Chief among the illusions recently enlisted in making America great again is the conceit that this is a Christian nation. Well, after his experience at Urgent Care the other day, Jesus might beg to differ.
I took Jesus in because a capillary in his eye had ruptured. Actually, I took Francisco, my co-worker, but he’s similar to the person Jesus was in many ways, so I thought Christian America would lead him to the best examination room, and wash his feet in fragrant water, and serve him figs and almonds while he waited for the finest doctor.
Instead, the receptionist took one look at his clothes and his skin and said, “We don’t do any workman’s comp!” And she pointed at the door.
I was about to ask why not — you don’t think workers should be compensated? — but she jabbed the air between us with her finger. “Sorry!” she barked.
That’s how Jesus the itinerant carpenter would have been treated by the care-giving apparatus of the imperial culture in which he lived and died. Except they wouldn’t have said they were sorry.
Jesus Francisco and I departed for another clinic, where I was disdained for bringing him in and allowing him to stand beside me. Did he have photo ID? Proof of residence? Medical records? He would have to fill out half a dozen forms.
Francisco received this treatment as Jesus would have: standing quietly, head down, hands clasped. He understands America as well as Jesus understood Rome.
Those care providers probably assumed that Francisco was one of the 46,560 “inadmissibles” who crossed the Mexican border in August, a record high number of people attracted by a recent court ruling against the Trump administration’s child detention policy, according to the Department of Homeland Security. But actually, like most of the Mexicans I know, Francisco has a green card that allows him to cross the border freely so he can work in Washington’s Community Supported Agriculture industry, feeding policy-makers and care-providers.
The Washington Post recently featured an article about a Tunisian man who provides a different kind of care to a particular class of migrant workers: dead ones. Every morning Chamseddine Marzoug walks the Mediterranean shoreline looking for the bodies of migrants whose attempt to cross the European border killed them. He takes those bloated bodies to the coroner, and after they’re released he bathes them according to ritual, and he buries them in graves he digs by hand.
“They don’t have families to care for them,” Marzoug says, “so I become their family.” The bodies he doesn’t find are taken away in a garbage truck and dumped into a hole.
Last year Marzoug buried 81 people. During that same period, 412 people died trying to cross the Mexican border — people who don’t have green cards like Francisco.
Who washed their bodies, I wonder? Did any one decide to become their family? Or does that happen only in a Muslim nation like Tunisia?
I’ll ask the Jesus I know what he thinks, as soon as we finish picking the beans.