Monday, April 10, 2006

Who Gets to be an American?

Ok, you all know that I'm not one to tackle political issues here at Blue Door. Politics generally aren't my thing and I'm usually happy going quietly about, holding certain, what would likely be described as liberal beliefs, and voting when the time comes.

The question of immigration policy has been raised to me by HamRadio, a very dear, very Republican friend of mine (who would have guessed that I'd have a very Republican friend? Certainly not I!). He sent me an email containing excerpts from an alarmist speech given, ostensibly, by former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm who said, in a nutshell, that America's current immigration policy is going to destroy America. I'm gathering that this is going around the internet and that's how he got it - you can find it here.

I'm astounded and horrified by this on so many levels. I'm certain that much of my outrage comes from the alarmist tone of the piece, and the overwhelming sense of Us vs. Them. This feels to me like the slippery slope that leads to divisiveness and fanatic nationalism and hatred of the "other." Aren't we ALL "other"?

I have so much more to say on this, but can't seem to get myself put in a place where I can speak coherently about it quite yet. I may be too close to Holocaust studies to not think that we are headed down a similar path. Note this, lifted directly from a speech given by Adolf himself:

7. We demand that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens. If it should prove impossible to feed the entire population, foreign nationals (non-citizens) must be deported from the Reich.

8. All non-German immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who entered Germany after 2 August 1914 shall be required to leave the Reich forthwith.

Am I just making this stuff up, or are we really headed down a very dangerous road?


Anonymous claudia said...

I personally am still giving this subject much thought. What I DO believe is that it's very easy for us to sit comfortably up here in the Northeast in our Liberal bastions,when we don't have to deal with many of the situations that people who live in the southeast and along the border find themselves dealing with. I know someone who had recently moved to the Phoenix area and shor tly thereafter, moved back to Maine with many stories that were both disturbing and alarming when it came to migrant populations.I might add that these are a VERY open minded people.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

That's just the thing, Claudia, I was thinking of them and their experience, and of WeedWoman's stories about living in Phoenix, and of my friend HamRadio's experience of spending some time in El Paso last summer, when I wrote this.

I am the first person to disclaim my lack of authority when it comes to speaking about diversity issues (just as Vanx - he posted about race not too long ago, and I mentioned that, of my ninety-some-odd students, only TWO of them are not white. Two. Out of almost a hundred). You're right: we sit up here in our little New England towns, far enough away from the bigger cities to not have to deal with their issues (for the most part). I understand and appreciate that there are very serious, very pressing issues that have to be addressed when it comes to this question.

My concern is how those issues are being addressed. I hear, in a lot of what's being put forth as the "conservative" viewpoint, a lot of rhetoric that troubles me. The question of immigration is being broken down into an "Us vs. Them" discussion, and the language being used is alarmist and inflamatory. THEY are INVADING our country (the same words used when WE engage in warfare). THEIR culture is INFECTING and will eventually DESTROY ours. They are CRIMINALS and OPPORTUNISTS who are BURDENING our social system. It's stuff like that that inspires hatred and violence among those who weren't taught how to think critically about the messages they recieve. I don't want to live in a country where violence is perpetrated against "others" (whomever those "others" happen to be) because of some percieved threat.

I fear that's where we're headed.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Your opening question of this blog,hits the nail on the head.If people of other countries come, like those who came through Ellis Island,to BECOME a CONTRIBUTING part of THIS country,to register their presence,to abide by the laws of this country,to pay taxes like the rest of us and make at least an honest attempt to learn the English LANGUAGE if they choose to become a citizen,then should they get to be an American?-sure.
Also,(and I hope this will not be misinterpreted) just because it was Hitler who said it, it doesn't automatically make the concept bad.
I remember reading a book back in the 70's that was "fiction" and considered "alarmist", but here it is, all actually happening!

6:16 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

I haven't read a damn thing about the immigration issue that's been all over the news, I've been too pissed off about the Forensic Vagina Inspectors in El Salvador.

I agree that we may be on a road that leads to those 2 Hitler quotes but I think it's probably a long road and we're not all that close to the place where those comments were made. It's worth wondering, though, at which point on this road, either last century in Germany or this century in the US, we say, "OK, this is the last exit before the toll, time to get off and go to MacDonald's."

8:59 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I was thinking about your comment that the language used was very inflamatory and alarmist. As an English teacher,how would you have written the same information to convey the same intensity of feeling and strong conviction in these beliefs?

9:08 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I agree that we are a fair bit away from 1930's and '40s Germany, but it's not a tough sell to draw a pretty straight line from where they were then to where we are now. And no, just because Hitler said it, doesn't make it necessarily bad, though I think we can all agree, given the context and the 20/20 nature of hindsight, that this particular issue was a very important seed in what became a terrible and bitter crop.

I brought this letter into one of my classes and asked the kids to discuss the STRUCTURE of the argument - not the argument itself - and one of the students very insightfully brought up the fact that it's a speech and was intended to frighten. I'm not saying that the language isn't appropriate to the purpose of the piece. What I'm saying is that I'm not sure that, in a reasoned and careful discussion about the issue, that kind of language IS appropriate.

If we're going to have a serious exchange about this issue, we need to stop thinking of it in terms of US and THEM. What are these people coming here for? What did my great-grandparents come here for? Certainly the greatest percentage of them had, and have, no intention of INVADING our country or DESTROYING our culture. I would be willing to bet a lot that the greatest portion of them want to PARTAKE in our culture. We are seen as a bastion of opportunity. We claim ownership of the land of the free. They see in the U.S. an opportunity to provide for their families, to attain some dignity through being able to feed themselves, their children, their parents.

The whole issue of language is one that, I would bet, is being blown out of proportion and, I'm also willing to bet, has a great deal to do with the insufficiency of the public school system in our country. While I think it IS important that people maintain connections to their native languages and customs, I'm also sure that a great many non-English speakers are DESPERATE to learn English. I heard an interview on NPR the other day where a mother was talking about how pleased she was that her child was learning English at school and was coming home to teach her and her husband. These people recognize that they need English to succeed in the U.S. They're not trying to turn this country into a huge Spanish speaking barrio.

One more question before I go. What is it that the "us" of the "us vs. them" are so afraid of? I often wonder this when we speak in terms of issues like gay marriage. "This thing will destroy the fabric of our society!!" opponants claim. I'm sorry, but I just dont' see how allowing my gay friends to marry is going to have ANY affect on MY marriage.

I'm babbling a little, I think, so I'm going to sign off for now. I'll keep thinking about this, though, and look forward to hearing more from all of you.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I don't disagree with many of the points that you made. My question about how you would go about presenting Lamm's arguement(which is not only subjective,but hinges on a lot of real info relative to the decline of civilazations)was not rhetorical. Are we ready to advocate breaking laws as a legitimate recourse? Are we ready,as a country,to pay for the additional health care expenses?Are we ready to overload an educational system that already places an unfair burden on property owners? Does one really believe that the reasons that brought our forefathers here initally is the same as now?
I feel that BOTH sides of this issue are missing key points. One side believing that the quality of life in this country is being jeopordized by demonizing all foreigners and the other by not recognizing some of the legitimate points that are being made. At best, It's a problem that will not be solved either quickly or easily. I wouldn't be surpised if we started hearing about ranchers,who are sick of illegals killing their livestock and destroying their property, gunning down people.
And where does the limit end,or does it? Africans? Asians? What if other countries,who cannot or do not get their shit together decide that we are the global meal ticket? I'm not saying we couldn't be this, but I'd put money on the fact that most people who have worked hard all of theie lives to have a certain quality of life in this country,are going to be hard pressed to give it up. Who in this group of bloggers would be willing to take in a family of immigrants while they chase the American dream?

3:29 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

I'm on a time schedule here, I'll be back to elaborate later.

1. I don't think it's about taking an immigrant into one's home. You know, except for the few minutes it takes to pay the poory guy when he delivers my food. (Wow, so much more mean and racist than I meant it.)

2. Check out the different angle on Germany in the 20s and 30s at (sorry I have no idea how to make a link)

3. Isn't there a thing called Godwin's law or something that once Hitler has been brought up the rest of the discussion is inarguable and therefore must be terminated?

8:39 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Kizz, you're good! While I couldn't find the blog spot that you referred to,I was able to look up Godwin's law. I was not aware of the protocol's of blogging.Fascinating!He's right,discussion terminated.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Back again for the briefest moment with another bulleted list.

1. My bad it's actually:

2. S and I were IMing on the issue and she asked me to post the following that I said. I don't have time to edit so please excuse bad typing, bad grammar and bad attitude.

I think it's worth saying something about how it's helpful to look at things in the context of what you're already studying, it can be sobering and/or help to frame a longer view but that in terms of
reporting, or sometiems even discussing, at least in discussing what to do about it all right now, it may not be super helpful. THe part that niggles me is that the whole point of building the fucking country was to give oppressed immigrants a place to live and to be their own. Unless these immigrants are trying to turn us all to their old coumntry's ways (and, btw, good fucking luck) then they ARE conforming to teh American Way. The American Way is to come in here and be free to be who you are and to make a melting pot (See: Statue of Liberty,
Schoolhouse ROck etc.) and be done with it.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Couldn't decide which site this should be posted on,but since most people read both,here goes a quote that I read:
"Emotions are the idiot lights on the dashboard of life.
Pay attention to them. They might be telling you something important. But KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE WHEEL AND YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD."

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Auntie said...

A submission from someone I love very much... -S

Here goes: The problem is greed. The us and them mentality perpetuates it. People seem to want to horde everything for what ever reason they may have. It might make them feel powerful or maybe they are saving up for when the lights go out on the world. Not really sure but when more people come into this country that means there will be less for me. Less work, less food, less housing... You get the point. But wait! Those people coming in are criminals and drug dealers! That’s how they justify their stupid argument but really they are afraid there will be less for them. People don’t realize that it has to be a WE mentality. WE are all in this together. WE live on the same planet. WE need to take care of each other. I don't see another way. There is plenty to go around. WE need to put our heads together and FIGURE IT OUT!

6:33 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Of coarse it's greed! And in a perfect world,we would ALL play well together,ALL share our toys, ALL have plenty to eat, ALL respect each other and ALL take care of our planet. NEWSFLASH! The world isn't perfect.

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Auntie said...

(NOte from S - here's another entry from Auntie - sent to me at 4:09 this morning. Will soon teach her to post on her own but she's sick now, so I'll do it...)

Note the time. I can't fucking sleep. I dislike being sick... Anyway, I would like to respond to Claudia's comment. Here goes:
The world is perfect. Everything that is and everything that happens is perfect. That is part of what we need to figure out. People get to caught up in their own life to stop and see the perfection that is everywhere. I don't mean the Martha Stewart perfection. It's not about having or achieving perfection. It's about seeing what is already there and what has always been there. The universe offers it up all the time but people fail to notice. Case in point: I am running late. I am stuck behind an old lady at a red light. Light turns green, grandma needs to go left. Grandma refuses to try and inch out to make said left. After the second light cycle she finally goes. I am pissed cause I am late. I go straight, drive about 30 yards to watch an old man fall down. I stop as well as 3 other people. Old man has serious issues. I happen to be the ONLY person with a cell phone. I thought everybody had a cell phone! I call 911, emts come and save the day. Perfect. I thank the universe for offering up 1. My lateness( important to note that I am NEVER late) and 2. A timid grandma. Perfection is all around but people fail to see it because things don't happen the way they would like. It is indeed a perfect world.

5:12 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Yes, mommy and daddy have enough love for everyone. Yes, there is a form of perfection everywhere. Yes, we should be striving to expand the perfection that is visible to the naked eye.

However, that's a pretty long term goal.

Short term there actually aren't enough jobs for everyone and yet few full blown American citizens will take some of the jobs that new and/or illegal immigrants will do. People who aren't paying into the system in taxes and trickle down economy can still be a drain on the system because someone does have to patch them up when they get sick or help them out with some legal stuff if they try to get into the country etc. Some of these immigrants are stellar back breaking individuals. Some of them are gold digging slimebag drug lords. And a lot of them are in between.

I think the job that we need to do in service of the long term goal of perfection is to find a way to make legal immigration possible, reasonable and enforcable in a way that represents the best interests of the country, since eventually all these people will be part of this country and it'll be theirs and they'll want it to be the best it can be.

I am sympathetic to people who want to come to America and find the American Dream but I am (if this is possible) more sympathetic to the working poor. The people who are here and are busting their asses legally and still getting screwed at every turn, never able to climb one step closer to the Dream that immigration to this (increasingly fucked) country has always presented.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I agree that in a cosmic sense,you are absolutely correct.We are all where we need to be at any given moment whether we like where that is or not. So,if this is the case,wouldn't everything that is happening already be perfect,if you will,in all the lessons that we need to learn while on this journey?

9:01 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

A site that may be of interest to some of you:
Go to "games" for Battleground God. Some of the other quizzes are interesting and fun too,if you're at all interested in testing the LOGICAL progression of your personal philosophy. Even though I know the qiuz,I still am inconsistant at times!

12:00 PM  
Anonymous nhfalcon said...

OK, I'll open myself up to some bashing here. I have no issue with ANYONE coming to this country - as long as they do it LEGALLY!!! I think the reason why many current Americans have started to consider current and potential immigrants as "them" is because so many of them are apparently here illegally. As such, I think the argument can be made that they don't want to really be Americans, they just want to take advantage of the good things America has to offer. They don't want to pay taxes, they don't want to be subject to our laws, they want us to speak their language in our country and bend over backwards to assimilate their customs and beliefs, they don't want to pay to be in our schools or use our health care, they want to fly the flag of their native country in their front yard instead of the American flag... do I need to go on here? Do they really want to be Americans, or do they just want to leech off all of us real Americans?

Now keep in mind that I have no issue with being proud of where you come from. I'm proud of the fact that about half of my blood is Portuguese, my wife is proud that she's half Polish, a very good friend of mine is fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage, BUT w're all much prouder of the fact that we're Americans. As Dennis Miller once said, "'s nice that we all came from somewhere, but we are here now and it's time to be proud of America. We live in a melting pot, so melt for chrissakes!"

If you want to come here legally and really be an American, then please, come and join in our reindeer games. If you want to sneak over in the middle of the night and then live off of my hard work, then I think the Border Patrol has the right to shoot you in the head and throw your corpse back over the fence as a warning to future illegals.

I'll leave you all with another Miller quote: "Yeah, this country's founding fathers were a bunch of dead rich white men, but they did set things up so you could come and sit at the table, so don't piss in the finger bowls, all right? In exchange for unfettered economic opportunity and no government death squads, try to get along with your new stepmotherland, and don't be resentful if there's a set of house rules already in place."

10:45 AM  

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