Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mrs. DuToit Calls Out Soft America

While I am of the Bill Whittle belief that Americans are, at their core, warriors who would fight to the death for everything we've worked so hard to build over the generations, I think that in the case of anything short of that, we are soft on the outside, with no more patience than your average toddler on a cross-country car trip. Mrs. DuToit waxes eloquent on that very point, our collective lack of stamina as a nation of late, here. It's good reading, I just wish she weren't so right sometimes.

"I, probably like many Americans, have been struggling with the illegal immigration issue. It isn’t because I don’t understand the various arguments, or even that I don’t agree with many of them, but it is because (I think) the issue is extremely complicated. It is one of those situations where there is no perfect answer, nothing even remotely close to solving the problem, and that leaves me feeling a bit impotent on the issue.

Here are a few random tidbits that float around in my head, competing for dominance:

1. Most people from South America who come here to work don’t want to stay here. That alone (barring any other issue) makes South American immigration unique. Without getting into the nuisances of it or trying to come up with a definition of what is good or better about our two cultures, South Americans (and most specifically Mexicans) like their homeland and culture. They see no reason to adopt ours. As I said, for many, coming here is just a way to make some money to send home, or to enable them to get enough money to have a life back home, which they’ll go to, when they have the money they need.

2. I have trouble with the carrot issue. There are incentives to come here illegally. It has always worked in the past, and coming here with the intention of battling the immigration nightmare after arrival (rather than waiting for your lottery number to come up) has always been more effective. And, I believe, we like that chutzpah. Despite the whining and griping we may express, at the heart of it I think we do like it. We do like that someone says, “screw it, I’m going to America.” Most of our ancestors did and we feel a kinship with a person who would take that kind of risk.

3. I won’t go so far as to say that our illegal immigration concerns are because we’re bigoted against Latinos (although some may have those thoughts), I think the bigger issue is one of assimilation, or the refusal to do so. I think the thing that bugs us the most about Latino immigration is that it is possible for them to come here and never learn English. There is a lot of Spanish-speaking infrastructure (businesses, media, etc.). They never become what we want immigrants to be: having fond memories of the family and home country they left behind, but 100% committed to fitting it and never looking back. That means speaking English and it also means adopting aspects of our culture that we loosely consider American: Hard working, disgusted and ashamed at the prospect of charity or government hand outs, respectful of laws, entrepreneurial, hoping our children do better than us, and speaking the truth.

While South Americans haven’t cornered the market on not doing those things (certainly other cultures don’t share our disgust at accepting hand-outs), the mix seems to be uniquely South American. Family is more important to career in Mexico, for example. That has been one of the problems of the businesses that have attempted to operate in Mexico. If there is something happening with family, they’ll just not show up for work. Showing up your parents educationally and financially is another cultural taboo. I don’t think that one way of life is better, but it is different, and we want to reconcile it the way current Americans handle it, regardless if it is better or worse.

The other big difference with Mexico specifically (and other places in South America) is the acceptance of graft or dishonesty. There is an “us vs them” culture in South America, where the ruling class has always bossed the peasants around. To deal with that, the peasants just ignored them as much as possible, paying lip service to their imposed rules and laws, rather than trying to change them, and worked and existed in spite of them. That cultural difference, of taking ownership of your society, is a huge chasm in how we approach government and our neighbors. We own our country and are mindful of government or a ruling class who tries to tell everyone what to do. The concept of We, The People is not shared by the rest of the continent.

And last, but (certainly) not least…

4. We are a nation of laws. I know that some might take issue with that, or we might agree we have become a nation of too many laws, but the fact of that matter is, regardless of how much we have gone too far in one direction or another, most of us still feel (or still hope) that We, The People are the captains of this ship. Others might argue that we’ve lost control or that our nation is nearing the point of sinking (or reset) but most of us don’t feel that way. The thing about the illegal immigration thing that troubles us so much is that we are giving every appearance of being in one voice on the matter (or there is consensus so large that it is as close to “one voice” as we’ve been about something in a long time). The fact that our representatives are not hearing that voice is making many of us angry. If we can’t get them to do what we say when we’re this much in agreement on an issue, what hope is there when we need leadership to guide us when we are fractured in our wants and desires? That’s where the anger comes from. It isn’t just the illegal immigration issue. It is the “why aren’t they doing as we ask” issue. It is all about our confidence in our system, and our representatives.

On the issue of immigration, of the illegal variety, I think many of us feel that we have reached a crisis point—that some thing needs to be done to alter the direction.

I share that belief, but I’m not so sure it is 100% correct. What some thing or series of things?

Some problems cannot be solved. We can make them better. We can try to do the best job we can, but some problems are not solvable. The solutions to the problems are more horrific than the problem we’re trying to solve. That doesn’t mean we throw our hands up, but maybe we sit on them for a while.

So many of us look at the idea of a fence and see that it would probably improve the situation, but we don’t see it as the panacea that others might think it would be.

Many of us look at the idea of amnesty or a path to citizenship with a jaundiced eye, either as rewarding people for breaking the law (bad), or foolish given the cultural differences and the lack of desire among many who are here illegally to become citizens (stupid), as I mentioned above.

We keep hearing about the millions and millions of illegals who are here now, who have been here for many years, and may (or may not) be taking advantage of our open society and our hospitality.

It also seems as if the wake up call that was 9/11 appears to have been forgotten by many, and there is concern that some people (especially our representatives) may have been awake for a while, but they’ve either decided to take a nap or have bedded down for a long slumber.

The above just touches on the issues and the conflicts. There are hundreds of nuisances and different branches to explore and study the matter with hopes of coming up with a series of strategies to attempt to make the problem better.

But I have a theory as to why our representatives may not be doing as we ask (besides allowing for a small number who have pocketbook or selfishly ulterior motives, which is always a possibility for the few):

They don’t believe we have the stamina to see it through.

That is certainly what I think. I think lots of folks talk tough on a lot of issues. There were lots of folks wanting a reckoning after 9/11, but if it is correct that the majority of the people now want us out of Iraq, after only an incredibly short time to make a miracle in the Middle East, what would our resolve be when the mainstream media starts showing us pictures of crying babes and sobbing women who are being separated by the immigration cops? If we can’t keep our morale and resolve up when there are people cutting off the heads of our citizens, who put people into meat grinders, what hope is there for people who “just want to make a better life for themselves” being dragged off and thrown back across the border?

I think we’d buckle. Buckling is bad. It shows the rest of the world our underbelly in ways we wouldn’t show if we didn’t attempt it in the first place.

I think that is why our representatives have been stalling—or waiting—or trying to come up with all sorts of not-so-brutal methods of addressing the larger problem.

If We, as Americans, can really think this one through, if we can keep the pressure on for months and months and not be distracted and forget about this issue, then maybe we can get our representatives to act in a way of our choosing. But if we are going to become the fickle and easily tired when it gets difficult, if people haven’t thought through their reaction to seeing babies separated from their mothers, of children being thrown back into a world of hopelessness, rampant disease, and poverty, then people aren’t serious about the issue. They don’t (or won’t) have the stomach for it.

Unless you can deal with those images, unless you have thought it through and have decided that you want 10 to 20 million people to be rounded up and sent back to wherever they came from, no exceptions, no capitulation, then we’re not serious as a people, and we have to address this issue another way.

Sometimes, when given a series of bad choices, none of which are guaranteed to succeed or make the situation remarkably better, or if we’re not willing to commit to it fully and see it through to the finish, then the wisest choice is to do nothing, even if nothing seems like a terrible choice, too.

It isn’t a pleasant thought. It certainly isn’t the only option, but it may be the best one… at least for now.

It may take another terrorist attack on our soil for people to get it. It may take situations where the National Guard is called into service to handle the lawlessness and anarchy created by a community of undocumented workers making an area hell on earth. It may take further collapse of infrastructure, of more towns going bankrupt from the weight of the requirements, or prison over crowding to the extent of a breakdown. Maybe none of it will come to pass. Or maybe it will happen tomorrow.

Time will tell."