My fellow-blogger, Gayle sent me a Time magazine column by Adam Cohen while I was in D.C. last week, thinking about Torah and the future purpose of my life. The story is fantastically appropriate to this blawg and I wanted some time to think about it. This is what Gayle sent me: link, please read it.
Essentially the column is about the Ninth Circuit's reversal of a conviction of Daniel J. Millis who was arrested and prosecuted for "littering" by providing water to aliens crossing the desert border in Arizona. The plastic bottles left behind by the immigrants is the "litter." At the above link, you can read the entire decision of the Court. While I want to avoid the nasty underlying politics underlying the prosecution of Millis, since, of course I've discussed it at length in connection with my discussion of SB1070 and various posts on Sheriff Joe Arpaio, let us look at the prosecution and conviction from another perspective: what is the right thing? What is the righteous thing? What ultimately should we do for ourselves and mankind? Do you or do you not believe that how we treat others impacts us as human beings and if you believe as I do--as children of God?
Are we not commanded by nearly every religion, as Jesus said, to love one another, to treat our neighbor as we ourselves would be treated? In the "Old Testament" book of Numbers 15:13-16, Gentiles are called (aliens, foreigners, sojourners, or strangers) and when they attach themselves to Israel, God required that Israelis to treat the alien the same: "the same Laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.” Throughout the Bible this rule is asserted and reasserted: in Leviticus 24:22 God states, “Y[ou] shall have ONE manner of Law, as well for the stranger as for one of your own country; for I am the Lord your God.” This is repeated in Exodus 12:49 and other places in Scripture. In the days of the prophet Isaiah for future generations: “…And the foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him and to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” (Isaiah 56:1-7.)
Conservatives talk endlessly about religion and the place of God in our lives and public spaces but where the rubber meets the road, this idea is jettisoned. Under our system of laws we would prosecute someone for providing water to aliens on the pretense of "litter."
The bloggers at the Ninth Circuit Blog quoted T.S. Eliot in their coverage of the Millis opinion, it is very apt, I can do no better:
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
from The Waste Land (1922)
Woe to those among us who fail to remember from where their voice comes from, lest they lose their very humanity and separate their soul from the Creator's.