I have been to Arizona before. But this time, the landscape seems unfamiliar – almost alien. I know this is still America, so perhaps the purpose of my journey offers a different and even a little scary perspective.
I am here with other Unitarian Universalist ministers and seminarians for a week-long border witness program, coordinated by the UU Service Committee’s College of Social Justice. Our goal is to explore the circumstances affecting people seeking to live in the United States who lack the money and other privileges that make such travel easier.
Tucson is flat, desert country. Saguaro and other cacti grow everywhere. In the distance, the rocky Tucson Mountains jut quickly into the blue sky. Definitely not the mountains of Appalachia.
I am not a tourist, nor am I here to effect any lasting change on the people of this arid clime. I am an outsider, an observer, but I am not neutral. I have set aside the routine matters of church and life to expose myself; to open myself to new perspectives. I expect some of my worst fears to be confirmed – the immoral treatment of refugees; the heartlessness of a racist system of incarceration; and the madness of using centuries-old solutions to address a nonexistent problem.
But, I also seek signs of hope. I want to see firsthand how people combat this injustice; how we can welcome the traveler without fear or reservation. I want to find how to reverse my growing pessimism caused by the erosion of American ideals and basic tenets of human decency.
It is only a week, but I am ready.