Some time ago there was a controversy surrounding a graduation at UC Davis (here) where an Illegal immigrant flew the Mexican flag during her commencement ceremony. As it is with the current climate surrounding illegal immigration, so it was then: controversy ensued. Many were outraged called it “a slap in the face of American taxpayers”, while others came to her defense that it such an opportunity is what makes America beautiful. And during that time I had an opportunity to discuss this topic with a friend.
He asked, “Why is it that Americans attack minorities? Why do they always to try to take away their heritage. It is theirs, they are allowed to celebrate it. They have the freedom to do so.” I responded that the issue wasn’t all that complicated. It isn’t about hating minorities, nor about taking away whatever she had (though many would argue that we ought provide for citizens before foreigners), neither about questioning freedom of expression. The controversy was over thankfulness. Not understanding my point, I provided an analogy.
Imagine a young girl who was born to a family that couldn’t provide for her. The mother and father had an abysmal relationship and were generally abusive, they were not as wealthy as their neighbors, and, for the most part, could not afford to provide the education that she desired. So this young girl moves away and is adopted by another family. This family has a
mother and father who maintain a much better relationship and provides a home that is not abusive, they are wealthier than their neighbors, and are able to provide an education leaps and bounds above what she so desperately wanted. And now imagine, at the moment her dream is realized, she turns around and, instead of thanking her adoptive family, waves a picture of the family that was abusive to her. What would you say?
He responded in quite the same fashion, “I don’t understand the analogy. Why are talking about someone being adopted?” And so I provided another by saying, “If I baked you a cookie and gave it to you, who would you thank?” He responded, “I will not answer that question; It is irrelevant.”
That is precisely the problem striking many of our political controversies. We have begun to defend the indefensible. In our attempts to justify our beliefs we must force conflicts to be more complicated than they really are. It is as Chesterton once pointed out, we use elaborate theories to mask simplicity so as to avoid answering for our own beliefs. The controversy was centered around being thankful. Was she thankful for the country that funded her education or was she thankful to the country that didn’t provide a dime to her dream? It’s not about freedom of expression; It’s not about trying to force her to payback all of her financial aid; It’s about the outrage from a family that doesn’t understand why being thankful is something so hard to ask for.