According to several major news outlets, 32 religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Native American communities were arrested in San Diego yesterday. Organized by a group with Quakery roots, Love Knows No Borders, the entire group protesting was close to 400. 31 of them crossed into a restricted zone and were arrested. One was arrested for assaulting a law enforcement officer.
Freedom of Speech?
Yes, freedom of speech, and their essential message is one I espouse. A compassionate response to what is going on along our border is the only moral response. But then again, we work along the border extensively, and I am part of a network of Episcopalians who compare notes, borrow ideas and encourage one another. We have good relations with the Border Patrol in Arizona. Will the freedom of speech of these well-meaning people negatively impact what we do in Arizona? Will it be harder for us to maintain collaborative relationships with the men and women charged with enforcing our immigration policy now? After all, policy comes from above, but it is enacted locally, and the way the policy is written, there is wide discretionary power at the local level. Will these peoples’ act of bravery and protest pit changing our immigration law (a good and necessary goal) against a more immediate compassionate response to the hurting and terrified people who seek asylum among us? Are these people unwittingly using the immigrants for their own political ends? It makes it more complicated when I agree with their political ends.
Our political machine allows for such ambiguity. Sometimes it’s frustrating, as in the above. Sometimes it allows for creative work to be done, as in what we are doing in Arizona. Sometimes good ends end up pitted against one another. It’s called freedom of speech. However, freedom without responsibility is merely license. The greatest freedom and the greatest power is in the ability to self-limit for the sake of the common good.
Wisdom picks her battles.