Like the rest of you I have been trying to get my mind and heart around the explosive migration of refugees from war, political collapse, and drought that has engulfed us in the past months. We have been living in a refugee crisis for some years now, but it has now burst into every corner of our media and consciousness. Our first response is to meet the immediate needs before us. Many people do this first-hand, whether by providing assistance or by making changes in their everyday life in order to accommodate the changing populations in their midst.
But even beyond this, we are having to think differently about the world we live in. We are having to see it in a new way. We say we have to get at the roots of the problem in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but as soon as we expose those roots—the vicious ideologies of fear and genocide, the greed, incompetence, and moral failure of oil-rich elites—we uncover others. Yes, we are living in the inevitable collapse of the artificial boundaries and “nations” created in the wake of the twentieth century’s World Wars and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Yes, we are reaping the whirlwind of economic and religious mal-formation fed by our insatiable demand for Middle-Eastern oil. Yes, we Americans are feeling the hot blast of the blow-back from our disastrous military misadventures in the region. And yes, we are seeing the inevitable repercussions of the ecological devastation that is emerging as part of the global climate change our fossil-fuel addiction has brought about.
Yes, all this. And we are reeling, just as the actual families in flight to a better life are staggering, weeping, and dying. What good can come of this, we want to know? Where is the welcoming hand of Providence in this harsh spectacle of collapse and misery? Vast migrations have occurred before in history. Our country was created by them. The whole history of humanity is the story of migration. Is there anything to be learned here? Anything to be learned yet once again?
What has constantly assailed me in the past few weeks, with the images of suffering masses walking, sailing, flying, and fleeing toward a better life, is the way we are being knit together more and more in one global household—one “oikos,” as I have been saying for over thirty years. The tragic chasm in which we exist and which threatens us often with despair, is that we have not developed the social, governmental, and economic structures to enable us to live together sustainably on this amazing globe. Yes, we live in the hands of a global imperative as well as a quaking of the old orders of tribe and nation. As we seek to get our own country to absorb more newcomers and work with others to bring about more just and stable orders elsewhere, we need to keep our eye on the possible emergence of higher orders of governance, cooperation, and ecological responsibility to sustain not only our common humanity but the common world that is our home. Out of the ashes, even the destruction of ancient monuments, might yet emerge more brightly the vision of the blue planet the astronauts have seen from the blackness of space. Let’s look for it, like we look for the evening star.
Thanks for reading. Thanks even more for your own thoughts.