Lifestyles on Display
Latest cabinet appointment scandal indicates a larger problem.
by Jonathan Wilson
January 9, 2001
Once again, a cabinet appointee is in trouble regarding the employment of an undocumented worker. Republicans want to send up the smoke screen about all the ways this situation that Ms. Chavez faces is different from the scandal that rocked Clinton's first choice for attorney general.
The differences might be there. I am not writing to declare that Chavez should resign from consideration. The point is, we are seeing another unseemly side to the caste of Americans with disposable income and house employees.
Perhaps I am particularly incensed regarding this subject, because I have just watched GONE WITH THE WIND again.
In any event, this trend of sheltering "undocumented workers," that is, those who are in the country illegally, for exploitation wages, appears to be a lifestyle among our privileged that the scandal eight years ago did not erase.
Of course, they talk about "compassion." They talk about how $100 is an enormous sum in Guatamala. But we are not in Guatamala. The worker deserves her hire. When in America, pay as Americans do.
Perhaps this Guatamalan lady in Chavez's house was "lucky." We know about international sex trades that enslave women. We know about daily border crossings that bring unskilled Mexicans to the orange groves of Arizona and the cotton fields of Texas. And we know what they get paid. But the only time we are outraged is when an illegal Mexican family applies for food stamps or sends their kids to our schools or has their kids birthed in our hospitals. These things, the very things that a sense of charity ought to permit, outrage Americans, because they drain our tax revenues. But pay a Mexican 50 cents an hour to pick oranges? This is "compassion!"
Trading chores for lodging to an illegal alien in a suburban home, and a few hundred dollars stiped, this is compassion!
As one who is looking forward to a career in Christian ministry, I feel a call to resume the same quest undertaken by my Quaker ancestors, the quest of Abolition.
A quest to stop stuffing eighty human beings into the back of a moving van. A quest to stop boxing up Chinese immigrants in crates that become their coffins on the sea voyage. A quest to interrupt the trade in Eastern European women and Thai girls and underage Nepalese children.
It is time we got a grip on a sense of ethics. I am not preaching religious ethics. I am preaching the very substance of humanism, and of business ethics, the kind of thing that deists and agnostics and atheists can sink their teeth into and comprehend. Rather than exploiting others with our wealth and calling it compassion, let us name slavery for what it is, and abolish it.
About the Author:
Jonathan Wilson is a student at North Park Theological Seminary.
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