Friday, March 28, 2014

Line Toe-ers, Line Jumpers, and Line Benders

I've always been good at toeing the line. I know exactly where it is at all times, and can follow it exactly. Perhaps that's why I'm so good at formulaic writing and formulaic math, while my line jumping son is so good at conceptual math. You probably wonder what I'm talking about right now. Let me explain.

When Gabriel was a baby, we were friends with a couple who had a baby the same age, and were taking a parenting class. There, they learned about two different personality types, the line toe-ers and the line jumpers. There were children, they were told, that when told not to take their drink on the carpet, would take their drink to the edge of the carpet and put their toes right up against the edge of the carpet. These are the line toe-ers. Then, there are the line jumpers who would completely ignore the rules and jump right onto the carpet with their sippy cups and go about their business.

These titles are not designations given by the class, rather something I came up with recently, while thinking about my children. You see, I have a toe-er, a jumper, and a bender. My bender bends the rules to make them work for him. When he was little, he would smile at me while he was disobeying, knowing full well that if he just charmed me hard enough, he might not get in trouble. Now, he tends to negotiate the rules, while his brothers are still toeing the line or jumping right over it.

This all came crashing in on me when I was listening to the radio the other day. You see, NPR has been running a special about the border between Mexico and The United States. There were conversations with Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Americans, people who live on the Mexican side of the border but have American children and send their children to school in America every day. The conversation has been interesting and enlightening.

For a long time in my life, I was very anti-illegal immigrant. It's illegal, after all. I'm a line toe-er, remember? I always know where that line is, and I will go right up to it, but not cross it. I almost always go exactly the speed limit, not slower, not faster, exactly the speed limit, and the idea of someone breaking the law was anathema to me. But over the past few years, I've come to realize that immigration is a fuzzy line. It's not a line that can be focused on with a microscope. The closer you get to the subject, the fuzzier the line gets.

What about those people who came here illegally as children, through no decision of their own, and now are being deported? Perhaps they know no one in their country of citizenship. Perhaps they do not even speak a language other than English. How can we say that they are illegal immigrants when they have lived here all their lives?

What about the father that returns to Mexico voluntarily, leaving his children and wife behind, in an effort to attain legal status in this country? How long must we punish him before we decide he's fit to come back?

We need to change our immigration laws, not grant amnesty to everyone here, then change nothing. We need to make our laws more realistic. Currently, most of our immigration 'slots' are available to skilled workers, white collar jobs, but we hire a lot of immigrants to fill those hard, dirty jobs. What makes a white collar worker worth more (not how much they're paid, but their personal worth as a human) than a blue collar worker?

And I love rules. Passionately. Remember? I like to follow them. That includes the rule of the land, also known as the law. I also happen to be a huge fan of compassion and logic. What we've got right now is neither compassion nor logic. They're just rules, and they're rules that need to be bent, jumped, and obliterated in favor of logic.

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