Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Something new on my bucket list

Actually, I wasn't the first person to have the idea. Several members of my spiritual community acknowledged they wanted, someday, to be "arrested for civil disobedience".

My father was a military officer, and one of the primary values in our family was loyalty and discretion. I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara in the 1960s. I was in Isla Vista the night the Bank of America was burned to the ground as a protest against the Kent State killings. That same night, my father was in Da Nang, Vietnam, and he was paying for my college. I remained on the sidelines of any disobedience, civil or otherwise.

I am outspoken, but I've been compliant in most areas of my life. Civil disobedience witnessed on TV looked a little scary and "leftist" to me, so I stayed on the sidelines again. I was busy, after all, raising my children and working to support my family. And, to be honest, not thinking too much about life outside my Circle of Concern.

Now I am retired. In the last year and a half I've been drawn into the issue of immigration in a personal, on-the-ground way. I traveled to Greece four times to volunteer at a refugee camp. I spent time with the people who lived there and I heard their stories and I realized that, after all, we are all the same, and I wanted to help them. Mostly I listened and solved problems and worked collaboratively with other volunteers, but I have also given several talks and done some fundraising for Do Your Part, the American nonprofit for whom I volunteer.

I live in Tucson in the winter. I've been led to an organization called Keep Tucson Together, which provides a variety of services, including assistance to people who have either sought asylum in the US or who have been in the States for years and are now in danger of being deported. On three Saturdays in the last couple of months I've worked with other volunteers, listening to the stories of our clients, with the goal of preparing their paperwork for a deportation or an asylum hearing.

Last Saturday, after the Keep Tucson Together clinic, the organization leader, Peter, asked me to go with two other people to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Center in Eloy, Arizona. A Spanish-speaking volunteer and I will listen to detainees tell their stories and help with paperwork. Peter says the place looks like a prison. Volunteers visit the detention center a couple of times a week, and I will go when I am able.

I am not a "leftist", but I am a believer in social justice. I will be doing my work in an ICE facility. As I see it, I am not breaking the law, but rather helping people comply with it.

However, I now get the civil disobedience thing. And I think being arrested for standing up for one's convictions is a reasonable thing to add to a bucket list.