Joe Barrera

Proverbs 26:27 says it very clearly: “He who digs a pit falls into it; and the stone will come back upon him who rolls it.” In Psalm 7 the psalmist exclaims: “He who conceived iniquity and was pregnant with mischief brings forth failure. He has opened a hole, he has dug it deep, but he falls into the pit which he has made. His mischief shall recoil upon his own head, upon the crown of his own head his violence shall rebound...”

You can read this as practical wisdom, a warning. You don’t have to believe in the Bible to understand the message. If you take the time to read the Scriptures with an open mind you see that they are the story of how human beings began their existence enjoying a good relationship with God but then lost it through their actions. The story then becomes the tale of how God restores the right relationship. Retribution is one tool that God, the main character in the narrative, uses to correct the imbalance.

Retribution falls not only on the individual wicked man, but upon entire nations. Retribution is the idea of getting repaid in kind, according to your just desserts, receiving the same kind of evil which you have meted out to others. In our founding myth, “myth” understood to be the powerful ideas which hold people together, this fundamental concept of retribution is especially applicable. We are, after all, a nation whose motto is “In God We Trust.” Supposedly, we were established by godly people who saw themselves as the new Israelites led by God into the promised land.

In other words, the first settlers, especially the Puritans, wanted to emulate the ancient Hebrews. Like the Hebrews, they wanted a covenant with God. They got their covenant but then they promptly violated it. If you, like me, are accustomed to reflect on our national origins, this may be a source of conflict.

I learned the Bible at my mother’s knee, and my conscience is still pricked by the teachings.

We don’t need to explore the spiritual realm to see how we have violated the “agreement.” There are plenty of secular examples.

But spiritual or secular, if you violate principles you will end up paying for it. We are paying a price right now on the southern border.

President Donald Trump says that the influx of asylum seekers from Central America is a crisis. There is no real crisis — we are fortunate that there is no violence. The problem could easily be solved by compassion. But this is not for Trump. To deal with it he wants to pull up the drawbridge and hide behind the castle walls. He wants to close the Mexico/U.S. border and has cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

He wants to punish Mexico for not doing enough to stem the tide of refugees. The whole thing is ridiculous. Mexico is a fledgling democracy. The Mexican government, beset with the chaos of a narco-war, does not have the wherewithal to control drugs or refugees. It is pointless to ask Mexico to do what the U.S., a much stronger country, cannot do. But as the good book tells us, the source of this evil lies in our “destiny-producing actions.”

In 1953, the CIA overthrew the Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz, at the behest of the United Fruit Company, who saw their vast Chiquita banana plantations threatened by the land reforms Arbenz wanted to implement. Arbenz sought to relieve the poverty of the Indian peasants by giving them land. The CIA coup instigated a bloody civil war in Guatemala in which 250,000 died. We are responsible for that war, fought by peasants trying to feed themselves. The blood of thousands of innocents still cries out from the earth for vengeance.

In El Salvador, a country named after Jesus Christ, we supported corrupt oligarchs for decades. This oppression culminated in the vicious civil war of the 1970s in which 75,000 died and countless others fled north to the U.S. Same thing in Honduras.

Our destiny-producing deeds there, especially our fruitless war on drugs, which made Honduras a conduit for the Colombian cocaine trade, have created a failed narco-state. In all these cases we have sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. We have dug a pit and fallen into it.

Joe Barrera, Ph.D., is the former director of the ethnic studies program at UCCS, and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

Joe Barrera, Ph.D., is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS, and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

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