FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA or a short, twisted history of immigration

Dear America and the State of Texas, I have some hard truths to tell you. Most of you

"... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...": FDR’s First Inaugural Address

“… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address

won’t like what I have to say and I really don’t care. You are afraid. Yep, I said YOU ARE AFRAID. Someone needed to say it and I just did. You’re afraid of your government. You’re afraid of ISIS and Al Qaeda. You’re afraid of immigrants and immigration. You are one short step away from walking around with an aluminum foil

hat on your head. You’re afraid that Obama’s storm troopers are going to kick your door in some evening to confiscate your firearms. You are afraid of many things and that’s dangerous.

I’m frightened myself, but I think I’m afraid for different reasons than you. I’m not afraid of ISIS. I refuse to let a group of religious fundamentalists (Muslim or Christian) control my thinking. I’m not afraid of immigration, but I’ll go into that further down. I’m not afraid of my government. I think our government in its current state is too inept to do much of anything, but that’s a subject for another blog on another day. Ditto the United Nations.

So, what am I afraid of? I’m afraid of you and your fear. FDR once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Franklin was very much right about that. He knew that to bring America out of the Great Depression peoples’ fears would have to be addressed and dealt with. Unfortunately, today’s political leaders have opted to feed your fears. They know what you’re afraid of and they’re pouring gasoline on the fear fires. They want you to be afraid. Your fear is their pathway to power.

So, what does any of this have to do with immigration I hear you ask. I want to address your fears one at a time. Right now immigration is one of the biggies so I want to start with that. What follows is Traywick’s short history of immigration in America. If you’ve heard this before during one of my drunken tirades just skip over it. It goes something like this…

Depending on what theory you subscribe to, sometime in the last one hundred thousand years, Native Americans immigrated to North America from Asia either via the Bering Strait or by boat. There was no one here to say anything about it.

In 1605 the first English settlers landed at what became Jamestown, VA. The Natives said “Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood!”

Those first inept English gentlemen should have by rights all died of starvation, disease or at the hands of the outraged natives. Somehow, they managed to survive, push the natives back and thrive. More and more arrived.

In the late seventeen hundreds Scottish Presbyterians began to arrive. The English colonists said “Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood!” The Scots became the leading edge of the pioneer movement. They figure prominently in American history.

Shortly after the Scots, German Mennonites and Amish began to arrive. The Scots said “Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood!” The Germans pretty much minded their own business and left everyone alone.

Then, the Irish began to arrive and everyone lost their minds. “Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood!” Earlier immigration could be tolerated because the Scots and Germans were at least Protestant, but the newest wave had the temerity to be Catholic. England’s biggest bugaboo had landed on the shores of the New World.

After the Irish came more Germans. Eastern European Jews fled pogroms. Russians came as did Italians, Sicilians, and Slavs. Each new wave of immigration brought more poor, persecuted people who sought a better life for their children and caused a new wave of horror among Americans. Each wave was dumped into the American melting pot and within a couple of generations became more American than Americans themselves.

Now, here we go again. In the last fifteen or so years Americans are having conniptions over Mexicans, Hondurans and Guatemalans crossing our Southern border fleeing drug cartel violence and looking for a better life for their children. Americans are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs to people that will work longer hours for less money. Never mind that for years American corporations have been shipping manufacturing jobs overseas. Never mind that the bulk of Mexican immigrants are seasonal agricultural workers that come and go. Never mind that when Americans ask about what’s happening to their jobs corporate sponsored politicians point at the immigrant and scream “It’s his fault!!! That wetback is stealing your job!”

Americans will tell you that they don’t mind immigration as long as it’s LEGAL immigration. All well and good. Why don’t we set up border check points and welcome Juan in? Why don’t we funnel him through a check point and issue him a social security number and ID? Why don’t we insist that if he wants to come here and work that he bring the wife and kids so that he doesn’t send the bulk of his pay check back to Mexico or Honduras? Why don’t we give him the opportunity to buy into the American dream?

Americans want immigration to be legal. Syria is now giving them what they want and they’re still losing their minds. The bulk of Muslim immigrants living in the U.S. are legal immigrants. President Obama is talking about bringing in Syrians that are fleeing the horror that their country has become. America, you wanted legal immigration, you’re about to get legal immigration. Personally, I feel a lot more secure with the eleven million undocumented aliens from down South. They work hard. They’re Catholic. The last thing they want is to rock the boat. Their kids will grow up American and become part of the dream.

Unfortunately, President Obama, by trying to do a humanitarian good dead has served up a fat, juicy opportunity to certain Republicans. These people have taken the pulse of America and felt the fear. They’ve figured out that the fear is their golden opportunity to take America back to the good old days of the eighteen-forties and the No-Nothing party and they’re making the most of it. They’re playing on American fear and ignorance.

Legacy and Lessons of the Cold War

By: Barbara F. Johnson

a8a8d19c2521bc6ec6b9efb2f0339d68Cold War Warriors and survivors know all about political rhetoric that trades fear like a commodity. Fear, a major weapon in the populace motivating arsenal, kept the Cold War alive and well for 70 years and, globally, cost several hundred thousand lives.

On the backs of soldiers and civilians alike, a few people and companies bloated their coffers with plunder, many more consolidated power bases that today resemble impregnable fortresses, and some forfeited their souls. Many in the Cold War generations developed a serious intolerance, almost an allergic reaction, to politically bombast environments; to bullshit and purveyors of fear.   When faced with identified political allergens, those with experience resort to a tried and true remedy—the truth, based on experience, shouted from the rooftops. Steve Traywick’s post is an elegant illustration.

During this election cycle listen for deployment of the ‘fear’ weapon as politicians pull out the stops to gain power from the people. The words of pundits are heralding its approach. There are real threats, but rarely are there simple shake and bake solutions. The world is a complicated place.

Beware the Fatal Conceit. Leif Smith observes that “F. A. Hayek’s final book, The Fatal Conceit is about the danger to civilization arising from unwarranted certainty about the depth and scope of our knowledge, especially when strong convictions of rightness drive political processes and gain sufficient power to destroy adversaries….”

The best defense against bullshit and fear is a critical and thinking mind.

2 thoughts on “FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA or a short, twisted history of immigration

  1. The best defense against home grown political and media aggression in fear mongering; especially in an election period, is to dispatch it as a timely nuisance.

    FDR issued Executive Order 9066 on 19 February 1942 during an atmosphere of World War II fear of people who were of Axis descents as a threat to the homeland.

    The EO authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan.

    Although it is not well known, the same executive order (and other war-time orders and restrictions) were also applied to smaller numbers of residents of the United States who were of Italian or German descent. For example, 3,200 resident aliens of Italian background were arrested and more than 300 of them were interned. About 11,000 German residents—including some naturalized citizens—were arrested and more than 5000 were interned. Yet while these individuals (and others from those groups) suffered grievous violations of their civil liberties, the war-time measures applied to Japanese Americans were worse and more sweeping, uprooting entire communities and targeting citizens as well as resident aliens.

    From the time of the ‘red scare’ to today’s threats of terror, the government and print & visual news sources have honed their skills in Madison Avenue type scare tactics.

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