Neighbors

10 Years After 9/11: The Good and the Bad

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at home in Washington, D.C. getting ready to go to Sojourners' office. I was upstairs listening to the news on NPR when I heard the first confusing report of a plane crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I immediately called downstairs to Joy and asked her to turn on the television to see what was going on. Moments later, as we ate breakfast together with our three-year-old son Luke, we watched the second plane strike the north tower. I still remember my first response to Joy, "This is going to be bad, very bad," I said.

Of course, I meant more than just the damage to the Twin Towers and the lives lost, which became far greater than any of us imagined at first. Rather, my first and deepest concern was what something like this could do to our country and our nation's soul. I was afraid of how America would respond to a terrorist attack of this scope.

ICE Follies: 'Silent' Raids are Worse Than Useless

There are no whirring helicopters, law enforcement vehicles, or hundreds of federal agents swooping down on businesses as in days of old. Instead, such immigration raids have been replaced by a less overtly brutal approach: "silent" raids, or audits of work eligibility I-9 forms.

But the fear remains.

At the first whisper of an employer receiving notice from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that employees' eligibility records are about to be checked, pulses rise. Legal workers worry about being erroneously bounced out of work; unauthorized employees fear being kicked out of the country and separated from their families. Communities are shaken, business operations are disrupted, and jobs are lost. The anemic economy takes another hit.

Picture This

Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children plod across barren cracked earth. Dead cows and human corpses litter the roads, revealing to us evidence of two things: 1) the hottest summer on record in Somalia, which caused the worst drought and famine in 60 years; and 2) twenty years of a truly failed Somali government swallowed up in cycles of violence.

Picture this: Posturing politicians claim to stand up for the rights of Americans, even as they hijack the proverbial steering wheel of America. They hold a proverbial gun to the heads of every American, and say outright that they'd have no problem driving us all off a proverbial cliff if millionaires and billionaires don't remain protected from raised taxes, and if we don't cut more programs that protect working and poor people.

Mandatory E-Verify: Immoral and Bad Business

I admit it: A few years back, when I first heard about the E-Verify program, I thought it sounded reasonable. The program was described to me as a way for employers to voluntarily verify the U.S. citizenship of their employees by cross-checking their information with the online databases of the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security administration. I knew that there were flaws in the system, which sometimes misidentified workers as undocumented even when they were not. However, I thought, what employer doesn't deserve the right to check the employment eligibility of his or her workers?

The Art of Householding

My "life plan" -- at age 23 -- was to own little and to move where the Spirit led. It was a late 20th century American religious quest interpreted through Dorothy Day’s Catholic anarchy, the factory theology of Simone Weil, Septima Clark's "practical politics," and the joyful authority of Clare of Assisi. Full of idealistic forward motion, I was ready to see and save the world -- in that order. My move in 1986 from California to inner-city Washington, D.C., was to be temporary.

Instead, I came into possession of a 1901 Victorian row house, and 25 years have passed. (Here's a koan for you: "Choosing your vocation.") I was given the gift of stability.

In 2000, after living in two other houses owned by Sojourners community's housing cooperative, Sojourners associate editor Julie Polter and I purchased our house on Fairmont Street. She was looking for more space (or at least a kitchen larger than a closet) and urban anchorage. I was already living in the house, didn't want to move, and needed a yard for my dog. I agonized over the ethics of "ownership" until my mom convinced me that "buying property is what the women in our family do." Julie and I scraped together the down payment, added in "urban homesteading" and first-time homeowner tax credits, learned the intricacies of joint tenancy, and shouldered the mortgage.

The "gift of stability" is considered the fourth vow in Orthodox and Benedictine monastic life. Poverty, chastity, and obedience are the "evangelical vows" that make one radically available to those in need of the gospel. Stability, as Thomas Merton put it, means to "find the place that God has given you and take root there."

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