The Conversation Continues – Immigrants’ Stories, Faithful Responses

Posted by Dr. David Saenz on November 6, 2017

While our event on Thursday came to an end, the CONVERSATION about strangers, immigrants and refugees continues.  Dr. David Saenz posted this comment on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette web page and asked that we post it on the JCC website.

Dr. Saenz began his life as an migrant farmer returning to the US a dozen times before gaining permanent residency.  He articulates a vision of American community that I embrace and I am grateful for his journey, his intellect and his passion.

Our request of you:

Posted by Dr. David Saenz, November 4, 2017

“At the core of the argument or debate surrounding people of color (e.g., Brown people, Muslims, Jews) is the simple yet insidious sentiment—not in my backyard, not near me, not in my country. As Americans we had been taught to believe that such expressions of individualism are natural and basic, this outlook has now evolved into a misguided protection against outsiders who bring different ideas, different ways of being, different values, a different language, and not surprisingly, different skin colors and tones. The fact is, however, that when we narrow-mindedly and selfishly deny others access to the same avenues we have free entrée to, we are behaving in a divisive and anti-social manner while also creating new sets of problems that other generations will have to solve.

We are all familiar with the litany of statistics on crime, addictive behaviors, unemployment, poverty and other societal ills plaguing our cities. Many have chosen to address the enormity of these issues by shutting certain segments of society out, by pushing them away, or moving farther away into the suburbs. They do it by building walls to keep them away, or creating communities that are protective and thus allowing them to not have to see or experience the plight of those who are different by skin color, affluence, language, cultural difference, dress or religious views. In truth, this only postpones the need for a real solution and makes the need for one increasingly more critical.

Those to whom we repeatedly and consistently deny the benefits of a good education, proper housing and appropriate healthcare, access to the same avenues to opportunity and success, and basic human respect and decency, often grow up to act out their frustration and anger in violent, asocial or destructive ways. Those in positions to deny the “tainted other” the same opportunities they have also decry the loss of their freedoms and liberties, but, is it freedom to feel hatred, distaste, anger or contempt? Is it freedom to feel compelled to insure some people don’t have access to living fully? Is it freedom to live behind locked doors, with security systems? Is this the freedom any of us envisioned?

How do we continue to deny or even reject that the existence of these problems belongs elsewhere? How are their problems not ours? The realties are that there must be a place in the sun for all of us if the American dream has any validity, and if we all are to exercise our freedoms fully. Let us all willingly, humanely, and with compassion and understanding, move aside and make room for those who are different before the sunlight is permanently eclipsed. Those people who are systematically pushed out or away never really leave. They remain with us, they live among us, and it is up to all of us to find ways to be inclusive because practicing exclusivity will one day force upon us the loss of those freedoms we so cherish for ourselves but deny to others.”

David O. Saenz, PhD, EdM, LLC

Clinical & Forensic Psychology

Wexford  PA 15090

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