Monthly Archives: March 2017

Two Tickets to Paradise

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I was made aware of a social media site titled:  “I’m an American, why shouldpress_1_for_english_011 I have to ‘Press 1 for English’?”

I’m sure that I was directed toward it to get my dander up, as they knew what I would find, but I could not resist that confirmation and I went there.

Big surprise! (sarcasm) – I read post after post that denigrated former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, immigrants, liberals, and Democrats, while conversely praising Donald Trump, gun proliferation, and anti-immigration laws.

There were several fair criticisms of government, and even links to prevent animal abuse, but over 90% exhibited hatred for any screen-shot-2015-07-11-at-10_52_19-amconcept that even bordered on being progressive:  Immigration reform, the environment, gay rights, public option health insurance, gun purchase regulations, religious diversity, and allowing for refugees.

One post said stated:  “Speak English or get the (expletive) out!”

Another proclaimed:  “This is one nation under God and if you don’t like that get out you(ethnic slur)!!!”

There was a meme with two bullets over an American flag, titled: “Two Tickets to Paradise” with “paradise” written to resemble Arabic.

Another post pointed out that the “KKK was formed by Democrats” and someone piled on:  “Democrats are the real racists in this country.”

This is where I started to talk back to the page.

While there is historical accuracy in terms of the Democratic Party holding on to a founding ignorance, that is not the relevant point in today’s discrepancies.  We must ask, “Why is it that today the KKK, Aryan Nations and other white supremacist organizations now identify as Republicans?

There is no shortcut answer and first we must must look at racism, itself.  Racism is the result of adopting, or inheriting, beliefs born from ignorance and fear; it does not hold a political allegiance.

Let’s also get the history straight:  Racist Southern Democrats, who were segregationists, formed the KKK.  They were not “liberals” and they are not part of the Democratic Party today.  In fact, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many Southern Democrats joined Republicans to form the Conservative Coalition.

It was the Republican Party during the Civil War that championed the Abolitionists, but it was not social conservatism that led them to embrace emancipation, rather it was a non-partisan, progressive ideology at the center of their movement.

On the “Press 1…” site there were countless endorsements from Tea Party factions, of NRA sites, and links to conservative blogs and websites.  It was clear where most of the participant’s political ideologies were placed, and they reiterated the spectrum of xenophobia, segregation, and sexual stereotypes.  I am not suggesting that Republicans or all conservatives support such things – not at all – but, I have to ask the question from above:  “Why do those who do, find the right side of the aisle to be where they belong?”

This issue goes deep for me.  I don’t want my children to inherit the country these people are fighting to establish.  I want my children to embrace all cultures and rtheligions.  Not because they saw pictures in a book, but because they went to a friend’s house who is Jewish or Muslim.  Or is from Mexico, Bosnia, Syria or Iran, and they saw how other cultures contribute to a free nation.

So I called a conservative Republican friend for a “lifeline.” I asked him:  “If a growing part of your party shows the stripes of exclusionism, racism or sexism, don’t you have to evaluate why?  Don’t you have an obligation to rid your party of such affiliations?

He replied, thoughtfully: “There are as many extremists on the left, you’re simply more aware of those who disagree with you.  But they are angry at growing government infringing on their rights, spending money and threatening their children’s future with debt.  They have as much right to protest as you and I’ll bet they find your positions as repugnant.”

A well reasoned answer, but my question wasn’t answered.

“This site wasn’t created to discuss government overreach and debt,” I replied. “Where are those posts?”

He countered:  “Look at the extremists who led your party in the 60′s and 70′s, like Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman.  They were more dangerous than anything I see today.”

chicago7I conceded: “They were radicals, but they didn’t lead the Democratic Party!  Democrats didn’t seek their endorsements.   Yet today, the right-wing extreme; those crying for a one-language, one-religion nation with exclusionary civil rights, took the Republican Party to the edge…and won.”

I kept going:  “Tom Hayden (one of those 60′s radicals) ran as a Democrat but he was running for ‘participatory democracy,’ for civil rights and policies centering around peace and social justice.  You need to acknowledge the difference or this discussion can’t get anywhere.”

The discussion didn’t go any further.

I knew this would happen when I traipsed over to the site, and so I deserved my frustration.  I didn’t get the answer to my question, but there is good news and hope for the conversation.  I spent the evening with my family and friends and we talked about these issues.

And here’s what pleased me the most—-my “lifeline” friend was one of them.

A Rosa by any other name

The immigration debate rages on.  I was sent a post attributed to Ben Stein who found it paradoxical that our government would require people to carry proof of insurance, but not proof of citizenship.  That circulated through the conservative blogosphere because it seemed like a slam dunk double standard.

A closer look shows that it doesnt hold water.

It is pretty commonplace, especially in today’s political arguments, to use two different concepts, but to combine their vague similarity to drive a point.  In this case, the point is that (Obama) government mandates have double standards.  But, Stein (allegedly) draws his clever juxtaposition from two concepts with vastly different purposes.

Compulsory insurance became a reality soon after America realized that drivers are prone to accidents.  As early as 1925 some states adopted compulsory insurance laws and by the 1970’s every state had complied.  The reasons are myriad and logical:

There is a risk of nonpayment in car accidents. Personal financial responsibility laws are inadequate to remedy the risk of nonpaying, at- fender-benderfault, drivers and the best way to ensure that at-fault drivers will pay for damage they cause is to require insurance before registration, and to penalize drivers if they fail to meet this requirement.

What it was not was a tyrannical conspiracy by government to control its citizenry.

So, this brings us to Proof of Citizenship.  If we carry the implied logic from the comment above a step further, Stein is saying, if we are to be consistent, that ALL citizens should be required to carry papers.

But, that’s not going to fly, is it?  Not in a free country.  Tell a farmer in Nebraska or a machinist in Michigan that he has to have his citizenship papers with him at allPeople-Standing-Up-to-the-Police times.  It wouldn’t take more than a Cliven Bundy minute before “real” citizens would revolt crying, “Fascism!”  And they’d be correct.

We are not a police state.  Our freedom extends to every citizen and that means that we are not required to carry our Citizenship Papers in order to pass freely.

Or…was Stein’s insinuation that only “suspect” citizens should have to carry papers?  What does that America look like?  Caucasians of European ancestry need not worry, but…if you’re a little too brown you best carry your papers?

Perhaps, we should add a clause to the 14th amendment, which defines citizenship, that also defines the physical characteristics of “true” Americans.

Absurd?  You bet, but that’s where this goes if you dig into the comment.

Perhaps, what those opposed to immigration reform are saying is that “if you are a LEGAL immigrant you shall, upon your acceptance, be required to carry your papers to prove your status.”

Well…that’s just as absurd.

Let’s say I was a legal German immigrant, living and working in America, raising my family, voting and paying my taxes.  Why should I have to carry papers while my neighbor from South Dakota does not?  Isn’t a citizen a citizen?  How can this be a nation founded on an unbiased ideal of freedom if some “citizens” have more freedom than others.

Again, it simply wouldn’t fly.

So, we are faced with:  “What’s the solution to the immigration problem?”

First of all, the question being asked is not asking for the correct solution because the problem being addressed is not the problem that needs to be solved.

Say wha-aat???

The immigration “PROBLEM” isn’t what we’re being told. Illegal immigrants are not taking our jobs and they are not exhausting our health services and welfare. The Associated Press reported that there were worker shortages in Alabama and Georgia after strict immigration laws and mandatory deportation were implemented in those states.  It turns out that “non-immigrants” didn’t like the grueling work of picking crops, and farmers stuck in a agricultural system struggled to find replacements.

When undocumented workers fled, farmers lost around 40% of their workers and $140 million worth of blueberries, melons, onions, and other crops due to labor shortages.

Also, life isn’t free.  For anybody. Even illegal immigrants are consumers, and if they’re not paying compulsory income taxes already, they are certainly paying regressive taxes.  They are not the burden on our country that many want us to believe.

Here’s a surprising statistic:  Illegal workers contribute 1% more to the US economy than the burden of their cost.

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security:

“There is little doubt that unauthorized (illegal) immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy.  Between 2000 and 2007, for example, it accounted for more than a sixth of the increase in our total civilian labor force….Unauthorized immigrants serve as a flexible component of our workforce, often a safety valve when demand is pressing and among the first to be discharged when the economy falters.”

immigrantsMost immigrants did not come here to feed off of our welfare, to rob banks, or to inflict disease upon us (as recent conservative posts have implied) they came here to create a better life for their families (“Bring us your tired, your poor”….remember that invitation?).

They came here to work and to provide, and they would prefer to contribute.

So, the PROBLEM….

The problem is that immigration cannot be an open door; there is not an unlimited resource that is called America and so we must have immigration laws.  Breaking the law is breaking the law and there have to be consequences and usually that will beborder-fence deportation.

But the SOLUTION is to strengthen our borders; not with multi-billion dollar walls, but to put more officers on those borders, with more equipment.

We also need to examine our immigration laws.  Immigration processes should be amended to allow for better “legal” immigration.  Present immigration requirements are endless and virtually impossible.  There is no “waiting line” but rather processes of endless bureaucratic red tape.

There is a price to the freedom we embrace and defend.  Freedom is vulnerable and its realization can lead to consequences that are unfavorable even to a majority, but we have to accept some of those risks in order to maintain the integrity of that freedom.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t vigorously try and correct flaws, but we must do it judiciously, compassionately and legally.

germanOnce we begin to allow our fears to confine the reach of freedom and justice, we minimize what it means to be free, and then we really will be on a path toward a different kind of America.