A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What is America?

First, because so many of us seem to have forgotten it, a reminder of what America used to be.

For those who have forgotten or never knew, this is what's inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, the gift we put on display to represent what America is supposed to stand for. We were never a nation of nobility ruling over serfs. We were never a nation of priests passing judgment over the laity. This was never supposed to be a club where you had to pay to get in. It was supposed to be a land of refuge where no one could tell you which god to worship or which master to serve. Whether you were poor or rich, brown or white, godly or heathen this was supposed to be a place where you could come to find your own way and not have to conform to anyone else's demands about who you are.

Now we've entered an era where all of that has changed. Now we're afraid of newcomers, suspicious of strangers if their skin is brown or they pray to strange gods. If they eat the wrong foods or say the wrong prayers then we feel the need to dehumanize them, to describe them as rapists and murderers and thieves. We no longer want the tired and poor, the huddled masses of the world seeking respite on our shores. If you don't already have money to add to our coffers then we consider you a drain on our resources, a parasite seeking a free handout that you haven't earned. Nevermind that our own ancestors were unlikely to be rich when they first arrived. We've forgotten what it means to have empathy and compassion and in their place we're promoting distrust.

This last election cycle has torn up the country and left us bleeding. It brought forward all of our darkest impulses and we decided that they would somehow keep us safe. All we have to do is hurt others before they can hurt us and we'll be okay. We have to keep out strangers unless we like the color of their money and that will make everything okay.

Why not build a wall?

Why don't we ask the East Germans how well they think walls protect borders. Of course, their wall only covered 66 miles in total. Our wall would need to cover thousands of miles with constant surveillance. And according to the people in a position to know best it won't actually work. "Rather than depending on a wall, Mr. Kelly said the key to stopping drug smugglers was to attack the problem at its source." That means better enforcement, yes, but also charitable aid. Empathy and compassion, the very things we've repudiated, so that's not going to happen.

Don't you care about illegal immigration?

In as much as I care about the law, yes. But illegal immigrants aren't cartoon monsters with claws and fangs. They're not evil masterminds bent on destroying our way of life. They're not here to take away our jobs or replace our good, white stock with their dirty brown mongrels. They're people who are desperate enough to take a chance at living illegally in the US on the promise of better pay and a better standard of living. Most of them didn't even cross illegally, they just overstayed their visit. No wall will prevent that. But their very desperation is what brings them there and they know they're likely to find someone willing to exploit it. So do we punish people for their desperation or do we crack down on the ones who exploit it? For years I've been pointing that out but for some strange reason no one ever wants to punish the exploiters.

We've become the United States of Bigotry. Muslims aren't like us so we're laying the groundwork to ban them. Whites are quickly becoming a minority so we're cracking down on minorities. If you don't look like us, sound like us or smell like us then we don't want you to vote, speak or be seen. If you're willing to put up with a certain amount of abuse and stay quiet then we'll let you do ugly jobs for illegally low wages but we're working to make everyone desperate enough to work for those wages so that incentive won't be around for long. And we justify it because it's not happening to us, we're just trying to protect ourselves. We're trying to restore some lost glory that went away not because of trade, not because of illegal immigrants but because the world has changed and we won't listen to anyone willing to explain why we're not going to get it back the way it was.

We're in a lot of trouble, and it's going to get a lot worse. I can only hope that we remember who we truly were before we lose it all.