as leaves and blossoms and fruits of the tree of being. Let them at all times concern themselves with doing a kindly thing for one of their fellows, offering to someone love, consideration, thoughtful help. Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying free of prejudice, drawing no lines."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)