Opinion: Letting our values out of their cage

My God, they put Jesus and his parents in cages, as though that’s what U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents would do — you know, keep the spirit of love and compassion from entering the United States of America.

Are they suggesting there’s an equivalence here between the divine family and a bunch of illegals … drug dealers, rapists, possible killers of American citizens?

The Claremont (California) United Methodist Church has tossed a shock bomb into the season of wreaths and holiday shopping. Its caged nativity scene — which has become national news — has, you might say, opened the border, at least in the minds of many Americans who until now haven’t paid any emotional — any soul-deep — attention to the plight of asylum seekers and their children trapped there.

“We’ve heard of their plight; we’ve seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated,” Rev. Karen Clark Ristine told a Los Angeles Times reporter. “We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.”

Ristine also said of the caged nativity scene: “We don’t see it as political. We see it as theological.”

This is the only place in which I would part ways with her: It’s incredibly political — and that’s a good thing. Politics without soul is the path to disaster, and it’s the path Planet Earth is on.

Where do we find the awareness we need to save the planet and save ourselves?

The awakening called for today is enormous and it is spiritual in nature. It is an awakening that pushes humanity beyond the us-vs.-them mentality that has trapped us behind our national borders. Only with some sort of one-world consciousness can we begin stepping back from the edge of extinction: can we dismantle every single nuclear weapon on the planet; can we transcend our dependence on fossil fuels and start building an eco-sustainable global infrastructure; can we redefine conflict, whether at the individual or the national level, not as something we have to kill but as a chance to learn and grow.

And what I see in that caged nativity scene is the place where this one-world consciousness begins: with the awareness that every human life is sacred, that no one is illegal, that everyone is a citizen of the one planet om which we live.

Dismantling ICE, you might say, is the first step in saving the polar ice.

Win Without War defines one of the principles at the core of a new, transcendent U.S. foreign policy thus: “The location of someone’s birth should never confine them to poverty, war, or environmental insecurity. The United States must safeguard universal human rights to dignity, equality, migration, and refuge. All people have the right to seek opportunity, safety and stability through migration. We must always prioritize approaches based on human dignity and diplomacy over those that vilify or dehumanize others or use coercion or force.”

This is, of course, the opposite of the “send her back!” mentality that too often, in the Donald Trump era, seems to be what American democracy sounds like. Cynicism castrates idealism.

Consider, for instance, the Washington Post’s recent unveiling of “the Afghanistan Papers,” the 21st century’s version of the Pentagon Papers, which indicate that no lessons whatsoever were learned in those earlier decades of military insanity: “U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it,” the Post informs us after examining some 2,000 pages of secret interviews about the war, which they managed to obtain via the Freedom of Information Act, after a three-year legal battle.

The enormity of the country’s lethal foreign-policy cluelessness is beyond virtually everyone’s imagination, even those who are in the middle of it. Yet the only certainty when it comes to national policy is that another war is on the way.

Or is change possible?

The answer is yes, if we can uncage our values and start recreating our politics.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Writes for Tribune Content Agency.