A Hell of a Story

It’s Been a While

Followers of this blog know that it’s been a while since my last post. What they don’t know is why. In one way, it’s simple: I have been heartbroken at the daily assaults on our American values by the Trump people, including himself, but I made a promise to myself when I began writing the blog that I’d avoid politics. So I have. The mission here is summed up in the subtitle: Psyche, Spirit, Story.

But finally (I’m slow), I realize that the behavior and rhetoric of the Trump people are nothing if not spiritual (in the darkest sense of that word)—and they deeply impact our individual and collective psyches and to top it off, are one hell of a story. Literally.

Cruelty at the Border

How is the separation of families, the imprisonment of children for no crime they are responsible for, something “spiritual”? It’s not. But what it compels, at least for me and for many whom I know, is compassion. Not to mention just anger. In others, it elicits either complacency or approval—and when the subject is injustice and oppression of the weak, complacency or approval are spiritual responses. All three reactions express a psychological impact, and each betrays a profound story of one’s relations with one’s fellow human beings: 

  • I care. I suffer with or for you.
  • I don’t care. You do not matter to me.
  • I’m glad you’re suffering. 

Now, I’m focused less on the “psyche” or the “story” dimension, than on “spirit.” I was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I rely on the Biblical tradition when confronting puzzling and outrageous social conditions. In Leviticus, we read, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

This is bedrock. Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, writing in 2017 on HuffingtonPost.com, said that this statement in Leviticus “is a central preoccupation of the Torah as a whole. Why? Repeatedly we are told that because the Israelites were persecuted as the hated and dreaded foreign element in Egyptian society,one of their primary responsibilities as a free people is to not oppress the stranger.” The family of Jacob, grandson of Abraham, were immigrants in Egypt. Immigrants who were enslaved. 

Liberated by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, these former slaves wandered forty years in the desert, so that the slave generation could die out and the young and free generation could develop self-reliance and could internalize the teaching at Sinai: To care for the immigrant, because their ancestors had once been immigrants, and enslaved. 

A Hell of a Story

It’s one hell of a psychological story, and you don’t even need a psychology degree to read it. Imagine: Your daughter or your granddaughter is torn from you, placed in a cage with nowhere to sleep, garbage to eat, no cups to collect water for drinking, no bath or shower for days, even weeks. Not even a toothbrush or toothpaste. You don’t need a PhD to recognize torture and trauma. You don’t need to practice psychotherapy to witness the sowing of the seeds of lifetimes of emotional pain. 

More perversely, it’s a hell of a spiritual story, because it’s main characters aren’t the Hispanic and Latino families who are torn apart—the main characters are us. It’s the story of who we are—who we side with, who we help, or who we let suffer. 

This is why I’m blogging again: I won’t stand by any longer.

Author: Bill Percy

I'm an award-winning Idaho author, my "second chapter" after 40 years as a Minnesota psychologist.During my Minnesota years, I wrote for and taught graduate students, switching to fiction in 2009. My 2014 novel, "Climbing the Coliseum," was a Finalist for the 2014 Foreword Reviews' Book of the Year Award in general fiction. My second novel, "Nobody's Safe Here," won the Distinguished Favorite award in the Independent Press Award contest in 2017. Check out my website at www.BillPercyBooks.com.

2 thoughts on “A Hell of a Story”

  1. I love your books! Cannot wait until the next one comes out….but I have a different opinion on the subject you speak of in this blog. There is a way to come to this country, as an immigrant, and that is legally. Illegal entry into the country encourages trafficking of human beings, as well as, drugs. There are also folks who have no good intentions when they cross our border, illegally and with no vetting. They come to do harm We have a history of encouraging legal immigration. People have come from all over the world. There was no soft net for them to land on when they arrived, no free medical care, welfare, or education, as we have now. Millions of legal immigrants still come to this country every year, some waiting for years. I cannot believe you would generalize about Trump supporters. Those cages you speak of were set up by Obama during his administration, and the pictures flashed on our television screens in 2019, were actually from 2014. Think if 100,000 people came into your town on a monthly basis, as they did in 2019 at our southern border towns. It is not physically possible to take care of that many people all at one time, even if we would like to have all the world’s poor come to our shores…..would that even be possible? Are there not billions of poor in this world? Perhaps it would be better to share our laws and ways of governing, as a Republic. Remember the saying….you can “give” a man fish, or you can “teach” him to fish. Which would accomplish more?

    1. Hi, Nancy, I’m delighted that you enjoy my books. The fourth novel is coming out Jan. 23, 2020 — it’s title is Standing Our Ground. It’s the next in the Monastery Valley series. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree with you about your main point — legal entry is the only proper way to come into the United States, and illegal entry raises enormous problems both for the communities where the crowds arrive and for the larger country. My argument is simply that for a nation that calls itself Christian, compared with how we are enjoined to behave toward the “strangers in our land,” the current responses are cruel. I don’t see the evidence for the generalization that illegals “come to do harm.” Some do, of course, but that’s true of any large group off people–some want to do harm, most don’t. In my view, our nation is great enough to devise ways to identify those who come to do harm and respond appropriately, while finding different ways to address the problems raised by the majority who are not coming to harm us, but to benefit their families as our immigrant forebears did. By the way, I can’t find in my reading of the post that I generalized about Trump supporters. Perhaps you could point out where I do that? You might be relieved to hear that in 2014, I took the same stand against the Obama administration’s use of cages, although to be fair, the motive and duration in that case was entirely different, as PolitiFact and Snopes report. Still, cages are cages. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on a very sensitive issue for all of us. Indeed, I flirted with the idea of making the complexities of illegal immigration a theme in one of the novels-to-come, but since the Monastery Valley’s in Montana, I had trouble finding a way to get a “hoard” of illegals into the valley. 🙂

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