I don’t even know if Maria is her real name!

September 4, 2007 | 71 comments
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My neighborhood erupted a little while ago. The issue was immigration. I found out about the eruption when I was doing my visiting teaching. I won’t go into the details of the neighborhood fight, just a few lines I heard as I prepared to do a typical visit.

“Maria is illegal, you know. She has her sister’s social security number. I don’t even know if Maria is her real name.”

(That tells me a lot about how much this woman understood Mexican culture. How many Mexican women AREN’T named Maria somewhere in the list?)

As the fight worsened, one of my neighbors called not just the police but the INS. Three days later, I was to teach Sunday School. Maria’s son was in my class. I wondered if he would come.

He did come—wearing an American flag tie. The lesson was “God is no respecter of persons.” I didn’t talk about the neighborhood scandal, but I did talk about prejudice, and about forgiveness. I talked about hearing someone say, “I hate redheads” and (being a redhead) feeling terribly hurt by such meanness. (Of course, that was years ago. If someone said that now, I’d back them to a wall. I am not nearly as shy as I used to be.)

Maria’s son said quietly, “It’s very hard to forgive.”

“Yes,” I acknowledged. “It’s very hard.” And we left it at that.

I don’t want this to start a conversation about immigration. Not interested in that topic at all right now. What I do want to say is that I serve weekly in the Provo Temple at the Spanish veil, and I know and honor the patrons. I became very close to my Hispanic students when I taught Spanish Institute, and I know their stories and why they are in the United States. I know something of their spiritual quests and their spiritual sensitivities.

Whatever political arenas we frequent, we simply cannot afford to have personal borders—borders wherein we choose our neighbors and exclude from our hearts those who fall into certain national or racial categories. Such is spiritual suicide. It denies us the gifts we are intended to receive, and denies others the gifts we are intended to offer.

I left my visiting teaching appointment quietly. I never gave the lesson. I wondered how long it would take before the Mexican family in my neighborhood chose to live elsewhere. I wondered what would happen to them. I wondered how they would feel about Mormons.

P.S. The website for the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons now includes a footage trailer. Here’s the link: www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com.

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71 Responses to I don’t even know if Maria is her real name!

  1. Julie M. Smith on September 4, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Margaret, between this story and the one at BCC about your sons’ hair . . .

    . . . have you and everyone else in your neighborhood considered moving? Good grief.

  2. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Julie–I have sworn for years that I would not leave my home permanently. I hated it when my parents left the home I was raised in, and I hated it when my in-laws moved. I’ve said I’ll install a slide to the downstairs if I need to, once my hips give out. (I think the image of an 80+ year old woman sliding down her stairs is very fitting with what I want to project.)

    Bruce and I bought our home the week before we got married. We live in a middle class area and have freely used money to travel, not to upgrade our residence. I don’t regret that.

    One of my neighbors contemplated moving to a better part of town. She was a social worker, and finally concluded (after lots of case work), “They have the same problems there that we have here–they just hide them better.”

    She’s still my neighbor.

  3. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I take it that your neighbors are the ones you see as committing spiritual suicide?

    When I encounter hate like that, sometimes it helps me to remember that very often hatred and anger is a product of love. People hate that which threatens, or which they feel threatens, something they love. I’m not able to do this, of course, because when what they hate is something I love, hating right back is the easy thing to do.

  4. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Not sure I got your point, Adam. Podrias decirmelo en Ingles?

  5. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Its easy to hate people when we’re exposed to their hateful sides. To get angry at them when we’re exposed to their anger.

    I can sometimes avoid this a little by remembering that their hate and anger are often the products of love. That is, they hate because they feel that something they love is in danger.

    —–

    Porque me tutea, Vd.? No me parece debido.

  6. mmiles on September 4, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    “Whatever political arenas we frequent, we simply cannot afford to have personal borders—borders wherein we choose our neighbors and exclude from our hearts those who fall into certain national or racial categories. Such is spiritual suicide. It denies us the gifts we are intended to receive, and denies others the gifts we are intended to offer.”

    So beatifully said! Thanks for such a wonderful post!

  7. annegb on September 4, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    I am learning, in my old age, that contention kills the spirit. It’s hard to remember, but I’m getting it, in a whole new way.

    I don’t think you can have this discussion, though, without discussing immigration. I’m not troubled as much as some by the illegals, I think they’re more desperate people than anything.

    But we have a section of our town (Cedar City) that is being taken over by Mexicans. I’ve abhored and argued against the arguments reviling them.

    However, I’m getting nervous. That part of the neighborhood is getting to be a hotbed of crime, yes, we have our hotbeds:).

    I don’t think it’s a Mormon issue, is what I’m saying. I don’t think it’s Mormons vs. “others” —–rather, I think it’s a Utah issue. As we, especially here in southern Utah, are inundated with people from California and Vegas, and yes, Mexico, we’re nervous about how it will impact the community.

    And that’s a valid concern.

    I know, knowing myself, I couldn’t have left quietly, as you did, despite any personal concerns I have. I speak up.

    It’s sort of like when the teacher in Relief Society used Democrats as an example, in a derogatory way. I raised my hand and said, “I think we need two parties. Democrats are just as good as we are and I celebrate them.” Someone in the room quietly said, “thank you, anne.” And the teacher realized she was being insulting.

    I don’t know, you make a good point, but it’s not as easy as that. LIfe is complicated.

  8. tyler on September 4, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I served my mission in Mexico; though many there consider most citizens of the United States to be quite racist, they nevertheless believe this is the Promised Land. They believe it with a conviction that will allow them to brave an exodus into a frightening wilderness in order to come here.

  9. mmiles on September 4, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    “rather, I think it’s a Utah issue. As we, especially here in southern Utah, are inundated with people from California and Vegas, and yes, Mexico, we’re nervous about how it will impact the community.”
    Annegb-
    This is not an Utah issue, but an issue everywhere. Worrying about how “they” will impact the community implies that the community believes that “they” will have a negative impact.
    If you just want to stay small and not expand as a community, that is one thing, but if the worry is that somehow Californians, Mexicans and Vegasites(?) will have a negative impact by their very nature or culture is inherently hateful.

  10. Jacob M on September 4, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    mmiles – it’s not inherently hateful, just pessimistic. Everything that changes has a positive and a negative impact, depending on where you’re sitting.

    That said, any influx of Californians must be fought against as much as possible. (grin)

  11. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    A message of love and overcoming boundaries would be a lot more convincing if it weren’t couched in terms of contempt. The more I think about it, the more I’m thinking snarking at some poor woman’s innocuous remark is not the way to introduce this.

    And for the record, none of our Mexican neighbor lady’s names are Maria.

  12. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I don’t understand your reasoning, MMiles. Explain why it would always be hateful for someone to believe that their culture was superior to another culture, or why believing that one’s own culture would be damaged if too much mingled with another culture is tantamount to believing that one’s own culture is superior to the other culture.

  13. Ray on September 4, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    mmiles, anne’s comment was not “hateful” in any way. She said she has fought against the racist statements made by others – and that her growing fear is of the crime that has begun to spread in her community. I oppose bigotry and fear based on stereotypes; I do not condemn fear based on concerns over an increase in crime. If we can’t address issues like that, in the sensitive way that anne did, then we can’t address threads like this in any depth. If we can’t separate truly hateful and racist statements from legitimate concern, especially expressed by those who have defended diversity on a regular basis, then we might as well draw swords on opposite sides and start swinging. That would be a shame.

  14. Rufus Cornpone on September 4, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    ““Maria is illegal, you know. She has her sister’s social security number. I don’t even know if Maria is her real name.”

    (That tells me a lot about how much this woman understood Mexican culture. How many Mexican women AREN’T named Maria somewhere in the list?)”

    Reminds me of the scene in “West Side Story” where Tony is in Spanish Harlem and he sings “Maria”, and only one girl comes to the window! :)

  15. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Very funny story, Rufus.
    Adam, you actually make a case in point. You were upset that I used the “tu” form with you. I suspect that is because you learned Spanish in the mission field, and we ask our missionaries to use “ud.” But in real life, I always address my peers with “tu,” and certainly address younger people with “tu.” It would be strange to do otherwise. I’ll call a stranger “ud.,” unless they’re younger than I am. I call older people “ud” until we have become familiar enough to “tutear.” I always insist that my Mexican friends use “tu” with me.

    Returned missionaries often think they have a culture all figured out. They do have a portion figured out, of course, and they can talk gospel very well–which is no small thing. But for the intricasies of the culture, the little details, the beautiful secrets–no, that has to be put on hold because of what we ask our missionaries to be and how we tell them to behave.

    I have fallen in love with several cultures, and have had sacred experiences in them. I have heard precious, intimate stories in Spanish. I find that the language itself moves me spiritually. Anything reductive about Mexicans or others I love hits me hard. The first job of prejudice is to reduce individuals to commodities, and then to dismiss or accept them according to how they relate to us–or how much they resemble us. If we can keep them separate, we manage not to take responsibility for the challenges they bring. But we also lose treasures we won’t even imagine.

  16. mmiles on September 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Jacob,
    Well said. Agreed. I didn’t mean to come across so harsh. I like annegb.

    Adam,
    I understand preference to one’s culture over another, but not the belief that one is necessarily superior over another. The abasement of one culture is hateful, can’t they just be equal but different? If one is so fearful that one’s own culture is going to lose something if another culture mingles with it, obviously this assumes that the encroaching culture is inferior.

    Ray,
    I appreciate Anne and don’t find her posts to be hateful, but quite the opposite. However this particular post implied a fear of immigrants to Utah and suggested they were prone to crime. Mexicans are not genetically more prone to crime, and, I don’t think, their culture is either. Being concerned about growing crime is legitimate. Associating the crime pocket in town with Mexicans is human. Worried the that crime will grow because of Mexicans, is prejudice.

  17. Tatiana on September 4, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    I was in the south during the civil rights movement, though I was a young child at the time. But I’ve studied it and discussed it with my elders for many years, and I want to testify to the whole world that the only thing the white people here wanted to do back then is to protect their communities from harm.

    But listen, I’m not trying to say they weren’t racist. What I’m saying is that is what racism is. So please don’t tell me, “no, no, no this is different”. It’s so easy to think “white southerners were just racists and we aren’t like that.” But it’s not true. People are people. It is the same thing. I was there. Excluding the other because they will change the nature of your community is racism.

    Things are much better here in the south the way they are now. The whole of different cultural and ethnic groups working together is greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s please not make the same mistake all over again. Let’s be one whole community, one “us”. Not an “us” and “them”.

  18. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    As best as I can make out, Margaret Young, you’re saying that the fact that I don’t like you claiming that degree of familiarity with me means I’m reducing Mexicans to a commodity with the object of dismissing them? That doesn’t sound right, so “podrias decirmelo en Ingles”?

    Since you are willing to dismiss my Spanish request as the arrogance of ignorance, I’ll make it in English. Please don’t call me ‘Adam.’ I’m not your pal. We’ve never met. (I make the same request of the rest of you).

  19. AHLDuke on September 4, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    I will try not to make this an immigration comment, as I know that would violate the express intention of the poster. But as to your second-to-last paragraph (about allowing personal borders to divide us from others), I am in total agreement. In this whole immigration/amnesty debacle, I have mostly been impressed by the stance of the Catholic priests, who decided that it was their duty to care for the needy and oppressed and not to enforce the immigration laws of the United States. As members of a worldwide church, I would hope that we would remember that we are similarly called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to care for and love our fellow man. If another member of my church is breaking a law like the immigration laws (the harm of which is only tenuously linked to the violation), I feel no duty to treat them differently because of their actions. I treat them well because they too are a child of God as well as a fellow believer, and I owe them my loyalty and affection.

  20. Seth R. on September 4, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    If you want a tougher stance on immigration and illegal aliens, fine by me. Go vote for politicians and laws that will further that aim.

    If you want laxer laws and policies, that’s also fine. Go and do likewise.

    But if you take this whole debate personally and allow it to color your interactions with fellow human beings, you are a freaking moron.

    That’s all I have to say on this subject.

  21. Veritas on September 4, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    “I have fallen in love with several cultures, and have had sacred experiences in them. I have heard precious, intimate stories in Spanish. I find that the language itself moves me spiritually. Anything reductive about Mexicans or others I love hits me hard. The first job of prejudice is to reduce individuals to commodities, and then to dismiss or accept them according to how they relate to us–or how much they resemble us. If we can keep them separate, we manage not to take responsibility for the challenges they bring. But we also lose treasures we won’t even imagine.”

    Wow, Margaret, you are incredibly insightful. I wish there were more members, nay, Humans (especially, American Humans as I interact with them the most) that shared this beautiful sentiment. You have written two posts in one day the directly address some of the big underlying issues with why I have disassociated myself with the mormon culture.

    And the language moves me spiritually as well. : )

    “served my mission in Mexico; though many there consider most citizens of the United States to be quite racist, they nevertheless believe this is the Promised Land. They believe it with a conviction that will allow them to brave an exodus into a frightening wilderness in order to come here.”

    I know several members who see certain passages in the BOM to be a prophesy of the current migration as well. I can’t remember the exact scripture though.

  22. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    I understand preference to one’s culture over another,

    OK. So why is it hateful to act on the preference?

    but not the belief that one is necessarily superior over another

    If you’re saying that cultures can’t be superior or inferior, you’re saying that a culture cannot be improved or worsened, correct? But I think its pretty clear that they can be.

    The abasement of one culture is hateful, can’t they just be equal but different?

    I think its entirely possible that two cultures could be equal but different.

    If one is so fearful that one’s own culture is going to lose something if another culture mingles with it, obviously this assumes that the encroaching culture is inferior.

    I don’t agree. It just means that you prefer the culture you grew up with over the alien culture.

    Mexicans are not genetically more prone to crime, and, I don’t think, their culture is either.

    Unproven, but likely.

    Worried the that crime will grow because of Mexicans, is prejudice.

    Why? Assume that you’re right that the Mexican bell curve of criminality looks identical to the American bell curve. What basis do you have to assume that (1) immigrants are drawn equally from all parts of the bell curve, (2) that the circumstances of immigration don’t foster more criminality here than you would see in the home country, and (3) that policing that criminality isn’t more difficult because of ethnic solidarity and cultural/language issues? I think all three assumptions are probably bad, especially the second two. I also bet that you get something like a network effect, where if you have enclaves of immigrants with ties to the home country, crime increases, not necessarily because of any increased criminality but because of increased possibilities for crimes that leverage borders.

  23. Keryn on September 4, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Mmiles (#16) I have to disagree with your statement “The abasement of one culture is hateful, can’t they just be equal but different?” They can, but they aren’t always. I can look at a culture (let’s take the hip-hop culture for an example) and see that this culture encourages mistreatment of women, promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births, drugs, crime, etc. I DO think that particular culture is wrong, bad, and inferior to our (traditional) Mormon culture.

    Speaking to the larger issue, I find I have to really, really work to not associate “crimes” wrought by the culture (subculture, group, whatever) with the individuals, especially if I don’t know the individuals well. I love the phrase “spiritual suicide” that Margaret Young uses. It helps me examine my prejudices a little more closely.

  24. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    The first job of prejudice is to reduce individuals to commodities, and then to dismiss or accept them according to how they relate to us–or how much they resemble us. If we can keep them separate, we manage not to take responsibility for the challenges they bring.

    How does this dovetail with your attitude towards your neighbors?

  25. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Keryn,

    hip-hop and (American) Mormon culture are both subcultures really, but I think your point is valid. Your point about the difficulty and necessity of not associating group traits or “crimes” with members of that group is also excellent (Mountain Meadows comes to mind).

  26. Adam Greenwood on September 4, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I was just chatting with a Mexican immigrant woman at work. I asked her if her full name was Maria de Guadelupe or something like that, but she said it was just Guadelupe. No Marias.

  27. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Hmmm. Veritas, I love the gospel. Just so you know. There is no conflict in my soul over the things I hold most dear. I can easily separate human stupidity from what actually matters .

    There’s a wonderful quote from the documentary I provided the link to, from Alan Cherry, an African American who joined the Church in 1968. Towards the end of the film, after we’ve hit some very difficult issues and talked about why it’s hard to retain African American converts in the rather staid Mormon culture–or even sometimes in the face of bigotry, Alan says, “Culture is like a coat. It may be comfortable, but it’s not the core of who you were before you came here, or who you will be after you leave…I can embrace a bigot–even if he won’t embrace me, and recognize, ‘That’s your cultural coat. It’s not my issue–I’ve never had a problem with hate. But maybe you can help me with some of my problems, and I can help you with that.’”

    I’ve spoken about my Hispanic friends in this post, but my African American friends have given me some of the greatest treasures of my life: the spirit of survival, the passion behind traditional spirituals which still thrives, the fierce devotion to equality and progress.

    The scriptures repeat the phrase, “Enlarge thy borders forever.” In the eternal perspective, of course, there are no borders at all. All are invited to partake and to share.

  28. Ann on September 4, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Is it an unethical or unChristian to turn in an illegal immigrant? Why?

    FTR, I would not turn in an illegal immigrant, because I don’t have a dog in that particular hunt. But I think it’s assumed by the original post that doing so is wrong, and I’m wondering why.

  29. Ray on September 4, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    My biggest concern whenever people discuss culture and race is that it is almost impossible to have a dispassionate discussion of the central issues that cause contention in the first place – because culture is so tied up in individual perceptions of value and self-worth and communal unity. I really like the “culture as a coat” metaphor, but it is very hard for most people to shed a coat when they feel cold or in need of protection. IOW, people feel naked (or even not themselves) when you remove them from their culture (take away their covering/protecting coat), so they cling to that culture passionately – and often irrationally.

    I was raised in rural, central Utah; served a mission in Japan; attended college in Massachusetts, with many friends and acquaintances from other countries around the world; taught high school in southern Alabama; currently live in Ohio. I have worked extensively in the rural Midwest and in the eastern inner-cities. I have been exposed to many cultures, both societal and religious. The one thing I have learned from this experience that is most relevant to this post is that is it next to impossible in a group setting to discuss cultural concerns and not be labeled a bigot or homophobic or a hatemonger, no matter how carefully and narrowly you attempt to do so – specifically because the natural (wo)man feels attacked personally whenever “criticism” is directed to culture.

    One example from my occupational history: About

  30. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Ray–did you die?

  31. Ray on September 4, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry; accidentally hit shortcut keys to post, apparently. The example:

    About 10 years ago, the Ohio legislature decided to enforce a mandate that all 4th Grade students demonstrate reading proficiency before being advanced to 5th Grade. The vast majority of politicians and citizens saw this as a simple attempt to make sure that students were being taught as they deserved to be taught – of holding the educational systems in the state accountable for their performance. However, there was a good-sized minority that saw it as a direct racial attack, since the districts that would have been impacted the most severely were the inner-city districts – and the Black students would have been affected disproportionately. This group felt that it was racist to punish the students for the historical inability of the system to provide them the same quality education that the predominantly White, suburban districts were providing their students. The issue became so contentious that it disappeared completely within one year.

    My point is not what most might assume. Honestly, as someone who was knee deep in the issue, I could understand both arguments. There was a degree of validity to each. I believed that there were a number of options that could have addressed both sides’ concerns – that could have brought about an acceptable compromise. It didn’t happen for one reason and one reason alone, IMO. Each side took a defensive posture to thwart an attack against its culture and educational perspective – so both sides lost in the end.

  32. Ray on September 4, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks, Margaret, for your concern – unless you were about to organize a party to celebrate.

  33. Bob on September 4, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    #19: When Annegb said we Californians were ruining her town, I let it go. Now you’re calling me a ‘ freaking moron’, Again, I let it go.

  34. Margaret Young on September 4, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    I’m intrigued, Ray. Could you take it to the next step? What, in the ideal world, would have happened? Is there a way that we who profess to follow Jesus Christ can help the ideal you imagine become a reality? Don’t worry about the political stumbling blocks as you compose this ideal world. We Latter-day Saints comprise a culture that actually tried it–actually attempted a world without class distinction. Our scriptures include 4 Nephi, which pictures a world where everyone shares everything and each esteems the other as himself. What would it take? I’ve long thought that one of the most important messages of the BOM is that of two brothers whose descendants have learned to perceive each other as different races, and cling to traditional hatred, and yet they eventually become one in Christ, if only for a moment. Surely that’s a message for our time.

  35. queuno on September 4, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    My wife served her mission in Spanish-speaking California and has a deep abiding belief that the Church *just doesn’t care* about immigration status. The Church doesn’t explicitly encourage immigration, but we don’t discourage it. If you don’t speak the language or don’t fit in, we’ll find a Spanish-speaking (other languages, too) ward for you to attend. You can use the ward and stake employment specialists to help find a job, and the regional employment center has immigration attorneys they can refer to local leaders.

    As for me, we welcome migration in our ward in Texas — every week we welcome poor, shuddering migrants in from California and Chicago and Utah to our cheap land and inexpensive housing and well-run wards. Their eyes glisten with gratitude when the Mormon Moving Company unloads their truck for them, and they gaze at the yard they have, and wide-open spaces (until the ranchers eventually sell) and they hug their families and whisper, “We’re home. We’re home. And we have a non-ARM mortgage that isn’t slowly sucking out our will to live.”

  36. queuno on September 4, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Margaret (33) – A perfect, millenial world run by the Savior probably has completely open borders…

  37. Aluwid on September 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Queno,

    Wouldn’t it be more true to say that a millennial world would have no borders because there would be no separate nations? No borders is different from open borders. If you want no borders then start pushing to make Mexico the 51st state (and Canada the 52nd), otherwise we’ll need to continue considering what measures are needed at our borders given the different nations, their different laws, their different responsibilities and interests, etc.

  38. Ray on September 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Frankly, Margaret, I think it failed because of the simple natural man issue – one group feeling attacked and the other group dismissing that feeling as ridiculous simply because they didn’t intend their actions to be an attack. In that sense, there was incorrect evaluation going on in each camp. However, each group felt the other was being insensitive and dismissive – and they were correct in that regard.

    What would have happened ideally? I don’t think the “ideal” was possible, and I don’t want to get into that. I also don’t want to turn this into a political discussion of educational funding and administration, so I can’t answer that here in practical terms. However, conceptually, all it would have taken would have been leaders of each group who were willing to set aside cultural differences, really listen to each other in order to understand and look at the central issues from strictly an educational perspective – to quit making accusations about motivation and simply work out the practical issues. The solution might not have been ideal, but it would have been *much* better than what happened. I wish they would have spent less time trying to convince the other side they were correct and more time simply trying to understand the valid aspects of the other’s perspective.

    There is a lesson in there for just about every aspect of life, since Joseph Smith seems to have spent much more energy on unity and community building and assimilating all the good to which he was exposed than he did on theological debate and criticism. All character flaws aside, I absolutely love that about him.

  39. Bradley Ross on September 5, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Margaret, I’m very interested to hear your answer to Ann’s question in #27. I’ll expand the question, too. Is it ever Christian to turn in anyone for any crime? If there is a Christian expectation that we’d turn people in for some crimes, how do we draw the line between legitimate community policing and tattling?

  40. mmiles on September 5, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Queno,
    Actually the church does discourage immigration. Both as a missionaty and while living abroad I heard many a talk on encouraging members not to immigrate to America.

    Keryn,
    Very valid point, I realized this too. Certainly the argument extends beyond sub-cultures too.

    Adam (21),
    “OK. So why is it hateful to act on the preference?”
    What do you mean by acting on a preference? How would you see one going about this?

    “If you’re saying that cultures can’t be superior or inferior, you’re saying that a culture cannot be improved or worsened, correct? But I think its pretty clear that they can be.”
    Ranking cultures as inferior or superior has little to do with improvement. Perhaps if I better understood what you have in mind. In what ways would a culture Improve—losing nothing? How are you defining culture?

    On your last points, I simply choose to be an optimist!—hoping for & looking for the best in people.

    Margaret and Ray.
    I too love the coat analogy, and enjoy following your discussion.

  41. Matt W. on September 5, 2007 at 1:36 am

    My Sister in Law is on a mission in Provo Spanish Speaking and has to deal with a lot of this same type of stuff. From her I have learned there are a lot of legal and illegal immigrants in Utah. A whole lot of them get baptized. She’s in Heber right now, and dealing with similar issues of people being petty.

  42. Kaimi Wenger on September 5, 2007 at 1:41 am

    Margaret writes,

    “The scriptures repeat the phrase, “Enlarge thy borders forever.” In the eternal perspective, of course, there are no borders at all. All are invited to partake and to share.”

    This reminds me of a great line from a song by Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona. One of his earliest hits was a song about religion called Jesus, Verbo no Sustantivo (“Jesus is a verb, not a noun”). (This is drawn from John 1, which in Spanish begins by saying that Jesus is the Verb, not the Word, as our English translation reads). The song is a ringing indictment of most of the organized religions of the country (including our own), and a reminder that Jesus is about doing good things.

    The line that I was thinking of goes:

    Senores, no dividen la fe, las fronteras son para los paises,
    En este mundo hay mas religiones que ninos felices.

    (“People, don’t divide the faith. Borders are for countries [not religions].
    In this world, there are more religions than there are happy children.”)

    It’s a great line, and a great sentiment. Our borders shouldn’t divide us to the point that there are more divisions than there are happy children.

  43. mmiles on September 5, 2007 at 1:44 am

    I bet immigrants are more likely to get baptized than cause the crime in Mr. Greenwood’s (#21) many bell curves–and more likely to get baptized the other non-members in Utah.

  44. Richard O. on September 5, 2007 at 2:11 am

    Some thoughts on culture…
    I don’t believe that all cultures are “equal” in all things.
    Latino culture has some problems in providing economic opportunity. Latinos, especially those in the USA or trying to get into the USA, acknowledge that reality. They vote with their feet. Traditional U.S.A. culture has some spiritual problems. Reciting the littiny is pretty easy. There is a huge growth of the Church among Latinos, both in Latin America AND in the USA. This would seem to indicate some kind of increased spirituality among Latinos.
    Perhaps it would be useful to discuss why the USA has become such an upward economic escelator that it draws so many emigrants. Perhaps it would also be useful to explore why Latinos seem to be so receptive to the Gospel. Perhaps we could also discuss why Mexican food is more interesting than British food.
    The differences (and superiorities) are what makes the study and interaction with cultures stimulating. It gives people a chance to expand and learn. For example, the Russians have pretty much made a mess out of their politics for the last thousand or so years, but look at their arts. Wow!
    Some years ago Hartman Rector was asked by an Acoma Pueblo Indian what he had to give up to become a Mormon. Elder Rector answered, “Nothing that’s true.”

  45. Tiffany on September 5, 2007 at 6:16 am

    Margaret, thank you for this powerful and moving post. I think you have highlighted the very real challenges every country faces as they deal with immigrations. And the bottom line is, it is personal as we accept new neighbors and help them integrate into our society.

    This isn’t a problem just in the U.S. I live in Sweden and the immigration level from middle-eastern countries is skyrocketing. Swedes are having a very hard time accepting these new immigrants to their countries. They view them with mistrust and when neighborhoods reach a certain immigration saturation level, the Swedes start moving out. And yes, crime has increased, especially in immigrant dominated neighborhoods.

    I became much more sensitive to the issue when I was, in effect, an immigrant. I’m an American in Sweden. Even though I speak Swedish, I face a barrier in some aspects of Swedish social life. I cannot compare my experiences with Latin American immigrants, but I felt much more sympathetic. It’s scary and hard to move to a new country where you face tremendous barriers with language and culture.

    If we were more Christlike in dealing with immigrants we could help them adjust to their new lives. And I think this would go far in reducing cultural clashes.

  46. Wilfried on September 5, 2007 at 8:29 am

    A post I can deeply appreciate, Margaret. Not only because I’m an “immigrant” myself from Belgium in the U.S. (though without the usual challenges), but also from the experiences integrating East-European and African immigrants in our ward in Belgium.

    mmiles (40): “Actually the church does discourage immigration. Both as a missionary and while living abroad I heard many a talk on encouraging members not to immigrate to America.”

    That is true, but it also a complex issue with some ambiguities, since (renewed) immigration to Utah may help reverse the declining Mormon ratio in the population. The Church sends a strong signal of acceptance of immigrants, even if they are illegal in the country.

  47. annegb on September 5, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I don’t think it’s hateful, perhaps it is prejudice, but it’s also realistic. They print the arrest reports here and always, always, there are a lot of Mexicans arrested. We live on the I-15 corridor and the drug traffickers are always being arrested with their U-Hauls full of marijuana, etc. I’m not sure, but I think statistically it can be proven that Mexicans factor into that.

    Margaret, you are totally and completely right. In a perfect world.

    And your profound points can be applied universally without regard to race or religion.

    My neighbor is the patriarch. He was asked if there was anything that affected the blessings he gave. He imnediately replied “contention” I’ve pondered that and realized how much contention saps my spirit. Even if I’m right, it’s better not to contend with others. Not that I always do it.

    I’m wondering, do you think prejudice is really fear?

  48. annegb on September 5, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Ray, I didn’t say you were ruining our town. I said we are being inundated and we’re concerned.

    The problem we find with people from the city moving in is that they move here to escape the city, then try to change our community so they have everything they have in the city. A lot of them don’t like us after they get here and they complain loud and proud. And I certainly didn’t mean to offend anybody from there, it’s just the truth. However, I apologize, I believe in including, not excluding.

    Cedar is growing and getting way too big for me.

    On the other hand, I don’t blame anybody who wants to get out of Vegas or California. Or Mexico.

  49. Ray on September 5, 2007 at 11:00 am

    anne, I think you directed #48 at the wrong person.

  50. Che Copete on September 5, 2007 at 11:22 am

    So they “knew” she was illegal–how did they know that? Is it really any of their business?

    As far as their “loving something so much that it drives them to hate”, even if that were a good thing, “Maria” is hardly the proper target. The proper target would be the fine, upstanding members of their ward and stake who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Those who profit from their misery. Take them away and illegal immigration and immigrants disappears. Somehow I doubt that calling ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on those members would be frowned on.

    Adam, you really should read what Margaret told you and apply it. Insisting on being addressed as “Ud” marks you as a weirdo in most of Latin America, as in most countries “tú” is what’s used with everyone except senior citizens, police, judges, and your boss at work. Contrary to what missionaries are taught, “tú” no longer implies a degree of familiarity. The exception to this would be the Spanish spoken in Colombia, where even husbands and wives use “Ud” when speaking to each other. If you learned Spanish there, you need to realize the rest of the Spanish speaking world laughs at this Colombian habit. If you didn’t learn to speak Spanish in Colombia, then “sacate el palo del culo y portate como un ser normal”.

  51. Che Copete on September 5, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Comment #50 should read “calling ICE on those members would be smiled upon”

  52. annegb on September 5, 2007 at 11:34 am

    LOL, well, whoever. I’m usually 75% lost.

    Cedar has, I think, maybe 25,000 residents. Relatively, still a small town.

    In our local paper today were three articles, one front page, of crimes committed by Mexicans. The one on the front page involved a gunfight between 8 men, two were hospitalized. On page 3 were two articles, one about a sexual crime, and another about a family fight that erupted and ended in arrests and injury.

    I think that’s fairly large statistically.

    On the other hand, the paper didn’t print anything about all the peaceful Mexican family gatherings. Or the men who didn’t molest anyone.

    I’m not meaning to pick on the Mexican population.

    But, in light of your topic, Margaret, how do I reconcile the growing crime rate and meth production with your conclusions?
    How do I take a negative and make it a positive? We can’t ignore this.

  53. Mike on September 5, 2007 at 11:41 am

    This a legitimate, not a rhetorical question:

    What portion of Latino immigrants into Utah are joining the LDS faith? This is not really a thread jack because the way we treat people one-on-one on a daily basis is what results in their listening to and accepting the gospel across cultural and national barriers. How are we doing in Utah?

    I have been told by relatives in Utah that Latinos, mostly recent immigrants from Mexico, now make up close to 30% of the population of the state. Official reports say only about 10%; but the other 20% are supposedly illegal and not officially counted, yet.

    I saw an article in our extremely unreliable local paper that attempted to grade those places most friendly to illiegal immigration based on a number of marginally relevant factors and Utah was put right at the top of the list. Complement or insult?

    I have been told many times that Utah is about 70% LDS, although I think the 2000 US Census showed that Utah is closer to 60% LDS. It also indicates that only 6% of Utahns claim to be Roman Catholic, the most common religion of Mexico.

    The population in Utah now exceeds 2 million by quite a bit. That would mean more than 1 million LDS folks there; perhaps around 1.4 million. The annual number of LDS conversions worldwide for 2006 was about 273,000 and has been below 300,000 for many years, just for some perspective.

    I would imagine that several Spanish wards with numerous new converts are scattered around the area and many other wards in Utah would have handfuls of various numbers of Lations attending them. But a few wards and a few members is a far cry from 100,000 or more new Latino converts in Utah. Or 300,000 new Latino converts in the 3 missions in Utah if the 30% of Latinos is to be believed. That would be 200-600 Spanish wards in Utah. Even the most conservative estimate; 2.3 million Utahns, 10% Latino and 60% converstion to LDS faith would add up to about 138,000 new Latino converts in the last few years. Anything less than this number adds up to the new Latino immigrants to Utah helping to dilute out the historic LDS population percentage.

    I am wondering just how much the face of Utah Mormons continues to resemble that of Napoleon Dynamite, or if we really do have that many Pedro’s riding to church with us in the historic Mormon homeland.

    Either way, you gotta love ‘em.

  54. queuno on September 5, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Wouldn’t it be more true to say that a millennial world would have no borders because there would be no separate nations? No borders is different from open borders. If you want no borders then start pushing to make Mexico the 51st state (and Canada the 52nd), otherwise we’ll need to continue considering what measures are needed at our borders given the different nations, their different laws, their different responsibilities and interests, etc.

    Your first sentence is closer to what I was trying to convey. I was not intending to get into the debate your second point makes.

    Actually the church does discourage immigration. Both as a missionary and while living abroad I heard many a talk on encouraging members not to immigrate to America.

    Tomato, tomahto. Yes, the Church has become more vocal about it in recent years, and the PEF is in large part designed to help people stay in their own countries. But the Church is NOT concerned about the legality/illegality of it. The Church mainly wants to keep leadership material in the local areas to help build the Church! Having an amibitious, motivated person move from his pueblo in Mexico to Colorado doesn’t help build the Church in that pueblo, and probably doesn’t do much to help build it in Colorado.

    Once they get here, the Church welcomes them in with open arms and does everything they can to help them succeed and thrive here. The illegal aspect is not a huge concern.

  55. Frank McIntyre on September 5, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    “The first job of prejudice is to reduce individuals to commodities…”

    I happen to really like commodities. I think everybody else would too if they just got to know them.

    “I have been told many times that Utah is about 70% LDS, although I think the 2000 US Census showed that Utah is closer to 60% LDS. It also indicates that only 6% of Utahns claim to be Roman Catholic, the most common religion of Mexico.”

    The U.S. Census asks no questions about religion. So you must be thinking of some other source.

  56. Frank McIntyre on September 5, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Che Copete: “Adam, you really should read what Margaret told you and apply it. Insisting on being addressed as “Ud” marks you as a weirdo in most of Latin America,”

    The crucial point you are missing here is that Adam Greenwood is a weirdo _even_ here. His preference for formality is well documented and translates easily across languages. The man wears vests for goodness sake.

  57. queuno on September 5, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    So Adam wouldn’t be partial to a “vos che” greeting, I take it. My Spanish professors at BYU would mark you down for egregious Ud. usage.

  58. Che Copete on September 5, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Frank:

    Thanks for the info, I just read his bio and understand completely now. I would suggest he insist on being spoken to in “vosotros”; while normally associated with the second-person plural, it is also used when swearing in high officials like presidents and supreme court justices. Why stick with ordinary, old “Ud’, Adam.

  59. k l h on September 5, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    It seems that just about every Portena (“woman from Rio de Janeiro”) I know has Maria as her first name (and go by their middle name, so that e/g Maria Estela is Estela). It is explained (I don’t know how authoritatively) that since every Catholic is required to be christened with a saint’s name, the custom developed for just about every girl to recieve as her Chistian name “Mary.”

  60. Ardis Parshall on September 5, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t know whether Maria is her real name. I do know that I have the guts to blog under my real name. I know that Adam doesn’t hide under a pseudonym, either.

    Troy, how about you?

  61. Mike on September 5, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Annegb:

    I can’t answer your question about crime beyond a vague hope to convert them to our way of life, either religiously or culturally. Missionaries, schools, youth activities, etc.

    As far as the meth goes, I can give you some perspective. The widespread use of meth in Cedar City is probably the marker of a relatively “good” thing or at least a less evil thing.

    There are two kinds of illegal drugs; imported and home made. And it happens to work out that imported drugs are “better” from the perspective of the user. They are cheaper to make and have more desirable effects and are perceived to be safer. The most common imported drugs are cocaine and heroin. When law enforcement has a pretty good handle on the local illegal drug trade, the amount of cocaine and heroin available goes down. The amount of meth use goes up when most of the pushers get longer jail terms than the users. You can buy almost all the things you need to make meth at Walmarts and put them in a picnic cooler and make it on your front porch across the street from the police station. This has been done. Police generally have a better handle on what people are doing in smaller rural areas because everyone tends to know everyone else’s business and it is easier to figure out who did what and track folks down.

    Here in urban Atlanta cocaine is going for less than 5 bucks a hit and less than $1000 a cookie which is a disc shaped chunk of cocaine about the size and shape of one of Mrs Fields enormous cookies and it can be cut into over a 1000 hits. Not economical to make and sell meth here and very little is used. Cocaine is brought through the Atlanta airport probably by the ton from Latin America and also by boat into Florida. Atlanta has too much crime and not enough police and a more favorable legal environment for the defense so king cocaine reigns. Heck, they didn’t get around to taking the cocaine out of Coca Cola until about 1930, that is what Coca stands for. (Cola refers to Kola an African narcotic-like substance not commonly used any more). In contrast to the problems in large urban areas, in rural Georgia, with its reputation for strong-armed law enforcement (don’t mess with the sheriff in a small southern town) it is harder to buy or sell cocaine and so meth use is the way to go.

    The fact that the Latinos in Cedar City are using meth and not importing very much Mexican heroin (or cocaine from further south) is a relatively good thing. The Iron county patrol is to be complemented.

  62. mmiles on September 5, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    queno,
    I did not mean to imply the church has a strong stance on the legality/illegality of immigration. I did want to counter your statement that it is not discouraged, and yes– for the reasons you stated. So we agree.

  63. queuno on September 5, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    mmiles – It’s a very half-hearted discouragement, at best (although, I do think it has become a tad more vocal in recent years). But it has nothing to do with US immigration policy, but entirely wrapped around spreading the gospel to the globe. I’m not sure I really have a problem with it. Should I be as diligent in rooting out my fellow brethren if my Church isn’t going to do it?

    DW says that in her mission, they changed the meeting place for a spanish-speaking ward when INS put in a checkpoint that 90% of the members would have to pass to get to Church. So they moved the ward to another building. Problem solved. Mass deportations and ward disruption avoided.

  64. mmiles on September 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    queno–
    I’m not sure why you are directing theses questions at me. I have not taken a stand on immigration on this thread, nor do I plan to. I certainly don’t have strong feelings about it either way.

    I will say that I have absolutely no problem with encouraging Saints to stay put to further the stability and growth of the church in areas where the church is new.

  65. k l h on September 5, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Re queuno’s observation about a unified Millennial world and Richard O.’s about cultural variances: If Millennial Cultures’ cuisine (and cheese) would be more French than British, would its officials’ ethics and repect-for-ranking be more British than Russian? it’s chess and ballet schools more Russian than Italian? its opera schools and general romance more Italian than Swiss? its precision timepieces more Swiss than French? ;^) (I give slightly less of a plug for Swiss culture since I’m (half) Swiss-American)

  66. Che Copete aka Troy on September 5, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Ardis:

    Is it against the rules here to post under a pseudonym? I’ve read them and can’t find anything about it. As far as having the “guts to blog under your own name”, guts has nothing to do with it. I’ve found using my real name has brought me grief, at church and outside it, so prefer not to do it.

    Do you disagree with something I posted? Do you think that insisting on being addressed as “Ud” doesn’t seem strange to Spanish speakers? Do you disagree with the notion that people upset about illegal immigration would be better channeling their scorn and snitching towards those of their own race who live off the backs of illegal immigrants?

    You’re obviously upset by something I posted, as I wasn’t the only poster that called Adam weird yet only I got my first name posted. My first name that you took from the email I provided. I suppose if this makes you angry you’ll start playing hangman with the letters of my last name. Is this provided for in the site rules, or is this just you going off on your own?

    Troy

  67. Non-Winter Meat Eater on September 5, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    I grew up in Southern California where there has never been a shortage of illegal immigrants, predominately Mexicans. By the time I left home for college in another state, my overall impression of Mexican illegal aliens was that they were lazy, uneducated, criminal-minded gang bangers, and that we’d be better off without them living amongst us.

    I was later called to serve a Spanish-speaking mission stateside where I worked predominately with–you guessed it–illegal Mexican immigrants. To make a very long story short, my view of illegal immigrants, and Mexicans in particular, was changed completely during my mission. I developed a strong love for them that I still have; I guess you could call it a benevolent prejudice that predisposes me to like them simply because they are Mexicans living in the United States (like the people I served amongst during my mission).

    When I served amongst them, I saw they were hard-working, family-oriented, humble, and non-materialistic. They welcomed me into their homes with open arms and never made me feel like a stranger amongst them.

    Amen to Margaret’s words about the incompatibility of prejudice and charity.

  68. Jonathan Green on September 5, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Well, this doesn’t seem to be going well at all. If anyone has anything important to contribute, please try to get it in here in the next hour or so, say by 2:00 PM PDT, 3:00 PM MDT, 5:00 PM EDT, etc. At that point, I’ll close up shop here.

  69. Ardis Parshall on September 5, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Che, nobody would have known who I was speaking to if you hadn’t outed yourself. Of course it is not against the rules to post pseudonymously, or to use only one’s first name, or to otherwise disguise one’s identity. I do think, though, that being able to hide makes it much easier to say things we probably wouldn’t say under our own names, including calling someone a “weirdo.” That’s all I meant.

    You should realize that this is a touchy subject with me. A lot of people who do sign their names have a certain degree of anonymity, regardless — how many Mike Parkers, for instance, might conceivably be taking part in internet discussions? On the other hand, when you google Ardis Parshall, you can be fairly sure that everything you find is me. Anonymity is not a luxury I have ever enjoyed. If you think I get snarky and overbearing even when I *do* sign my name, imagine the temptation I would be under if I blogged under a pseudonym!

    Please, just be as courteous to commenters and T&S bloggers as you would be if you did have to own your comments later. That’s all I’m asking, and admitting it’s something I need to work on myself.

  70. Ana on September 5, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Margaret, I’m so sorry for the contention in your neighborhood and ward. I’m glad you’re there to talk to the young man in your class.

    It boggles my mind that some folks think they can live in the world today without experiencing cultural diversity, or that cultural mixing and change can be stopped. It can’t. Between economic motivators influencing immigration and fast, easy global communication, almost nobody can live in an all-white world anymore, and in the future that phenomenon will only increase.

    What we have to do is figure out how to handle it in a Christlike way.

    The lower-income neighborhoods where immigrants gather do have higher crime rates, but it’s not because of ethnic background. It’s because of poverty and fractured families and alienation. What are we going to do about that?

  71. Struwelpeter on September 5, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Margaret,

    I watched the trailer and am very much looking forward to seeing the completed product.

WELCOME

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