Once upon a time, I had a lot of opinions about stuff. People, religion, politics, lifestyles, sexual orientation. Most of what I believed I learned in books and church.
Then I actually put faces to issues and life changed for me.
This is on my mind this week thanks to news reports about proposals to create local housing for illegal immigrant children out of former warehouses and retail space. A lot of people are questioning where the children came from and why are we taking care of them rather than sending them home.
Illegal immigration is a tough one for me. Yes, I believe in obeying the law. Yes, I believe illegal immigration is causing serious problems - like people entering the US without proper immunizations and sparking a resurgence of diseases like measles; crimes caused by illegal immigrants; the destruction of private property along the border (check out the 2006 documentary “Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration“); the crushing burden on our educational and health care systems.
But there are these other nuances to the issue that, unless you really look for them, would leave you with the belief that the problem can be solved with the wave of a wand.
Like what to do with illegal immigrant children.
A few years ago, I watched the 2009 documentary “Which Way Home“. It completely changed the way I view illegal immigration. The number of children trekking from South America to the United States is staggering. More than 100,000 children were taken into custody every year, on their way to a better life, in search of their parents, or escaping abuse and poverty. And that’s just the number we know about; who really knows how many children die or are lured in the drug and sex trade along the way.
It caused me to think more about the reality of the situation – could I put a child on a bus back to Mexico if I knew they were going back to forced prostitution, for example? What do we do with otherwise law abiding illegal immigrants who’ve been here for years and are ingrained positively in their communities? I ended up with no answers but a lot more insight into an issue that really doesn’t have a blanket solution and can’t be addressed with bumper sticker politics.
The broader lesson? If you’ve got a strong opinion on an issue, take time to put a face to it. Against gay marriage? Befriend a gay couple. Anti abortion or pro life? take someone of the opposite opinion to lunch – once a week for a year. Pro gun? Befriend someone who has lost a child in a gun accident. Anti gun? Take a class in gun safety and learn how to fire a pistol.
I don’t have any answers to the problems or political issues. But I do know that you can’t really have a legitimate opinion on something until you’ve honestly faced the other side of the issue. And the best way to do that is to listen.
I think I’ve developed more compassion and a broader world view, as well as more desire to actually consider an issue rather than just blast an opinion on social media and move on with my day. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand on an issue or argue for reform or believe with every fiber of your being that your side is right. It does mean that you move forward with more grace and humility in all areas of your life.
This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.
- This is my original post about the documentary: Illegal immigration, children focus of moving documentary “Which Way Home”
- 50 thoughts on turning 50: #16 Arguing with idiots