[Ed. note/word of warning: to the ‘too long/didn’t read’ crowd. Just leave now. To everyone else, this is a little more lengthy than a lot of my posts, but hopefully worth the read]
Word Choice provides a remarkable amount of rhetorical ‘oomph’. Simply designating certain terms to people, objects, or ideas can oft get more across to your audience than by rambling on, point after point. But how we choose to label things also presents a problem in any heated discussion. You see, the terms we choose for labeling purposes tend to expose our biases and points of view.
Furthermore, by choosing certain terms, we assign a subjective meaning to a person, object, or idea. In this way, two people may be ostensibly discussing the same subject – but their word choice actually reveals that they are talking about two different things. I am straying dangerously close to relativism here, and would like to take a step back from that by attempting to clarify my thinking a little more.
While how we think/feel about a subject does not objectively change the nature or essence of the subject itself, it does color our very conceptual grasp of the subject.
Example… let us take the U.S. Civil War. To Lincoln, his opponents were merely States in rebellion. To him, the Union was indissoluble, so the Southern States had not seceded. This was a vitally important rhetorical approach. He carefully crafted all of his speaking and writing about the war to reflect this view. To him, there was no such thing as the Confederacy… there was only a rebellion that needed to rightfully be put down.
To the philosophical leaders of the Confederate States, they had indeed seceded and saw secession as an important principle of American government. They saw secession as not only valid, but completely in line with the thoughts of the Founders such as Madison and Jefferson. To the seceded Southern States, the North was a foreign power invading their homeland. This belief goes a long way towards explaining how the South was able to keep the North at bay for so long. The overwhelming might of numbers, technology, and money which the North had should have crushed the South almost immediately. Instead, Southerners were fighting for their home against a foreign enemy. This was, seemingly, enough to level out the North’s ‘materiel’ advantages quite a bit.
Both sides were talking about the same conflict… but really, they were speaking about two completely different events. In examining History, it is incumbent upon us – we who are looking backwards – to try and understand both what the North was speaking about as well as what the South was speaking about before we synthesize our own judgment of the Civil War.
That was quite a lengthy and slightly unneccessary preface… but that was all to simply say that it is important to consider how each ‘side’ of the Immigration discussion we are currently having is framing the discussion.
To some, the folks who have entered this country outside of the normal, lawful channels are Illegal Immigrants… or, more philosophically consistent with that view: Illegal Aliens. To others, these same folks are Undocumented Workers. How we choose to describe the people we are discussing is the first clue as to how we are viewing our current situation.
I have spent the past few weeks trying to absorb different points of view about Immigration… Republican and Democrat, Conservative, Liberal and Libertarian, secular and Christian, etc and etc. My traditional position for the past 8 years could be described as more of a ‘hardline’ position. Time and a better grasp of the concept of Biblical mercy has softened my thinking a little. But then when the current debate cropped up a few weeks ago, I found my thoughts flipping back and forth between different positions along the spectrum. Some article made me think one thing… but that other radio host made some excellent points going in the other direction. But then another conversation pulled me back closer to where I started… and on and on.
I think we can lose sight of some big things when we focus on the minutiae… but likewise, when we step too far back and only consider the big picture, we tend to ignore certain realities.
So, please indulge me as I try to lay out the state of my current thinking about Immigration.
1) Don’t call them undocumented workers. Call them what they are: illegal Aliens. But… don’t lose sight of the fact that, though they have broken our nation’s laws, they are still human beings and more than worthy of our compassion, charity, and assistance. Figuring out how to deal with them in a dignified manner is where the real trick comes in.
2) Immigration Reform that has any kind of Amnesty will not be beneficial for Republicans or Conservatives. The cynical attempt by some Republicans to play identity politics will backfire. With all due respect to Marco Rubio, the company you are keeping in the Gang of 8 are not all genuinely good guys. McCain and Graham have been wrong on so many issues that it is generally best to simply ignore them. Menendez is a statutory slimeball. Durbin and Schumer have never done anything in their political lives that did not have some benefit for the Democratic Party and Liberalism at the expense of what is good for the country.
3) If we don’t expect those who are here illegally to self-deport, what makes us think they will ‘self-report’ after they are given de facto legal status here?
4) There are plenty of arguments against clarifying the 14th Amendment to exclude the concept of nearly universal birthright citizenship. The arguments against this come from both the right and the left. However, it’s a discussion we need to have. It can be reasonably argued whether or not the intent of the 14th Amendment was to provide immediate citizenship to anyone who is physically birthed here (regardless of their parents’ status). However, we moderns have used the 14th amendment (incorrectly) to justify just that.
One thing I think should be considered is that the current Welfare State did not exist, even in the wildest nightmares, of the leaders from the 1860’s. A reasonable person must see that it is not logical to suggest that just because you were physically born here, even if your parents are not citizens (or at least going through the Naturalization process), you are automatically entitled to vote or receive welfare through either Federal or State taxation of citizens.
5) It is true that America is quite literally a country of Immigrants (even the Native Tribes that Europeans found here had come from someplace else thousands of years ago). Our Founding generation, and their fathers, grandfathers, etc all immigrated here from Britain. And for those who cannot trace their ancestry to the American Colonists, they can be sure their forebears left their ‘home’ countries for a chance to succeed in America.
It would be dishonest to not acknowledge here that many millions were also brought here against their will from Africa. Slavery is a blight upon our history. But, what is germane to this post is to remember that the importation of Slaves to America ended in 1808. Considering this, it is safe to assume that most black citizens have deeper American roots than a lot of us whose ancestors came here from Europe in the early 1900’s.
But after emancipation (somewhat immediately, but in some cases long after) former Slaves joined with European immigrants and Asian Immigrants and those who came from the Colonial American stock and together they all created a new nationality – that of the uniquely American.
What a marvelous Melting Pot we were. Each group brought their own backgrounds to the table and offered themselves in the service of community. Instead of losing old traditions and nationalities, what was common among groups formed the foundation and what was unique fused together and became American.
All this is to say that (as has been correctly noted by others again and again) the current “Diversity’ crowd does not seek to unite, but rather to divide Americans. Take for example the encouragement given to Hispanic people to remain separate from the rest of society. Signs, government forms, television stations, etc all in English and Spanish? Maybe it makes sense to have multilingual safety announcements at Amusement Parks… but how often do we hear “Para Esponal preciona dos” in our daily lives? I wager that we hear it to the point of proving that assimilation (which has been the strength and tradition of immigrants from ages past) is no longer considered important. Some even consider it a negative thing. So, instead of Americans, we are White Americans or Black Americans or Hispanic Americans or Asian Americans or… hey, wait a minute. I thought we just celebrated a man who had a dream that one day our society would ignore the color of one’s skin and only look at their character. Ooops. Our bad. We haven’t quite realized your dream, Mr. King, Jr. Maybe someday we can get there.
The point is: Assimilation is not a four-letter word (though resistance is obviously not futile). The salad bowl metaphor that the muticulturalists spew keeps us apart. It is high time we brought back the pot, stopped the world and melted with each other.
6) To solve the problems our country has with illegal immigration requires a firm consideration of things cultural, logistical, economical, societal, legal, religious, and so forth. We aren’t going to get there by simply saying, “OK, you snuck in, but don’t worry about it… here’s your social security card”. But we also are not going to solve our problems by simply building the d*mn fence (as McCain – of McCain/Kennedy Amnesty Act fame – said with a straight face in one of his 2010 election ads. Funny how he got tough on border security only when he was being challenged in a primary).
This requires some frank, but civilized national discussions.
My fear is that some of us are too frank and others of us are chained by political correctness… and almost none of us knows how to have a civilized debate anymore.
In closing –
I hope you enjoyed my feature-length article that absolutely no publishers are interested in (and not just because I didn’t submit it to anyone). It was written over the course of about a week, so I apologize if it seems at all disjointed. I tried to tie it all together, but I am ever fond of the tangent.
I am truly interested in hearing where others stand on the issue of illegal immigration. Feel free to join the Conversation.