Those newspaper “Your Two Cents Worth” and “Call the Courier” columns where readers are invited to offer brief comments or ask questions have become more and more popular. Shar gives me a hard time about it, but I can’t help reading them on a daily basis. Regularly, they supply a quick laugh. Just as often, they can be infuriating.
“Intercept and ship these punks flooding across the border back as fast as we can. What in the world is wrong with Washington? Do you want America to turn into Mexico with its filth and poverty?” signed: “–Just appalled in West Bend”
My first reaction was to ask Shar, “Is there a West Bend in Iowa?” Naturally, she was way ahead of me and reminded me that we had visited The Grotto of the Redemption there years ago. And then it started to come back to me. Yeah… the life project of Father Paul Dobberstein. I think I remember… born in Rosenfeld, Germany, in 1872. Immigrated to the United States in 1892, just out of his teens… pushed from his home by poverty and religious and political oppression.
Sound familiar? Shortly, the young punk entered the seminary, became a priest, and eventually was assigned to Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in West Bend, Iowa. There, over the fifty-seven years of his pastorate, he built what has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the “Miracle in Stone.” Maybe his life was worth saving. Ironically, the “Intercept and ship these punks” comment was followed by this contribution:
“I can’t be the only Iowan that misses Gov. Bob Ray, who was the voice of intelligent reason and a problem solver. signed: “–Brain Sandwich”
That would be the same Robert E Ray who, as a newly elected governor of Iowa, took the politically unpopular position that Iowa and other states could help refugees from the Vietnam war. Clearly the situation is not the same, but we could use some of the same positive and non-politically correct attitude right now. In 1975 over 2600 Tai Dam refugees settled in Iowa. In 1997, during an early Terry Branstad term as governor, Iowa became host to almost 6000 Bosnian war refugees.
Today, our governor says President Obama must toughen border security, and these children are not welcome in Iowa. To make matters worse, I hear other governors saying we need to take care of our own first, that we already have more than enough violence at home. And it seems that the greatest whining comes from the same people who claim that the poor just aren’t trying hard enough. Or are trying to scam the system. Or we need to toughen up and cut off the freeloaders. Really? Now you want to take care of our own?
From all the politicizing of the situation this week, it’s clear that mine is not a popular opinion. I really wanted to take a pass on this topic, but “Just appalled in West Bend” made it really difficult. Where’s the compassion? These are children. They are refugees from poverty, violence, and corruption. At home they will be lucky to survive. Is it too much to ask for some help that takes into account the human suffering in this situation?