I will now wade into rather dangerous waters because there are people from all side of the political spectrum with very strong views on this topic. I want to discuss immigration.
Now there are definitely many dangers inherent in allowing people from every corner of the world to enter your nation and stay. This has been a controversy for far longer than America has existed. In Rome they didn’t want the Jews; in ancient Egypt, they didn’t want the Jews; in 19th century Russia they did not want the Jews; in Nazi Germany . . . well, there is a troubling similarity in these examples.
But this is far from the point, or in fact supports the one I wish to make. It is very easy to generalize an entire group of people and label them all as dangerous. In Nazi Germany I am sure there were violent criminal Jews and greedy scumbag stereotypes easily placed on a poster and called ‘Jewish Rats.’ But it was certainly not the majority. Just like there are hardly any MS-13 members among the so-called invasion from Mexico. It is why even fewer are actually rapists. And if you wish to call them all criminals then you must also acknowledge the Catch-22 these terrified, fleeing people face: they are convicted of entering a nation illegally in the hopes that at the very least their children will be safe from the cartels and bloody gangs (MS-13, by the way, is a far larger problem for Mexico than the US).
The immigration issue seems to provoke some of the angriest responses today, there being very little middle ground. Right and left both presume extremist viewpoints of the opposing sides, and do exactly what they accuse one another of doing: generalizing a whole group of people.
There are, you realize, anti-immigrant individuals who have enormous sympathy for the poor people running for their lives. They are appalled with the separation of families and shuffle uncomfortably when politicians say things like ‘if you want to keep your family together, then don’t come here,’ or, ‘just like anyone else breaking the law, they are removed from their families.’ These people find such coldness inhumane and do not understand why so much hatred must be kicked up when dealing with a very serious issue.
On the left, too, there are those deeply concerned with criminals sneaking into the country to evade their own law-enforcement and seeking a new criminal market. These people understand the need for serious background checks on the individuals who come into this country (gun control? That’s for another time–). But they make an exception for refugees, those running for their lives. This is something America has always done–always!–until nationalism firmly took over the nation’s conscience in this nervous, fearful, paranoid, conspiratorial, no-attention span age.
There is no discussion that I have encountered that so rapidly devolves into name-calling and shouting more than immigration. Even racism–an issue of overwhelming sensitivity, seems congenial compared to the current climate all over the world of people from elsewhere coming to live near you. It does, really, have a racial component in itself. As recently as the 1970s there was outrage when black folks would move into predominantly white neighborhoods (more recently there has only been whispered concern). There was the busing crisis in Boston where, just like in the south twenty years before, white parents didn’t want their kids going to school with blacks. The 1980s could also be called the age of ‘white flight,’ when cities began emptying of their white population and the suburbs boomed into a terrified, Reagan Democrat safety zone.
This sort of disorder of course led to the current generation, these loud-mouthed extremists tweeting out insults because they don’t have enough thought or space to make an actual point. And so rage and name-calling and stereotypes and the very soul of America gets trampled on and leaves the whole nation a frayed, confused and very angry mess. If you think about America at the time of civil war, while some people made highfalutin ‘states rights’ arguments, similar in essence to ‘meat is murder’ radicals or ‘the slaves like it better this way,’ the truth is that it really was a single issue fight. It was about fighting for the humanity of a large group of people.
Times have changed and there are different outlooks on this similar theme, but the outrage and anger over the potential change in culture is really no different after all. It is fear, always fear, that sprouts such hatred. One cannot live their lives terrified of the larger world. If they do, then whatever happens really is all their own fault.