In the debate over amnesty currently raging there is an argument I've heard over and over from wide ranging and disparate sources. Michael Medved has made this argument, along with several noted bloggers.
Here it is in a nutshell: this guest worker program is not amnesty because the individuals will pay a fine and have to wait several years before receiving citizenship. The second half of the argument always involves a comparison to a traffic ticket, i.e.- would you throw someone in jail because of a traffic ticket.
Here's my response to these rather weak arguments. A traffic ticket can never be an affront to national sovereignty. No matter what precisely the law calls this, misdemeanor, felony, whatever, it doesn't change the fact that people have entered the country against the law and against the will of the electorate.
I'm sure you've noticed that several important individuals have urged restraint and calm in this debate. What I think they misunderstand is that this strikes directly at who we are as a people. MJ often makes the analogy to a home invader and I think she's absolutely right. People have broken into our nationally shared home, made themselves comfortable, and now, having broken in and helped themselves to a beer they demand more.
Average people are very upset about this, very emotional. And I don't see racism or xenophobia driving this at all, though you might think that reading the editorials and listening to the president these days.
Rather, people feel violated, why don't you explain to the next rape victim you meet that they should remain calm and unemotional about the violation they just experienced. The reason Mexico is such a part of the debates might just be because they inject themselves into the debate by running ads in our newspapers chock full of excuses, evasions and justifications for their bad behavour. Not to mention encourging their citizens to break the law.
An aspect of this debate has been rendered very clearly for me, and it relates to something I've thought for years, it is whether we live in a nation or an economy. I've noticed that this issue more than any other is something you either feel in your gut or you don't. Many otherwise fine people are talking about American citzenship as a commodity to be traded and sold or bartered to an end.
Whereas most Americans see it as something precious. Something to be valued highly.
I think this debate has shown us both on the right and the left that there is a great swath of this country that no longer feel American in their gut. It's an abstraction and quite possibly an irritation to them, something that gets in the way of doing business. Something that slows down the free movement of goods, services and peoples.
Or, another view is that everyone on the planet is an American who just happened to be born in another country.
But when the American people are confronted by the obnoxious symbols from last weekends rallies, those that still get this in their guts recoil and wonder about this new reality we're being asked to not only accept but embrace.
I am personally affronted by every single person who crosses our border illegally. It hits me in my gut like a punch. Yet as I scan through the blogosphere it's clear to me that many don't feel this way at all, though this position is a clear minority that seem to put trade before nationality.
Well I don't and I don't think I'm alone in this position by a long shot. Latino activists have been using the phrase "waking the sleeping giant." I don't think they know how right they are, I also don't think they understand just exactly who the sleeping giant might be. And what will happen if it's truly awake.
I think average Americans are sick and tired of being called names because they love this country above all others. Because they think of it as their home, because they hope to see immigrants appreciate the opportunities they are being offered as opposed to running this country down. Yes I know there are many, many immigrants that love this country, but who gets on television?
Which leads me to my last thought. How can you even have this debate honestly with such radically different purposes? Genuinely patriotic citizens are being referred to by the president they love by harsh names such as nativist, xenophobe or racist. Others, often elites, shake their heads in puzzlement wondering what the fuss is all about.
Can these viewpoints be synthesized into some sort of coherent whole? I tend to doubt it.
Some things are not amenable to reason. I believe in god, why? Well, that's pretty hard to answer if I even could. I love my wife, why? Again, could tell you a hundred different things none of which would necessarily tell you why I love this woman over the hussy down the block. But I do.
I love this country. I want good things for her. I don't hate Mexicans or anyone else of good faith who wishes to come here and be a part of this great experiment, however, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask who and how many are being invited into my home. Our home.
Yes I think immigration has been a net benefit to this country, but I also think a serious debate about immigration has been brewing for over thirty years. The stident and angry voices you are hearing are not expressing anger at immigrants precisely, most of their anger is directed at the feckless and do nothing folks in Washington.
When you put the lid on the pot and let it boil for over thirty years don't act surprised when it finally boils dry and explodes.
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