LIFE WITHOUT BORDERS: YOURS, MINE, OR OURS?
By NANCY PATRICK
Psalm 24: 1-2 (NIV) The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Today’s media bombards us with news about national borders, ethnic groups, immigration (legal and illegal), and refugee crises around the world. I can become easily confused when I try to learn as much as possible while at the same time remaining both realistic and humanitarian.
I recently attended a meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations in which Dr. Darryl Tippens, retired University Distinguished Scholar at ACU, relayed enlightening information about some of the ways the world continually shifts demographically, religiously, ethnically, and socially. Some of the statistics convey the ongoing evolution on earth, both humanly and ecologically.
In the past, most people identified easily with a nationality, race, religion, ethnic group, social class, and gender. For example, I grew up identifying as a lower middle class white American heterosexual female aligned with the Baptist denomination in the Christian faith. Those labels defined me, so I maintained them for my identity. I did not know much about the “other” in the world. Dr. Tippens calls that mindset the Route 66 way of looking at life, the thought that anything of importance connects to one’s own life and its contingent parts. In the past, this ethnocentric living prevailed in most cultures; however, we cannot live that way anymore, nor should we.
The world has experienced great shifts from this way of thinking. Dr. Tippens included some staggering statistics, including the fact that the Christian community today is 60 percent non-white contrasted with the 80 percent white in 1910. Of the 7,000 world languages today, half of them are nearing extinction as a few major languages (English and Mandarin among them) take their places.
Interracial, interdenominational, and interethnic marriages have created blended communities of all types. Wars around the world have driven millions of people from their native lands to find refuge in other countries. These migrations continue to create much turmoil—personal, social, financial, and political—all over the world.
All this information made me begin to think about the world as the home of the human race rather than a globe marked by borders to separate cultures and ethnicities from one another. Even though natural resources such as oil, coal, gas, water, and clean air may exist in more ample supply in some places than others, the world’s nations generally trade resources with one another so all their citizens have adequate amounts to sustain life.
Last month, news of the forest fires in the Amazon rainforest spurred great concern for the world’s atmosphere. French President Emmanuel Macron commented upon hearing the news of the Amazonian fire, “Our home is burning.” Since the rainforest is not in France, his remark struck me as an extremely insightful assessment of natural resources needed for life.
Macron knows as well as we know that the Amazon rainforest does not belong to the United States, France, or any other country. If anyone could claim ownership of the jungle, Brazil would. In truth, the atmosphere belongs to no one and to everyone, just as water, land, food, and other natural resources. Rather than claiming ownership of whatever resource happens to exist within a country’s geographical borders, the citizens of the world should recognize the need to co-exist and share what we have so we can all live with dignity.
Because of America’s physical distance from Europe, Asia, and Africa, it has historically found it easy to live in isolation. Even in WWII, America waited to enter the fray until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, an American base. After the war ended, we again shied away from world politics as much as possible until 9/11 showed us our own vulnerability. Certainly, I do not suggest the United States police the world or become involved in all civil wars; however, when civil wars decimate groups of civilians within their countries, surely we have a humanitarian responsibility to offer aid from our abundance.
As Dr. Tippens suggested, the world seems smaller today than in the past because technology has brought the countries of the world together in the sense of our co-dependence. No country can live well without international commerce. Imagine our lives and the lives of those in other countries if we did not trade goods openly so all countries could thrive.
A recent CBS 60 Minutes segment reported a crisis of garbage deposits at the bottom of the ocean. Not only does the world’s garbage pollute this essential resource, but also the non-biodegradable plastic sickens and kills some species of underwater life because the creatures cannot digest it. In addition to our oceans and our air, the polar ice caps continue to melt at alarming rates, causing dramatic weather and climate changes. These indisputable facts should frighten and motivate us as world citizens to support legislation to end pollution and reverse its damage .
I pray that world leaders will wake up to the possibility that the world and society as we know them could end if we do not figure out a way to live together civilly. When Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, Atwood, and others wrote their dystopian novels, most readers thought of them as science fiction; unfortunately, I find them eerily relevant in today’s world.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.