Order and the Border

060617-A-3715G-017In the last few weeks, there’s been a ton of yelling and shouting about the immigration system and situation in America. But sadly, because our national discussions are manipulated by an unreliable media, all this attention will be replaced in a few weeks with another topic–whatever topic makes the media more money. Think about it! What topic was dominating our time and minds just a few months ago?* And today nobody in media remembers or cares.

So before immigration is replaced with another money-making topic, let’s order things out and think through the deeper issues that all the hateful yelling and ad hominems are smothering:

  1. pexels-photo-311884Asylum seekers do not want to come to America. Some might, but they all want their own nation of origin to have been worth staying in. Refugees wish they never had to leave their homeland. Nobody desires to abandon and forsake the country of their culture! When my parents (and hundreds of thousands of other refugees of the Vietnam War) escaped to America, they longed for freedom and dignity to determine their lives. If Vietnam was a free country, with human rights respected, nobody would have risked death crossing jungles and oceans to find freedom elsewhere. So the deeper crisis is how to help nations of origin improve their economies, governance, and societies so that their own citizens are glad to stay and build up their nation. Just imagine how bad the reality must be for refugees to flee the only home they’ve known! If we don’t think creatively and effectively here, then we’re not solving any core problems–we’re just putting bandages on a busted Titanic. America cannot physically and realistically take in every Earthling–even if she wanted to–and especially when so much of the rest of the world is gorgeous but tragically doomed because of corruption and poverty. But corruption and poverty are solvable through hard work! Let’s stop overthinking how to bandage the sinking ship, and focus on how to prevent ships from hitting icebergs, and then people will stop desperately resorting to lifeboats because their own ship is in great shape! Long-term solutions typically have long-term results.
  2. 34984422_10155910751409032_4960135220503248896_nAmerica is not safe for anyone. There is a secret system of legalized prejudice and murder in this country responsible for at least 50 million victims since 1973. Anyone serious about welcoming immigrants and refugees must be even more serious about abortion, or else risk being a hypocrite. How can we say we care for those in danger when we allow children to be murdered in hospitals and clinics? How can we fight for children being separated from their mothers when we already allow children to be slaughtered from the womb of their mothers? If we want America to be a land of welcome to every human life, then we must actually welcome every human life. That’s only consistent and to be expected. We can start by diverting federal funding for abortion (millions of bucks) to helping refugees and Americans in need (babies and struggling parents included). If we do not generously love our own children, then how can we… (finish the logical conclusion).
  3. America is not at her best right now. For our nation to be even better, she needs to know Christ and His Church. The only reason why we have a culture and civilization that seeks to care for the suffering and the struggling is because Jesus Christ taught us to (and slowly His teaching became general civil law). So do not think we will solve this situation, nor any situation, without God. We need prayer to replace all the shouting and attacking. If only the most vociferous and outspoken among us and in government and media were just as insistent with their prayer life… if only…
  4. Lastly, I leave you with balanced thoughts from this insightful and real article, and from Fr. Mike Schmitz:


*Hint: it was about school violence.


Stored in Stomachs

All I can remember is Mother eating my necklace.

I do not remember leaving Vietnam. I do not remember the boat, no matter how small and stinky everyone said it was. I do not remember the night we hid in the jungle, even though everyone said to watch out for scorpions. I do not remember anything except that the necklace was my favorite thing in the world. Its slender body of flat gold links always caught the sun – tracing a halo around my neck. Dad said it made angels jealous of me.

After Bà had given me the necklace for my twelfth birthday, Mother took a stainless steel wire and twisted it through the clasp. She had said it would keep me from ever losing Grandmother’s necklace.

“Hurry, go call Anh Bình and Chị Phôi.” Mother told me. I ran out into the field and found my older brother and sister busy pitting their crickets against each other.

“Má said to come home.” I said to my brother. He pushed me aside and shouted at his cricket to kick more butt. My sister caught me by the arm so I would not fall over. She reached out to snatch my brother’s ear. He yelped and I laughed as she pulled him away.

Inside the house, we watched as Mother rushed about, throwing all of the jewelry onto the kitchen table. Some of the rings and bracelets I had never seen before. My sister helped Mother sort the jewelry into smaller piles.

“Children, do as I say. Men are coming, and they do not like people to have nice things like gold. We are leaving with Daddy when he comes home. We can only bring some of these with us.”

“Má, are we going to Nha Trang?” I asked. I loved Nha Trang. I learned how to swim there and can still remember how the warm Eastern Sea washed my young skin.

“No.” Mother said.

“Is Bà coming with us?” I worried about Grandma.

“No. We are going on a boat and it will take us to a better place.”

I looked around our home and tried to imagine the better place. Would it have crickets for us to catch? Monsoons for us to play in? Red dirt to stain our feet? Was it Nha Trang?

Then Mother filled some glasses with water and set them on the table. She picked up a ring, put it into her mouth and drank it down with a few gulps of water. I thought she was taking medicine until my sister and brother did the same.

I watched them eat gold and jade, and I started to cry.

Mother swallowed a short necklace and coughed, spitting water out from between her pressed lips. Her eyes became red and her face became purple. She drank a whole glass and breathed heavily.

When my brother took a necklace, Mother grabbed it out of his hand.

I touched the necklace around my throat. Mother noticed and tried to unwind the steel wire. Although she barely touched my skin, I could feel her rough hands struggle. The necklace tingled me as it squirmed in Mother’s fingers. When I was younger, I had felt a little snake slip over my bare foot. I began to panic and had to remind myself there was really no snake over my collar.

The wire had cut some of Mother’s fingertips. At first I squealed and thought they were snakebites, but then reminded myself again. She wiped the blood off onto her pants and washed my halo in a shallow dish basin. It felt strange to have nothing tug at my neck anymore. I rubbed my throat – looking for gold. Then Mother looked at me. She tore the wire off the necklace and beckoned me over.

“Will you let Má keep this for you?” She asked.

I could not say anything. I just stared at it, and at the blood dripping out of her fingers into the basin.

“Má will keep it safe until we are safe again.” She promised. I nodded and watched her head lean back. Her hand dangled the shimmering string over her lips, and then she dipped it into her mouth.

That is all I can remember.

I do not even remember the storm that drowned Mother in the sea, even though everyone said I watched and cried.


Copyright © 2009 Evan Pham