I grew up with a plethora of preconceived judgements about society and the people living in it. At the root of these judgements is an incessant ability to view things black-and-white. Good or bad. Yes or no.
People who go to jail are bad.
People who go to church are good.
Which is true? Neither, and that is what I’m going to talk about today. The more I think about the ideas that were placed in my head as a child, the more resentment I hold because I have tarnished many relationships and disrespected many people on the basis of my incorrect judgements. But only I can take full responsibility for that.
This may upset many people, but it seems that everything does nowadays. However, I feel that what I have to say is very valid.
When I was 16, I met the father of my children; who happened to be from Mexico. As I learned more about him, I began to know that he was born in Mexico and therefore was not a US citizen. He was brought here against his will when he was 5 years old. Was that his fault?
When I told my mother about him and gushed about how interested in him I was, she said (and I quote): “Well I just don’t want him to be some creep who will take you to Mexico and kill you.” He was 18 years old and had just received his high school diploma.
As my relationship with him furthered, my mother had many conversations with me that consisted of lectures; lectures about how “difficult life will be to be with a non-citizen.”
About how I’d have to get used to “doing everything illegally.”
About how he will “hold me back” because of his legal status.
This isn’t only a concerned mother; this is pure, ignorant judgement.
As I sit here writing this; 7 years knowing him (with 5 of them together), 3 kids later, 2 years separated, and 1 divorce after tying the knot: I say all of this about a man whom I do not particularly like. He put me through straight hell. But does that mean he should be judged in a country he has lived in since he was 5 years old?
Should he be given the boot back to a country he doesn’t even know?
The answer is NO, but that’s just me. However, before I met my now ex-husband, I probably would have said yes. I would have been one of those “we don’t owe him anything,” believers. But the fact of the matter is.. we do owe him something, because he’s a human being. A human being who has been here since he was a child. Who has struggled to gain legal status because it is expensive and tedious (and not at all as easy as people think; no, marrying a US citizen does not help).
I grew up believing that anyone who has touched a jail cell is bad. To stay away from them, that they will hurt me or hurt others or do very bad things. That they are bad people who deserve the worst. To hold no mercy.
I will humbly admit my humiliation that I once believed those ignorant statements, as the love of my life is currently incarcerated. I’m sure I will receive some sort of backlash from this, in the form of:
“Maybe you don’t pick very great men” or
“You are easily deceived.”
But that is exactly why this needs to be addressed; because there is so much judgement that comes with immigration and incarceration (both together or apart).
The more I grow as a person, the more people I meet, the more I step out of the ever-so-tainted bubble that was my sheltered childhood; the more I realize that immigrants and inmates are people too. They sin just like the rest of us, they make mistakes just like the rest of us. They are not bad people because of their mistakes (obviously some are, don’t get me wrong). The only difference is in their punishment. But at the risk of sounding like a Bible thumper, not one sin is greater than the other.
There are so many men and women behind bars who desperately want to improve their lives, come home to their families, and make something of themselves. My fiancé is one of them, and it absolutely kills me to think about the judgement that he receives on an almost daily basis. He has been ostracized by my family, treated with absolute distrust and condemnation. He has been treated as less-than by my “picture perfect” family, who is in fact: not picture perfect at all. His punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and people judge him based on what they think they know. My own mother looked me dead in the eye and said:
“If you continue a relationship with him, it’s the end of the road for you and I.”
Could you imagine? Your own mother ending your relationship because she doesn’t like your spouse? Your own mother willing to lose her daughter to save face in front of her peers?
I told her I would not end my relationship, to which she replied, “I can’t believe you are choosing a man over your own mother.” But the fact of the matter is.. A genuine, nontoxic, unconditionally-loving mother; would never make her daughter choose.
I am a Christian. I love my Jesus. I do not go to church as much as I would like, nor do I pray as often as I should; but I am a Christian. I have met many other Christians in my lifetime, some who have great, genuine souls, and some who do not. Some who radiate love and acceptance, and some who exhume judgement and hatred. The unfortunate thing with religion is that the few ruin it for the many. That is, the few who exhibit judgement and condemnation, are the few who make people turn away from the Lord altogether.
A true Christian is one who accepts people as they are and moves towards them in Christ, but it’s as if we are taught to stay away from “the bad people.” You know, the people who sin differently than us.
My point with this post, is that labels such as ‘immigrant’ or ‘inmate’ or even ‘Christian’ do not mean a single thing. Oftentimes all they do, is create incorrect judgements. They bring about very black-and-white thinking about who is bad, and who is good.
At the risk of this post seeming politically charged, I would like to say that it is not. This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about seeing red or blue. This isn’t about leaning left or right.
It’s about morality.
And it needs to be addressed.
We need to start treating human beings for what they are:
Because we will all be compared the same come Judgement Day.