“Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck.” Genesis 41:42, NRSV
This week we witnessed another presidential candidate debate. And it was fiery. And, as usual, the topic of immigration was talked (yelled) about. In addition, this week Former Mexican President Vicente Fox got into the act with choice words for Donald Trump who gave it right back to him. The wall will be 10 feet higher. Maybe all the candidates should watch the 2004 movie “A Day Without a Mexican.” In this movie, Californians awaken to the discover that everyone of Hispanic heritage has inexplicably disappeared. It could definitely influence one’s thinking on immigration policy. And does the US really want hostile relations with our neighbor on our southern border? It’s one thing to be at odds with a country across the ocean. It’s quite another to be in a contentious relationship with the country next door or across the river.
What does it mean to be foreign? To be considered an alien? To be an outsider? The film “Charlie’s Country” was shown this week at the Eckerd College Environmental Film Festival. The movie takes place in Australia. At one point, a white person, clearly of European descent, refers to Charlie, an aboriginal person, indigenous to Australia, as a foreigner. Wow! Talk about losing perspective.
I was born in the US, as were my parents. And I consider myself mainstream American. But there are times, like when listening to some of the recent political tirading, that I feel like I am an outsider, a foreigner in this, the land of my birth. I don’t feel that I belong or fit in with much of what I hear. Do these candidates really not realize that there are hardworking, decent, citizens of America who believe a woman should have access to a legal, safe abortion paid for by her health insurance plan? If someone is against abortion, don’t have one. That should be respected. Where is our respect for differences even within the mainstream American population let alone with regard to those who are “foreign”?
In the story of Joseph, we see that Joseph is sold into slavery and taken to a foreign land. In Egypt, he is an alien. He is of a different culture, religion, and language than the Egyptians. He worships a different God. Yet as the story proceeds, Joseph rises to being the number two man in Egypt. It is not held against him that he is foreign and a victim of human trafficking. His background and difference do not impede his being entrusted with power and authority. Evidently, he is judged, to use the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by the content of his character. Imagine that!
In this season of Lent, we examine our character. May we endeavor to see humanity as one family. May we strive to eradicate our prejudices, stereotypes, and privilege that separate us from each other. May we grow in our respect for those who are not like we are and learn from them. And like Joseph, may all see God in us. And may we see God in everyone. Amen.