Regressing as a society

THE poetic words of Psalms 85:11-12 strike a chord in many of us today: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” In a time when we seem to have lost civility in government and society, and have regressed to intolerance, barbarity, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiments, our hearts long again for the days and the era when “kindness and truth meet; and justice and peace kiss.”

Indeed, what has happened to our society? Why is there a resurging hatred for people of other color and immigrants in the United States? I thought that we’d gone a long way in this 21st Century of living a life of inclusivity, acceptance, and inter-cultural relations.  Aren’t many citizens of this country seeing the second wave of immigrants—Hispanics, Asians, Africans, and others–also enriching the culture, the education, the commerce, and the economy.

Scenes of hatred toward immigrants are going viral in social media. “Go back to your country, you’re taking our jobs, and our foods,” one elderly woman in Daly City told an immigrant couple in a grocery store. “Leave my country!” one Caucasian woman yelled at people in a bus somewhere in the mid-west. People are catching these anti-immigrant and racist remarks on their smartphone cameras. It’s disturbing and disheartening to see and hear them.

I’ve lived in the United States for more than three decades now, and I’ve never witnessed these strong anti-immigrant sentiments and racial tensions until now. My experience of education in this country has been one that has promoted multicultural, intercultural, openness, and welcoming attitudes and values. So why are we now in this state of affairs?

Who’s to blame and what cause these tensions?

I’ll agree with some journalists and pundits that it’s the people at the top of the government that we should blame. Their words and rhetoric influence our thoughts and behaviors. They divide a nation. They promote segregation, violence, and ill feelings towards other people.  They may raise the flag of nationalism, but their speeches and comments on social media cause disharmony and division among us citizens and immigrants of this nation.

I agree that the country’s borders have to be secured and that people should migrate legally to this country. But the anti-racial and anti-immigrant attitudes and behaviors of people make me sad and distressed. They even make me unnecessarily conscious my cultural makeup and color as I go around the city in restaurant and shopping malls.

We must resist this wretched phenomenon. We can’t go back to the painful times of segregation, white supremacy, and cruelty to strangers or other nationalities. We can’t do this alone. We must work together to voice out our aversion to these disturbing and perilous matters.  As Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel sent out his disciples two by two, we all must join forces together to fight the evil of hatred in the world.

This Sunday’s Scriptures also tells us to persevere in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some may not agree with it, but the Gospel is clear regarding our response to people’s rejection of it: “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” Then we should keep preaching and practicing the Gospel of love, openness, harmony, forgiveness, compassion, and peace.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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