Notes from Home: Groundless


By Trudy Wischemann

The fog’s return this week was an odd blessing. On one hand, it signaled the possible return to some kind of meteorological normalcy. The soft, diffuse light is welcome after months of glare; the clean air to breathe is magical after all this smoke.

On the other hand, there’s the disorientation. Without visible landmarks, the four points of the compass are harder to discern; sometimes even “up” and “down” lose their dead certainty. Life seems a little weightless in the fog. Where is my place to stand, my points of departure and arrival?

The blessing for me is that it mimicked my emotional state, the leftovers from the Thanksgiving holiday. As we celebrated the historic moment when natives of this continent welcomed the first immigrants from across the Atlantic, setting in motion the establishment of this Great Nation, our Commander-in-Chief was signing executive orders for the use of lethal force to repel immigrants at the Mexican-U.S. border, perfectly timed to set his wheels in motion over the government recess. This insane display of dispassionate power left me feeling groundless, without a place to stand.

In Sunday’s Bee, Fresno philosopher Andrew Fiala wrote on the virtues of secularism, saying our founding institutions that guarantee freedom of religion and political liberty provide a bridge over some of our deepest divides. We have constitutional protections for individuals’ rights, including the rights of newcomers. We have a body of law to guide us on the use of the military as well as the acceptance of immigrants, and the ability to expand those laws for new situations. We have history to inform us about the perils of using the military in domestic situations. And we have God, the One under whom this nation was supposedly formed.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society issued a call late last month for Methodists, both individually and as congregations, to advocate against the use of the military at the U.S.-Mexico border. Investigating the impacts of the zero tolerance policy on migrant families seeking asylum and communities at the border, the board found “trauma inflicted on children who were separated from their families, as well as the massive taxpayer resources that continue to be used to prosecute the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border.” They also discovered that “All the faith, nonprofit, and government leaders our delegation met shared great concern and fear about U.S. troops being deployed in response to the group of migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border.” (Go to for more information.)

The board called on fellow Methodists to contact elected officials, to prayerfully and peacefully rally, march and protest in solidarity with refugees, to bear witness by being present at immigration courts and detention centers, and to pray for all those affected—and most important: “to build communities who welcome migrants with compassion and grace.”

And now, since the issuance of this call, U.S. troops were sent, and then, as we cooked our turkeys and ate our pumpkin pies, given permission to use lethal force as needed against these displaced people. The escalation to combat as a response to this human emergency is unnecessary and groundless. But we are not groundless. We are home and have ground beneath our feet, ground on which to stand and oppose this senseless display of brutal arrogance. May we use it.

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