The President’s recent comments about the United States being full has turned quite a few heads. The insinuation of such a remark is that there is no space here for anyone else. No resources, no food, no energy, nothing for those who need help and assistance. What’s more is that this comment was not made in the face of employers seeking temporary or permanent workers. It was not made in the face of tourists or athletes. It wasn’t made to people trying to bring loved ones to join them here. (All of which would also be problematic).
What’s troubling is that those comments were made in the face of people who are fleeing violence, persecution, and poverty in Central America. They are running into the arms of the United States, asking her to embrace them and protect them. They’re asking the United States to live up to its deepest ideal that all people were created with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Now, originally I was trained not in the world of immigration law or policy, but in theology and in Christian ministry. In those studies we were taught that there are two basic ways of looking at the world, through an economy of plenty or through an economy of want.
An economy of want tells us there isn’t enough, that we have to guard what is ours, and that selfishly clinging to what is ours is the ethical thing to do. After all, wouldn’t God want us to care for ourselves and our families and not to put them to harm? This is what Ayn Rand would celebrate as the Virtue of Selfishness or what Rienhold Niebuhr laments as immoral society (that reality where good men and women act selfishly in the collective).
An economy of plenty, however, tells us that there is more than enough to share. It tells us that we should share with those who have need and not worry about the ramifications of generosity. The catch to this economy of plenty is that the riches aren’t unlocked until we begin to practice generosity. We don’t understand the truth of plenty until we are generous with what we have, and sometimes what we learn is that the wealth we have already that can be freed up through lives of simplicity and love.
To say that the United States is full is very clearly operating out of an economy of want. There isn’t enough. We have to keep it for ourselves, and, I’m sorry if you’re fleeing danger and death, we can’t help you.
But the United States of America is better than that.
We’re all better than that.
If we stop to really think about it, not only do we have plenty to share, but so do those coming here in search of safety and security. It’s my hope that more and more of us will be awakened to the true economy of plenty, and that we will not rest until our government begins to operate in this generous economy as well.