Compromise. For me, it usually means losing your bearings, giving in, raising the white flag of apathy. Except in certain situations in which failing to do that graceful dance with the Devil means both of you will end up in Hell.
Last week, President Obama flexed his political muscle and announced a new immigration policy. Children who were brought to the United States before age 16 and who have either gone to school or entered the military will no longer be deported. There are a few other conditions, including the requirement that the kids have lived here for at least five years, are under age 30 and don't have any criminal records.
When this was announced on Friday, the usual suspects took their places at the bully pulpit and roared. Democrats pretended that this was something that sprang from pure, servants' hearts and that November was irrelevant (right, and I have land in Florida to sell you, the land that Marco Rubio was about to sell you with his own immigration bill.)
Not to be outdone, the GOP screamed bloody amnesty, and predicted the end of the world as we know it (at least till November).
As someone who spends a lot of her waking hours despising the politicians on the right and the left who really don't give a damn about the broken immigration system, I'm happy that the president made this move, with these people, at this time. It was the least that could have been done for a group of people who never asked to come here, who have paid for the sins of their fathers and mothers and who, in the process, have become de facto patriots.
Some on the right might be disgusted that I would use the term "patriot" to describe illegal aliens. After all, they say, these little urchins were ushered over the border to take kindergarten places from law-abiding toddlers, much like their parents stole those highly desirable sanitation jobs from the rest of us.
The truth is, a kid has no say in whether Mom or Dad decides to hold him hostage to a bad decision. I'm not one of those who think that every immigrant who ever jumped the border is a noble human being. I've seen far too many in my career who have come for other reasons, many of which have landed them in our jails.
But children should not be responsible for their parents' crimes, especially when they fall in love with their borrowed homeland. I have seen so many young men and women pass through my office over the past few years who don't have the trace of a foreign accent when they speak, who look as American as Justin Bieber (who, by the way, is a Canadian) and who have excelled at school, in community service and in life. Their parents are beloved albatrosses around their necks, people who brought them to this promised land but who saddled them with the stigma of illegality.
I am glad that the government has finally decided to recognize what I have known for a long time: becoming an American is a slow, sometimes painful and often-twisted process. It doesn't always follow the "correct" path. But I know as much as anyone else that those illegal urchins who were smuggled across the border love this country as much as those of us who had a slightly easier entrée.
I'm not entirely insensitive to the concerns of conservatives who think that this is simply a backdoor boondoggle. It does have the whiff of a shell game in which you can confuse enough people if you just move quickly enough.
But the people who will benefit from this initiative are not grifters. They're blameless in every way but one: Once they found out that they were illegal, they didn't immediately book a flight back to a home most of them barely remembered. I think we can excuse them for that, especially when they spent most of their time educating their minds or protecting our citizens.
It's a compromise. It was time.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and read her blog at philly.com/FlowersShow