When studying Spanish in Bolivia, I chuckled at a line in my textbook that read something like “America runs from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego.” My response? Pfft… Fine, but ‘Merica runs from the land of the Pilgrims down to sunny Hollywood and skipping Canada to Mount McKinley.
America can easily caricature itself in its pride. Sometimes it’s crudely funny (NSFW language) but it usually just leads to isolation, leading to ideas ranging from everything to building walls to ignoring refugees and foreign civil wars. Pope Francis’s lesson? Basic geography.
#PopeInCongress: “I too am a son of this great continent.”
— America Magazine (@americamag) September 24, 2015
It is an empirical fact that there is only one piece of land from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego. And this America of Pope Francis looks very different from our star-spangled one. This America is a continent of a multitude of colors where red, white, and blue are joined with black, brown, red, yellow, green, purple and pink, and many others for the common care of our home and for the least of all.
How does this type of American act? Humbly and grateful for hospitality. Pope Francis gently and firmly taught us this with his immigrant’s accent and his use of his native tongue. His slow, at times labored, reading of his speech to Congress reminds us of the immigrants who labor with a new language and new culture. His reversion to Spanish when on the Capitol’s balcony showed his relief that he would be accepted for being different. This means native-born Americans from the United States and elsewhere in America need to be grateful for the gifts received when their ancestors arrived in this hemisphere. Ultimately this means that natives of America – from Bering Sea to shining Tierra de Fuego – should be afforded the same welcome and same relief, no matter where they live or move to in this one continent under God.
God Bless America.
Cover image courtesy Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Flickr Creative Commons, found here.