Julie Walsh is a married, stay-at-home-mother to four young children. Before her oldest was born in 2010, she worked for five years at the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director for Social Concerns and three years in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Inspector General. 

Julie holds a degree in political science and German from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She and her family are parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Libertytown.

 

Archive

March 2017
February 2017
Go

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

But what do *you* think? You seem to imply that healthcare or the lack thereof are each morally acceptable to you.

VIEW POST

As I think you know, Abigail, I admire you very much! I remain in awe of your ability to live out your convictions and to pass that quality on to your children. I find your example to be so encouraging; thank you for sharing your passions and your efforts with us!

VIEW POST

Categories

#bipartisanroadtrip 2016 election American Solidarity Party citizenship Facebook happiness health care bill immigration politics pro-life race reproductive technology Republican convention science thanksgiving vote
The Space Between

Hard plans changing a hard heart: Empathy for immigrants fearing deportation


When I worked as a lobbyist, I dealt with no issue more wrapped up in emotion and anxiety than immigration. It was the only one I ever had people call and scream at me about, it was the only one that tested my personal relationships, it was the only one that made me feel attacked and betrayed.

But it was also the only issue to really change something in my heart.

Having come from a conservative background, there was something in me that was wary of the immigration question – not opposed, exactly, to immigrants or immigration, but cautious, skeptical, reluctant. Soon after diving into the issue, however, my heart was changed. It was changed by the warmth of the immigrants I encountered and by their anxiety too; it was changed by their stories, their hopes, and their fears.

It was also changed by their plans.



A woman holds a child's hand as they arrive for a rally in support of immigrants' rights in New York City Dec. 18, 2016.  (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 


There is nothing from that immigrant-advocacy period of my life that has stuck with me more than the memory of undocumented immigrants making contingency plans for their own arrest, imprisonment, and deportation. It’s not anything I’d ever had cause to think about before: I mean, if somebody’s doing something illegal, how much is there to think about? They get arrested and they’re locked up or sent away – end of story. Right? (Wrong.)

Back then, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was conducting a series of workplace raids that had the immigrant community very nervous. We are a social animal, we humans – we do not live on our own. We live in families, in friendships, in neighborhoods and communities. We have responsibilities. People depend on us. We help others and we (hate to) ask for help ourselves. So when I say that the immigrant community was nervous, I don’t just mean that undocumented immigrants were nervous; I mean that their documented and citizen family members were nervous, their schools and churches were nervous, their friends and neighbors and daycare providers were nervous.

The advocates I worked with offered training to immigrants to prepare them for the raids. They helped people to understand what their rights were, what they were and weren’t legally required to say and do. They encouraged them to prepare for the possibility of arrest: Put your documents in order; keep them in a safe place; tap a friend or family member to retrieve them in your absence. Organize your financial responsibilities – your rent or mortgage, your insurance, your car and phone and utility bills. Set aside some money to pay the most essential ones.

And here’s the kicker, the one that chokes me up every time I think of it: arrange for someone to pick up your kids from school. Do not leave your children to come to the end of the school day and find no one there to get them because Mommy’s been detained by ICE. Identify a person you trust, in whose care you can leave your children, and ask them to take on that responsibility – possibly for a long time.

I recently found myself struggling with an issue that, while not important in the grand scheme of things, was causing me real anxiety on a daily basis. It struck at my sense of security; it made me feel less than whole. One afternoon as I walked across my back yard, I felt as though I were being swarmed by this issue, like my pack of needy children were chasing me, clamoring for my attention.

Suddenly I stopped short, remembering those immigrant families who don’t know from one day to the next when one of them will be taken. Talk about insecurity, about not feeling whole – can you imagine fearing, day after day, that your husband could be taken from you? That you could be taken from your children? Can you imagine the anxiety of not knowing how long your family will remain intact?

These days too many people know that anxiety. With ICE broadening its enforcement targets to include those arrested or convicted of even minor crimes, it’s been estimated that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants now find themselves prioritized for deportation. (Not because undocumented immigrants are more prone to crime than you or I, but because “minor crimes” include even some traffic violations – and of course the flubs people make when they don’t have legal access to documentation like Social Security numbers.)

This is why so many in immigrant communities across our nation are anxious right now. They’re having to plan for the possibility that their families – their very lives – will be torn apart. What a thing to plan for.

I think that we – as Christians, as descendants of yesterday’s immigrants, as people who have the luxury of expecting our life to continue along the path we’ve set out on – ought to dwell on those plans right now. We ought to think on what we would do and how we would feel if we were suddenly plucked from the home, the work, the family we love. We ought to have empathy for and mercy on those who find themselves in that position today.



***

Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.

 

February 16, 2017 01:47
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part Two)


I used to think of myself as the stubborn, brave, independent type – the type who spoke the truth and stuck up for the oppressed no matter the consequences. After all, I was a kid who stood up to bullies. I regularly stick up for myself. I used to make my living advocating for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger. I write on contentious issues – issues that wrangle with the concept of justice – all the time.

But the older, or the more self-aware, or the more flawed I become, the more I see how gutless I can be.

Last year I read Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. In it, there is a scene in which the students of a Nazi-run military school are directed to abuse a (presumably Jewish) prisoner, whom they’ve been told is an escapee from a work camp. The boys are taken outside at 2 a.m. on a cold February morning, where they find the skeletal, barely-clothed man tied to a stake. At their superior’s direction, the boys approach the man one by one, oldest to youngest, to splash him with a bucketful of freezing water. Each time, a cheer goes up from the crowd.

One of the book’s protagonists, Werner, is an underclassman at the school. He takes in the scene with something like horror; he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. But when his moment comes, when it’s his turn to approach the prisoner, Werner does as he’s told. He splashes his bucketful of water and resumes his place with the first-year cadets. Only Werner’s friend Frederick, a sensitive yet steely boy, has the courage to resist. He pours his bucket of water onto the ground. Handed another, he does the same. Handed a third, he pours it out with an “I will not.”

After I read that scene I felt a dull, gnawing kind of shame because I realized that if I’d been in Werner’s position, I’d have probably done the same as him. I realized that despite the story I like to tell myself – the story of a me who sticks up for the little guy, who stubbornly holds tight to honor and fights injustice – I’m really the kind of person who just wants to get along. I want to get along, move along, keep my head down, cling to whatever comforts I can grasp. I am a Werner, not a Frederick.

I was thinking about that scene the other day as I washed dishes. I was staring out the window, my hands moving under the water, when I suddenly felt a surge of sympathy for the German housewives who turned a blind eye to the build-up to the holocaust. Not because I think they deserve much sympathy (and not because I think we’re in for a repeat of Nazi Germany – I mostly find those fears to be too dramatic or too convenient), but because I now understand how blinded people can be by the mundane.

Day in and day out, my work is to care for my family. I am engaged in an ever-repeating litany of tasks: the dishes, the laundry, the diapers, the meals, the errands, the crawling-around-on-my-hands-and-knees-to-wipe-egg-off-the-floor. There is never enough time. There is always something or someone needing my attention. It is always easy to slip into the lie that this is it – that today’s litany of tasks is all that matters, all that will ever matter.

In this environment, one in which the everyday mundane and the everyday beautiful and the everyday frustrating loom larger than anything else, I have to wonder: Have I become blind to the reality of our day?

Which is it? Is my inclination correct – are constant cries of “Our country is being destroyed!” simply overreactions to disagreements on public policy positions? Or could a more fundamental shift be rumbling beneath our feet?

After all, no human construct is immortal. All governments fall. All societies change. People do real damage to civic institutions and public trust. “Universal” ideals cease to captivate the imagination.

Just as we should be wary of “sky is falling” tendencies, we should also be wary of taking our stable, democratic, republican government for granted. “We the People” are fully capable of messing this thing up.

I have no answers here; I haven’t flipped from “just another day in politics” to “the sky is falling.” I haven’t decided when to panic. But I’m trying to not be dismissive of other people’s panic. I’m trying to remember that no human construct is immortal; I’m leaving open the possibility that our country, or our system of governing it, might really be in danger.

And I’m thinking and praying about who I am – about how empathetic I am to others’ pain, about how I react to injustices, about the role I’m called to play in this world, and about how far this world stretches beyond my kitchen-sink window.



***

Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



 

February 09, 2017 09:49
By Julie Walsh


Trying to decide when to panic (Part One)


I’m trying to decide when to panic.

Standing where I am (somewhere in the middle, I suppose) I turn to face my friends on the left and panic is pretty much all I see. Well, panic and its more sober, productive, currently-popular relation: resistance. I see people who are more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government is heading; they fear that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – is coming undone. They fear that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

Turning to face my friends on the right, I mostly see amusement or bemusement or even satisfaction at the Left’s distress. They think the panic is overblown. If they supported Trump’s “bull in a china shop” campaign persona, they’re thrilled to see it carried over to his presidency. If they weren’t crazy about that persona then, well, they’re mostly just relieved to see Trump heading in the right direction. Clumsy steps in the right direction are better than agile steps in the wrong one, they seem to say.

Personally, I think my conservative friends have too quickly forgotten their own Obama-era panic. And I think my liberal friends are suffering (among other things) the consequence of never really paying much attention to that earlier panic to begin with.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of times in the past eight years I heard someone say that President Obama was destroying our country. Not “I don’t like the guy,” not “I disagree with what he’s trying to accomplish,” but a flat-out “Obama is destroying our country.” I heard, over and over again, from people who were more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government was heading; they feared that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – was coming undone. They feared that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

I’m sure you see what I’m trying to get at here.

(And I expect that if you find yourself firmly on one side or other of the Left/Right divide, you’ll probably find my comparison lacking. “But Obama really was destroying our country,” you might say. Or, “But Trump really is destroying our country.”)

For years, the Right has feared an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a culture that aims to dictate what is acceptable to think and feel and say.) They have feared runaway regulations and the global ambitions of the elite, which they think have been stifling opportunities for the little guy.

And now the Left fears an ever-strengthening executive branch, an activist judiciary, and a degradation of the concept of free speech. (Via a political movement that aims to intimidate its opponents and undermine the very idea of truth.) They fear an institutional entrenchment of the prejudices and tribal-like alliances that stifle opportunities for the little guy.

Regardless of which side you’re on, it seems to be easy to slip into the fear that the sky is falling.

But I’ve never been the “sky is falling” type. I tend to be pretty cool in crises, pretty skeptical of end-of-days fears. Though I disliked many of President Obama’s policy goals and many of his methods for achieving them, I never thought he was destroying our country. I’d answer my conservative friends’ incredulity at that position with something like, “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.”

So what am I supposed to do now? My friends on the Left want me to panic, to resist. My friends on the Right mostly want me to shut up, I expect.

Should I do the same for President Trump as I did for President Obama? “I can disagree with someone and not think they’ll be the death of us all.” The line suits me well: My inclination is to be watchful, to be skeptical, to refuse support to either side, to not enflame fears.

But – and this feels like a big “but” – I have to admit that I am no longer sure whether I should trust my inclination.

Read Part Two here.


 

***

Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.  



February 09, 2017 12:16
By Julie Walsh