During fourteen months of touring on a bicycle, I observed the way people were tied to place. The love of a hill, ravine, lake, field, city neighborhood, prairie, mountain or forest, seemed bone-level. People showed us this love by showing off their places, wanting us to see their communities through their eyes.
This love of place does not require armies or borders.
Homeland that needs security is manufactured, needing recruiters, slogans, flags and songs to make it real, convincing us we need ICBMs or drones. A river needs no flag. Nor does the culture that develops on its shores. It just needs people to love it and share how it is like no other. It is in this hospitality that we begin to tear down borders of all kinds, the barbed wire between the United States and Mexico, the wood and stone barriers of gated communities, the economic, racial, ideological, urban and rural divisions so prevalent in this country.
Breaking down these walls won’t happen without a profound economic about-face. In that regard we are moving in the wrong direction. Recently the United States, hoarder of global resources, re-reached its pre Great Depression 1928 record of internal wealth inequality.
Poverty in America has no reason other than to make a hedgerow wider and a yacht longer.
In 1493, Pope Alexander the 6th declared any land “where there were no Christians” belonged to the Christian conqueror, justifying conquest of the Americas.
In 1823 the United States Supreme Court adopted the Doctrine of Discovery to justify the new republic’s conquest of indigenous America. After Native land was parceled out to homesteaders and given to railroad companies the No Trespassing signs went up and homeland security was born.
As we call for the Doctrine of Discovery to be rescinded by Pope Francis, while we implement reparations for 5 centuries of damage, lets declare a Doctrine of Hospitality, to invite others to see what we love about a place; to share its resources.
Its no more audacious than a mariner declaring he discovered the Americas or a Pope declaring that “discovery” a deed of ownership.
Photo: Columbus statue in Wilmington, Delaware