Facebook: ‘Repost if you agree’

Facebook is a great place to connect with friends and family across the country and around the globe. It’s also an easy way to reconnect with classmates from long ago. But with the excitement of communicating with people from our past comes the reality that we don’t always share the same views.

This fact was driven home recently as I read a status update from a grade school classmate now living in the southern United States. Like many people on Facebook, he shared an opinion and then ended his comment with the challenge, “Post this as your status if you agree.”

To be honest, I’ve never reposted anyone’s comments on Facebook. The closest I’ve come to doing so were two pithy status updates: “If you agree, repost,” followed by, “If you disagree, repost.”

Those comments led to a few curious responses. I guess the sardonic humor evaded some folks.

Now back to my Facebook friend’s comments.  Not one to reply to opinions contrary to my own, lest I open myself up to an electronic scrum, my friend’s words struck a chord and I found myself writing a quick response. His topic: immigration.

He wrote: “If you cross the North Korean border illegally you get 12 years of hard labor. If you cross the Afghanistan border illegally you get shot. If you cross the U.S border illegally you get: a job, a driver’s license, a place to live, housing benefits, health care, education, child benefits, tax free business for seven years. No wonder we are a country in debt! Post this as your status if you agree.”

Not only did the comments take a complicated issue (one that our federal government and state governments have grappled with for years without consensus) and boil it down to the supposed overriding source of our country’s economic woes, it unjustly condemned our brothers and sisters south of the border who had no vote for the choice of country in which they were born.

To top things off, my friend uses analogies from countries with fascist leanings to describe supposedly better options for treating people who cross borders illegally.

No one denies that immigration is a critical issue that has to be resolved on the federal level. But the problem is that simplistic, draconian solutions will not end illegal border crossings. In so many ways, unfair trade policies and illegal drug use in the United States have caused the migration of Latin America’s poor, seeking a better life, to our country and the onslaught of murders by drug lords along the U.S.-Mexico border.

I had an opportunity to visit the U.S.-Mexico border in 2007 during a border immersion experience sponsored by Maryknoll Lay Missioners (see photos and video below). We visited with missionaries who serve the undocumented along the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and we met many people who crossed the border illegally. Their stories were always the same: An inherent desire to provide for their families, even at the cost of imprisonment and death.

Yes, there are bad apples among the flocks of immigrants, just as there are within any group of people. But to condemn an entire group as thieves, terrorists, law-breakers and worthless freeloaders is inaccurate and an affront to the God who created them.

Back to my Facebook friend’s comments. Without being preachy or condemning, I wrote in response: “And aren’t you lucky you were born in America? Can’t say the same for those not as lucky as me and you.”

Facebook isn’t the place to debate political or religious issues. It’s a platform to state one’s views on these heavy topics and then hope friends will give a “thumbs-up.” It sort of satisfies the shallow approach we take to forming opinions on life-and-death issues. Sometimes I wish Facebook offered a “thumbs-down” option.

Here is a photo slide show with images taken during my border immersion experience in 2007.

Below is a YouTube video I created during my 2007 visit to El Paso. It features West Cosgrove describing the border immersion program sponsored by Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

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