I’m here to talk about the new immigration bill that’s come up before Congress, but I’m not going to bother addressing its problems as a piece of legislation. Others have already done that far better than I ever could. Instead, I’m going to look at a different angle of the issue, one that I don’t see much talked about on TV and in the newspapers. This is one of my more roundabout columns, so stick with me. I promise I’ll get to the point eventually.
It amazes me how, when it comes to highly controversial ethical/moral debates, the most rational solutions tend to be left out in the cold. Take, for example, the Terry Schiavo case a while back. She was brain-damaged but otherwise healthy; all her organs functioned and she was not on life support. Her parents were more than willing to take her in and care for her, more than willing to take her off her husband’s hands so he could get on with his life. He could have easily abdicated all responsibility for her health and well-being by signing custody over to her parents.
Yet, the debate turned into a right-to-die case, something that should only have come up if machines were breathing and pumping her blood for her. Instead of “starve her to death” vs. “give her to her parents,” the courts and, subsequently, the media framed the choices as “let her die” vs. “keep her alive as a vegetable.” A third, perfectly humane option existed, but it was ignored. As a result, the woman died.
Likewise, the abortion controversy is usually presented so that women have to choose between having an abortion of keeping an unwanted baby. Meanwhile, thousands of couples willing to adopt pay thousands of dollars in fees and travel because they feel they have to go abroad in order to find a child. Again, a humane third alternative is ignored at the expense of human life.
These examples are, I believe, symptoms of a larger problem. C.S. Lewis once mentioned in The Screwtape Letters that (I’m paraphrasing a bit here) men once knew when a thing was proved, and they lived their lives accordingly. Now, though (“now” being the early 1940s), people had in general lost the skill of rational thought, the idea that there are such things as absolute truths and the ability to see such truths and make decisions about them.
Screwtape, of course, was ready to make hay of this. He advises Wormwood to involve his subject in the mushy modern sciences, such as sociology and watered-down economics, and to keep him away from subjects about which he must think in a logical pattern: physics, mathematics and the like. Above all, Wormwood must avoid argument and debate as a method of persuasion, instead relying on emotional appeals and non-logic-based statements. Although never explicitly outlined, it is easy to imagine the sort of appeals Screwtape might have had in mind: “I don’t want to.” “That’s too hard.” “It’s not fair.”
Translated into our 21st century dialect, these can be read as “Of course he committed a crime. He’s downtrodden and oppressed.” “If we hadn’t made them angry, they wouldn’t be attacking us.” “They just want what we have. Why shouldn’t we let them stay?” Instead of the reasonable, thought-through solutions to these problems, we are presented with irrational choices: either sympathize with the person in the wrong or be branded as heartless.
Which leads me to my topic du jour: the immigration (amnesty) bill. The current bill is ultimately founded on the oatmeal-brained idea that the government is responsible for fixing people’s problems for them, especially if they're from a third-world country or an impoverished urban area. Instead of empowering people by demanding they stand up and take control of their own lives and their own situations, the current trend is to behave like the woman who desperately wants to be the “cool mom.” Instead of setting boundaries and enforcing them, she tries to be her kid’s best friend, resulting in a lack of both discipline and respect in the household. No matter what he asks for, she gives it to him: expensive clothes, a TV in his bedroom, a fancy cell phone. The kid could earn money and get these things himself, but instead he manipulates his mother into giving it to him. He feeds off his mother’s insecurities and takes advantage of her until she is unable to say no to him about anything, and he is unable to get what he wants without demanding it from someone else.
America didn’t become a superpower by asking for handouts from Europe. America became a superpower because it was willing to make its own way in the world and fix its own problems. If we had gone whining to Great Britain every time we had a problem – and if Britain had bent over backwards trying to accommodate what would have been increasingly unreasonable demands – we’d be an insignificant little backwater ex-colony, still huddled up against the east coast and scared to cross the Mississippi.
One great problem in the third world, one of the main things that holds them back, is the pervasive “get what you can for yourself” attitude that permeates their societies from their governments to their gutters. In some countries, you can’t send a letter without bribing someone, let alone start a business. In Mexico, which has notoriously strict laws regarding immigrants and foreigners inside its own borders, the government actively aids and encourages people to cross the Rio Grande, make money and send it back home. Then, when the U.S. complains, they say we owe it to them.
The debate, then, has largely turned into “let illegal immigrants do whatever they want” vs. “you’re a racist xenophobe.” The third option, the reasonable option, is to tell Mexico and Central American, “Look, we’ll help you fix your problems if you want, but we’re not going to do it for you, and we’re not going to let your people just jump the line at the expense of others. You wanna come here, you gotta follow the rules. Sorry.” But that’s not nice, so no one says it. Instead, we get a lot of hand wringing and “cool mom” behavior, which only weakens us and emboldens them to make bigger demands next time.
I could go on about this for pages. I could show how this kind of behavior infects our foreign policy. I could show how it affects our schools. I could show how it has spawned the grievance theatre antics of people like Al Sharpton and groups like CAIR (Council for American-Islamic Relations). I could, quite literally, go on for days. I probably will, someday, but not today. Today I’m going to leave it with the immigration bill. Hopefully, I’ve given you something to think about.
Besides, I’ve got to have something more to write about later.