NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tilting at Bird Feeders
I'm sure most readers of this blog have dealt (on more than one occasion) with forwarded emails that express views quite antithetical to their own. You may have also run across pointed comments on blog posts, or some other form of unsolicited ideological counterpoint. Etiquette (or perhaps pragmatism) typically dictates avoidance of the issue - the email gets deleted, often unread but for the opening inflammatory lines. The blog comment gets dismissed (perhaps rightly) as trolling and is given a cursory, dismissive and disengaged response, if any at all. In-person instances may play out a bit differently, depending on the situation in which they occur. In ideologically mixed company, many of us would probably prefer to leave the challenge unanswered for fear of igniting a brouhaha. All of these responses are polite and possibly even reasonable, but our environment is becoming increasingly, resolutely unreasonable and impolite. So, upon out-of-the-blue receipt of an anti-immigrant email from a friend of a friend, I opted to take the other, likely less reasonable path and respond. And it went a little something like this...

Responding to this sort of thing is probably a waste of time, but I feel compelled and have time on my hands.

Our government gives out free food, subsidized
housing, free medical care, free education and
allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.
With regard to automatic citizenship, this has been the case for quite some time, and indeed many (if not most or all) of the recipients of this email (both in this sending and all others) are likely benefits of the practice. Admittedly, I can't cite numbers, but I've wondered for some time if the current perceived "invasion" differs all that much proportionally from the earlier waves of arrivals by Irish, German, Chinese, and other immigrants. In their times, these waves were met with similar "purist" scorn, complete with accusations of a lessening of quality of life and the impending peril for the "American" (read: "white") way of life. Now members of the same ethnic groups who were once viewed as dangerous outsiders hewing too closely to their own languages and customs carry the banners of the same nationalist impulse that called for the removal of their own ancestors.

Then the illegal's came by the tens of thousands.
Suddenly . . . . Our taxes went up to pay for free services,
Small apartments are housing 5 families:
I'm not sure I understand the argument about small apartments housing 5 families. Is this a humanitarian issue? Is the writer arguing that living standards should be better for immigrants? As to the cost of services, the rise is likely counterbalanced (again, I don't have specific numbers) by the lower cost of many goods and services, the labor for which is provided largely by immigrant and illegal workers, especially in the produce and construction sectors. I'm not arguing that this is a good thing - I would prefer to see good wages and benefits for all workers in the United States - but those clamoring about increased taxes have to acknowledge the decreased costs of many other areas of their lives brought about by immigrant labor.

. You have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an
emergency room doctor:
I have not personally experienced this, though I do remember tales of such waits from long before the current uproar over immigration. It's also worth asking - is this a consequence of illegal immigration or problems with our health care system? It may well be a combination of factors, including illegal immigrants, but I've yet to see compelling evidence that they are the sole or even primary cause of these issues.
. Your child's 2nd grade class is behind
other schools because over half the class doesn't
speak English.
I don't have a child. I do, however, date a public school teacher (albeit one who teaches at the high school level), and the problems she describes to me are less the result of students who don't speak English than of deep and severe emotional and behavioral problems in students born to and raised (or not raised) by native English speakers in the good ol' USofA. This also hearkens back to the aforementioned anti-Irish, anti-German, anti-Chinese, anti-Whoever tirades of yesteryear. They aren't learning our language! They aren't integrating with our culture! Typically, such concerns lasted until the next ethnic wave, when the former targets gained the right to participate in the American pastime of ugly nationalism. Furthermore, it's worth noting that our public schools are ankled by underfunding and "teach to the test" mandates created by misguided education policies.
. Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box;
I haven't seen this anywhere, but even if it's true, where's the harm? Take the chance to learn a phrase or two over your morning bowl. To my understanding, most industrialized nations the world over place a much greater emphasis on multilingualism than we do, teaching other languages much more aggressively in early childhood. Tourists often report that throughout Europe, they had little difficulty locating fluent English speakers, while you'd be hard-pressed to find fluent speakers of the languages of our near neighbors (French and Spanish) in many US locales. To be flip, is the author also offended by the gibberish of the word jumbles on the back of the Froot Loops box?

. I have to press "one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.
Again, I have a hard time mustering sympathy for a complaint that centers around an action that takes a fraction of a second to process. I'm much more bothered by banking policies that are intentionally predatory and favor the needs of fantastically, absurdly profitable businesses over hard-working individuals. Still, if the author is truly that disgusted, he or she has the ability to vote with his or her dollars by finding a monolingual banking institution. I'm certain there are some out there. I'd recommend trying a smaller, more locally-operated bank (unfortunately, those are a lot harder to find, since they tend to get gobbled up by the big multinationals pretty quickly). As for the people waving flags other than that of the United States, "squawking and screaming in the streets," first among the rights guaranteed to all citizens of the United States is freedom of speech. To assume all persons taking part in protests in favor of immigrant rights to be here illegally is foolish and quite close to racism. Certainly there are US citizens, both native-born and naturalized, in those crowds, finding common cause with those who have come here illegally, perhaps seeing in them the desire to partake of the freedoms that made and continue to make our country great. As to "more rights and free liberties," what do they demand? In many cases, they demand a path to legality and citizenship, along with the opportunities and responsibilities that entails. They demand access to healthcare and education, especially for their children - are these not fundamental human rights? Without access to such services, aren't they doomed to a perpetual outcast status? How will they or their children learn our language and our cultures if we don't let them seek and utilize our education system? If they cannot access any other form of healthcare, won't they turn to the emergency rooms as their only option? The inevitable response is that they shouldn't be here in the first place, that these problems shouldn't exist. Well, they are here, and the problems do exist. It is not realistic to speak of deporting every illegal immigrant for simple logistical reasons, but even if it were, the economic impact to the United States would be staggering. The countries to which they would be deported would suddenly be hosts to huge groups of angry, impoverished, unemployed people with a major grudge against the United States, much closer at hand than similar groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the world.
Maybe it's time for our government to take down the bird feeder .
Perhaps - it's certainly the author's right to believe that and to say as much. Clearly, I disagree. That disagreement is borne of many ideas and experiences, but it's existed in me for quite some time. What has not, what has only recently risen from my gut and demanded expression, is a heartsickness over the profound and unabashed selfishness of so many Americans. Gone are the concepts of the Commonwealth and our God-given position as a beacon of truth and decency to the rest of the world. In their place, we've become a collection of scattered camps of self-centered louts, eager to partake of all of God's gifts without acknowledging in any way the grander scope and vision of the Founding Fathers who helped secure them. America is not just a country, a plot of land to support your grandiose home and countless Wal*Mart Supercenters. America is an idea, a promise of unalienable equality and liberty and the fundamental worth of all human beings. It began as a bold statement of a new idea, and it drives me wild to see it perverted into an excuse for a never-ending chorus of complaints over the minor inconveniences and manufactured victimizations of those who have lived here long enough to feel like they're the only ones deserving of favor. That's not America. That's a nation of overfed children who refuse to share their toys on the playground, who refuse to accept the existence of a social contract that requires sacrifice and contribution from all the undersigned. Again, wishing for such an America is the right of the author, as is acting to bring it about through this kind of e-pamphleteering and, presumably, voting for candidates and measures that echo his or her own sentiments. Conversely, I have the same rights to wish and to act for my own ideas, and I will continue to do so. Whatever your views may be, I encourage you to do the same.

If you agree, pass this on

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posted by Aaron Karp at 10/02/2007 02:35:00 PM


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