There are certain positions embraced by large numbers of our citizens that I don’t understand – literally, “don’t get”; perhaps foremost among them is the visceral desire so many of our people have to keep immigrants out of our country. The President is obviously currently in the process of inciting a frenzy amongst his supporters about the “caravan” of Hondurans now making their way north from their country through Mexico.
Putting aside the fact that the President is blatantly lying about these desperate people – such as calling their progress north an “invasion” (2000 penniless, malnourished, exhausted, unarmed people — including children — over 1000 miles away is hardly a challenge for the most wealthy and armed 300+ million people on earth), while indicating that the caravan was organized and/or encouraged by the Democrats and includes “Middle Easterners” (presumably terrorists) – so as to prey upon his supporters’ fear and intense dislike of Hispanic immigrants for his own political gains, it cannot be ignored that although the President exploits these feelings, he didn’t create them; a significant segment of our populace obviously does feel a deep antipathy toward non-white, non-English-speaking immigrants.
In an economy in which just about everyone that wants a job has one, it’s hard to ascribe these citizens’ abhorrence to fear of job loss. Perhaps some of it arises from no more than a wary discomfort with what is different. Perhaps some arises from the notion that immigrants are a drain on our public finances. (Acknowledging that there are distinctions that should perhaps be taken into account, I have seen any number of economists opine that immigration is an overall a net economic plus for us.) Since the vast majority of the President’s supporters and virtually all of those that form the backdrop of his rallies are of European Christian descent, it’s hard not to attribute the hostility of some (NOT all) to racial and/or religious bias.
As these struggling people continue their extremely arduous and dangerous journey north, the irony of the anxiety being felt by some of our citizens isn’t merely an “800 pound gorilla” … it’s King Kong. I see little difference between the struggle those in the caravan are currently enduring to escape intolerable conditions in their own country to seek a better life in our country from that of the European emigres who left intolerable conditions in their countries to come here a couple of centuries ago. Whether they braved a terribly dangerous journey to cross the sea to an extremely harsh environment because of religious persecution, famine, or otherwise, they came here, as the Hondurans currently intend, because they saw it as their only way to a better life. The vast majority of them arrived here with no more than those in the caravan carry today. Those of English, French, German, Russian, Irish, Polish, Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, and other descent certainly must have considered the languages, customs, faiths, and skin tones (between northern and southern Europe) of the others strange and perhaps threatening. They got over it.
I absolutely agree that those that immigrate here should make every effort to assimilate and contribute – for their good as well as ours. That said, while we need immigration laws, they should be tolerant ones.
There is a dominant American DNA strand, the strand that actually made this country great: that without regard to ethnicity, gender, religion or other particulars that distinguish us from one another, our forebears that chose to make the journey here carried the same gene in their psyches — the courage to risk everything for the promise of a better life. These Hondurans possess the same DNA strand. Whether they ever reach and/or are admitted to our country, they already are, in the most fundamental way, citizens of the United States …
2 thoughts on “On the Caravan”
Jim, I couldn’t agree more. One historical theory is that immigrants to the US were the best, bravest, and brightest from the countries they came from and that it was an huge negative on the countries they came from as it left, well, the not best and brightest in those countries (See, for example, Ireland after the 1840s diaspora). To me, it’s awfully brave to march 1,500 miles to an uncertain future.
I really like your point that unemployment is 3.7%. You have to not want to work to not have a job. 5,000, 7,000, however many are coming are not taking anybody’s job. They are seeing The Shining City on the Hill, and want a better life for themselves and their family. Let’s embrace them with open arms.
Unfortunately, this anti-immigrant bent in the country is an ongoing fear in the country. The Know Nothings in the 1840s were virulently anti-immigrant. The draft riots in New York were both anti-freed slaves and anti-immigrant. (See The Gangs of New York. Daniel Day Lewis at his best.). The restrictive immigration policies post WWI are another example. I don’t get it, but it repeats.
Thanks for the note. I’ve yet to see anybody in the media allude to the Know-Nothings in relation to Trump’s supporters — but they seem to aggressively wish to deny reality because they like the fiction he spins. The times seem, if possible, to be getting scarier.