Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. |
Texas Senate – District 27 |
“Peace has always been elusive in our world, even though the vast majority of us want it. There is a yearning for harmony written into our DNA, and like many people around the world, I look to my faith for guidance. I am a Catholic, and my church and my faith are a well of hope and strength for me. As I have matured into my faith, I have found the teachings of Mother Teresa to be a great blessing: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” At the heart of this quote there is a beautiful principle. We belong to each other. This is what we must discipline ourselves to remember—in both public and private life, in both local and global relationships. We belong to each other across histories and faiths, even across conflicts.
Since 9/11, it has become fashionable to talk about a clash of civilizations. I don’t believe in a clash of civilizations—I believe in the cooperation of communities with mutual respect for each other’s beliefs. But in order to have that mutual respect, we must listen and learn. If we are to be a part of a global effort to teach peace, we must first learn about what causes violence.
Does it surprise you that religious fundamentalism thrives in Somalia? Sadly, it should not. Does it surprise you that youth turn to gangs and crime in Mexico? Sadly, it should not. When poverty is widespread, people cannot live in peace; they are forced to live by the sword. And those who live by the sword die by the sword. Therefore, at home and abroad, we need to protect the working poor so that they do not meet the threshold of indigence.
This is something that Fethullah Gulen understands. “Government means justice and public order,” he has said. “One cannot speak of government where these do not exist.” This is true, but justice and order are two sides of the same coin. Public order is ultimately incumbent upon a fair system of justice. Without justice, public order is merely repression. And repression cannot go on indefinitely. That is a lesson being learned all over the world by tyrants as we speak.
Here in America, partisanship acts as a form of repression, in my opinion. It is a repression we place upon ourselves. Indeed, to quote Fethullah Gulen again: “Mature people never make the difference of thought and opinions a means of conflict.” Why then, do so many people use our differences as a bone of contention in our political discourse? Why has diversity become so politically exploitable? It is because, in the words of Mother Teresa, we have forgotten that we belong to one another.
Back home in the Rio Grande Valley, we have been reminding ourselves what it means to belong to each other across borders and cultures. Each month, on the second Thursday, people of difference faiths and denominations gather together in my hometown of Brownsville, Texas and pray that God would bring an end to the violence along the Texas-Mexico border. Prayers for peace began as a response to the death of my friend Rodolfo Torre Cantú, a gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas, Mexico. He died in a firefight outside the city of Soto La Marina, about 40 miles east of Ciudad Victoria, the state capital. We have been meeting for over a year now, and these prayers bring the community together and remind us of Mother Teresa’s words.
Of course, Mother Teresa’s words also have deep and meaningful political implications, and I want to address two areas of public policy in which I have been an advocate for this picture of community.
The first is the issue of immigration. With increasing violence – and its accompanying anxiety – along our southern border, states have opted to take matters of immigration policy into their own hands. This has led to unfortunate, even offensive, public policy proposals in many southern states, and Texas has been no different. During the last legislative session, we had to wrestle with issues like Voter ID, Sanctuary Cities, and College Tuition for undocumented residents. These were hard debates full of frayed tempers and cultural misunderstandings.
During these debates, I tried to act as a bridge. I can understand the anxiety present in many lawmakers regarding the violence in Mexico. But I am also Hispanic, and I have witnessed discrimination first hand: I am one of the very few politicians who must prove that they are American every time they journey to the state capitol. So you can understand my opposition to legislation that would encourage racial profiling or that would discriminate against students who are living under the legacy of their parents’ immigration decisions. During these debates, I again turned to my religious faith, reading quotations from the Bible to my Senate colleagues: “God administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger.” (Deuteronomy 10:18) When it comes to issues like immigration, we can only emphasize the universality of human experiences and hope to end fear through acceptance. Indeed, if you look at the demographics of Texas today, it is fair to say that we are all minorities now. By having a greater emphasis on compassion, acceptance, and quite frankly demographic reality, we can forge fair and balanced immigration policies at the state and local level.
The second area of public policy I want to talk about is the budget. I believe that budgets are moral documents, because the link between life and state spending is real. Budgets essentially express what we believe we owe to each other. But unfortunately, Texas just passed a budget that has forgotten what we owe to each other. As a state, we faced a serious budget deficit: $27 billion. And we had choices: to spend our savings, raise new revenue, or make drastic cuts to vital services. Those in charge chose cuts over all else; they cut money from programs that benefit the most vulnerable in Texas. Texans need medication, hospital treatment, protective services, quality schooling, a stable home environment, and a safe border. But now our seniors, our mentally ill, even our school children, will all receive significantly less assistance than they previously did.
Ultimately, pro-life budgeting is about remembering that we belong to each other. If we remember this, we will not allow politics to supersede morality. Instead politics will be based on morality. If we remember this, we will freely invest in our quality of life: in education, in healthcare, and in peace. If we remember, we will go beyond partisan squabbles about taxes and cuts. If we remember, we will foster strong partnerships between local, state, and federal governments—and we will push for the highest level of transparency from government. If we remember, we will strive to make environmental peace with our planet and not destroy the Earth.
If we remember, we will work to create public and foreign policies that give hope—not heartache. If…If we remember…”