By Sean Connolly, editorial columnist
I’m not much of a fan of religion in politics. That’s not to say that religious values can’t be a good thing. I went to a Catholic school myself, and although I disagree with many of the things I was taught, there were undoubtedly positive values to be learned.
Perhaps one of the most well-known lines in the New Testament is Jesus’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s a saying I personally have a lot of admiration for. It’s also something I’ve heard a lot in religious discourse, and it seems to be an idea many Christians respect.
The Republican Party tends to lean toward pandering to faithful Christians. Republicans are also notorious for campaigning against immigration. Donald Trump has made some particularly disgusting statements, but even your average “moderate” Republican will tell you how illegal immigrants steal jobs and how we need to do a better job of keeping them out. In general, immigrants are met with annoyance, if not open hostility. It seems safe to assume that most people illegally entering the US are looking for a better life, searching for that famous American Dream. Instead, they end up desperate, taking jobs for illegally low pay as they attempt to avoid deportation.
Are immigrants not our neighbors? Are they not individuals living complex, important lives? As humans, they are worthy of respect and decency. Yet instead of helping those who come to the US, we prosecute them. Loving your neighbor, it seems, doesn’t mean helping your neighbor. At least not when that help comes at the inconvenience of Americans.
To be fair, I have to admit that the Democrats aren’t much better in regard to refugees. In the debates leading up to the Democratic primaries, the candidates have talked about foreign policy in terms that make it clear they only care about Americans, not those from other countries. They have argued back and forth about the Syrian conflict with almost no reference to the millions of refugees the conflict has created – refugees who are running from a conflict that has direct roots in American interference in the Middle East, but whom none of the candidates want to help. Politicians want to keep America out of another war, not to prevent causing more turmoil for civilians but to protect American soldiers. But as they respect the US soldiers, the candidates have apparently forgotten that refugees are people as well, each with a life as sacred as anyone else’s. American lives are so important that a ground war in Syria is unacceptable because American soldiers will die. But Syrians apparently don’t deserve any US assistance, despite being displaced by a conflict the US has helped to create.
Where does empathy end and self-interest begin? This is the curse of nationalism, the belief that those who were born within the same borders as us are inherently worth more. This is why Democratic candidates can talk about bombing Syria without anyone batting an eyelid: even though US-led air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Syria, at least Americans aren’t dying. When Americans are killed, it’s a tragedy. When Middle Eastern civilians are killed, it’s ignored.
The whole point of bombs, drones and unmanned aircraft is that we can kill other people without risking American lives.
Love your neighbor if they were born in America. But if they weren’t, deport them or drop bombs on them.
The heavens, I’m sure, smile on our morality.
God bless America.