At this historic time when nations are fracturing into ever-smaller pieces of political antagonism, the dramatic rescue of the Thai boys and their coach gives us a glimpse of a different kind of world. The amazing events in Thailand bring to mind that climactic scene from the 1960s comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! where some stranded Russian submariners on Cape Cod and the local Americans are about to kill each other in a tense standoff, when suddenly a small boy watching from the church steeple slips and falls. His belt catches on the eaves leaving him hanging dangerously high above the ground. The Russians and Americans drop their guns and rush to save the boy, jointly forming a human pyramid to rescue the dangling child. Elation! The adrenaline flows. There are cheers, embraces, laughter. The mistrust, the fear of the Other falls away. They have become One, just as the world became One as we watched this current drama in Thailand play out day after day.
So, then, what about the migrants? Why can’t we muster that same single-minded purpose to help them as we have done for the Thai boys? They are also, many of them, in immediate danger. Many of them are children. Why are so many people NOT reacting with the same compassionate urgency that we witnessed in these incredible scenes from Thailand?
Clearly the answer is fear. We are afraid of these migrants who are not Us. Whether it’s religion, or skin color, or language—in whatever way they are different, it doesn’t really matter, The point is that they threaten to make the place where we live look and feel Other than it has felt up to now, altering what we have grown up with and want to preserve. A dozen boys in danger far away in a cave are not the same as millions of migrants crossing into a continent looking for permanent homes and jobs on the street where you live.
But the reality is, the dangers to the migrants in their home countries are no less frightening than those rising floodwaters threatening the boys in the cave. We will never stop the flow of those unfortunate people banging on our doors for help until those dangers are removed, and the root of all the dangers is overpopulation and changing climate. Since the Catholic Church and the current American government in particular are loath to do much to address those causes, the best we can hope for is a viable plan for dealing with the stream of refugee-seekers who will inevitably try to enter countries where a better life beckons. That is a plan that no country has as yet.
If only we could extend the good feelings generated from the Thai rescue to the plight of the migrants, using that adrenaline as a springboard to solving this difficult but most pressing of problems facing the world! If the American government is frozen into incapacity, what about the private sector? Could the Trump Organization, for example, stop building golf courses for a while, and instead lead the way in building places of refuge for those fleeing violence, or maybe education centers to explain birth control, or fully fund those organizations that are already doing this kind of thing on the ground? Think about it.