This morning, for the first time in my life, I ate oatmeal. I found it to be pretty dang good. I guess, for a girl who loves her some oatmeal raisin cookies, that only makes sense.
It would have been bad if it turned out I didn’t like oatmeal, though. And why was I eating oatmeal?
Because we are completely out of food and I had the car last night, which meant that the Butcher lounged around the house and brought in the plants so that they wouldn’t freeze instead of buying groceries.
I had the car because I was out talking about the Constitution. Sincerely, folks, nothing tickles me more than having the kind of life where you make plans to sit around with other folks and talk about the Constitution.
I believe that sitting around talking about the Constitution is all a part of Mack’s secret plan to depress the hell out of me. Like some Pavlovian response, he wants me to hear his name and fall to the ground in a pile of tears, weeping for the state of the world.
I guess I wouldn’t mind that if his name weren’t “Mack,” but as it stands right now, every time I see a fucking commercial for that burger with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun, I am weeping like the government just killed E.T.
Speaking of the government, that, of course, was the point of our talk–how the government screws over immigrants, both folks who are here legally and those who are not.
I realized last night that I could categorize my feelings on the immigration issue.
Things I Don’t Give a Shit About
–Whether a great influx of immigrants means the end of some unique “white” culture
–Whether immigrants are taking “our” jobs (since, of course, I belong to a gender that is also often accused of taking “our” jobs)
–Whether unfettered immigration from Mexico will some day remove all distinctions between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Would that be so bad? From our Southern neighbors, we could inherit good food and dreamy brown eyes to stare into and from our Canadian friends, we could get a god damn sense of humor.
Things I Care About on an Intellectual Level
–If we have so many undocumented workers, doesn’t that prove we need those workers? If we need those workers, can’t we reform immigration laws to bring those folks into our society legally?
–What does it mean for us Americans, for the soul of our country, if we turn into a nation of people who are all required to enforce laws?
–Why are people who are here legally subject to harsher penalties for the same crimes as U.S. citizens?
Things I Care About on a Visceral Level
–If we use every opportunity a person comes into contact with someone in a position of authority to check their immigration status, why would folks who are here illegally ever report a crime or call for help if they see that your house is on fire or step in to testify if they witness you being mistreated by the police?
–If we have a large underclass of people who literally cannot come to the attention of the authorities for fear of being deported, how will we prevent places where illegal immigrants live from being overrun with crime?
–Or how will we prevent their employers from setting up little fiefdoms where they basically own their illegal employees and can do whatever the fuck they want to them no matter how immoral, because reporting him would mean putting yourself in the criminal justice system?
–How in the hell can we live with ourselves ripping the parents of U.S. citizens away from them?
–And when people talk about removing the birthright to citizenship, have they lost their damn fool minds? Do those folks even know what it means to be an American? And you really want to give the government the power to decide what native born people qualify as citizens and which don’t? Are you mad?
I don’t know. It’s a scary time. We’ve got Republican frontrunners like Guiliani running around talking about how he believes that the President has the right to hold U.S. citizens without trial, but he’d hope to not have to use that power very often and how he believes that, if Congress won’t give the President the money he needs to, say, wage war, he should be able to look for other ways of funding it. I mean, the dude is running for President and he seems to be completely unfamiliar with the Constitution and we’re talking about whether his divorces or his penchant for cross-dressing will keep him out of office.
What about the fact that he doesn’t seem to know the difference between president of the United States and a god damn dictator?
Maybe that should keep him out of office.
I am afraid for our country, sometimes. Right now.
I truly don’t believe that democracy can work on a scale as large as the one we’re trying it out on. But I hope against hope that it will.
It can’t, though, if we all don’t buy into it. It’s not enough to “love this country.” I’m sorry. It’s just not.
You have to be familiar with the way the government is laid out in the Constitution and truly buy into the apparently still radical notion that people deserve, inherently, to be free and self-governing.
I don’t see a lot of that being championed by either side right now.
Ha, upon rereading this post, I’ve decided it’s almost a perfect balance of Church Secretary and Kat Coble. I suddenly feel compelled to join the Butcher’s socialitarian party.
“What about the fact that he doesn’t seem to know the difference between president of the United States and a god damn dictator?”
Giuliani didn’t know the difference between mayor and dictator, either. I will not go on a rant about him now, because I have work to do and all, and once I get started on him I tend to go on for hours. But I will point out that on September 11, 2001, itself, he suggested that the attacks showed that his term of office should be extended indefintely to deal with the crisis.
But I will point out that on September 11, 2001, itself, he suggested that the attacks showed that his term of office should be extended indefintely to deal with the crisis.
I remember that very clearly and remember nearly having a heart attack. Especially when so many New Yorkers seemed to AGREE with it. I will never cast a vote for Rudy Guiliani, and that right there has always been precisely the reason. He’s power-mad in a way that frightens me.
Things B Doesn’t Give A Shit About
–Whether unfettered immigration from Mexico will some day remove all distinctions between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Would that be so bad?
For me it would. In this post where you’re talking about the constitution, I’m very leery of thinking about what our nation would look like after being burdened with influences from the Canadian constitution. (I have no idea what the Mexican constitution looks like, so I have no input there.)
Things B Cares About On An Intellectual Level
If we have so many undocumented workers, doesn’t that prove we need those workers? If we need those workers, can’t we reform immigration laws to bring those folks into our society legally?
Personally I think we should reform immigration laws. I’ve always thought so. That being said, this is the great Catch-22. Do we need these WORKERS or do we need LOW-COST workers? Because if our problem is bodies, then by all means, bring the bodies in. Our problem, it would seem, is actually not the bodies but the cost of the bodies.
What does it mean for us Americans, for the soul of our country, if we turn into a nation of people who are all required to enforce laws?
It means we’re Americans. This is a strange question, seeing as the purpose of enjoining onesself into a society is at least in part to have laws which govern our relationships and prevent strain. Any member of our society is required to enforce laws in so far as that is required for participation in society. When you teach your child not to steal from the grocery store you are enforcing our laws. When you make your passengers buckle their seatbelts….etc.
Why are people who are here legally subject to harsher penalties for the same crimes as U.S. citizens?
Did you mean “illegally”? Because if you did the answer to that question is ‘because they’ve compounded their primary offence with a secondary offence of being in the country illegally’. If you meant ‘legally’, I’d still say this is too broad a generalisation as offences are adjudicated on a case by case basis.
Things B. Cares About On A Visceral Level
If we use every opportunity a person comes into contact with someone in a position of authority to check their immigration status, why would folks who are here illegally ever report a crime or call for help if they see that your house is on fire or step in to testify if they witness you being mistreated by the police?
I don’t like this question because it smacks of blackmail to me. It’s extremely offensive. We’re supposed to not enforce the law because some lawbreaking person won’t help us when our house is on fire otherwise?
It’s not an old question and it’s not unique to the immigration-rights movement. There have been movies and novels built around this question. Victor Hugo used it in Les Miserables, but instead of using the idea as a threat to society he posed it as an internal question for Valjean’s integrity. Valjean passsed the test.
If we have a large underclass of people who literally cannot come to the attention of the authorities for fear of being deported, how will we prevent places where illegal immigrants live from being overrun with crime?
Well, if they won’t turn in criminals themselves as some sort of threat…With question “a” having already been posed, it makes me cringe. If the illegal immigrants in your example don’t want to be part of the society, then why is the society enjoined to police their outlaw forest? Seriously, bands of outlaws living on the fringe of society are as old as time itself.
That being said, increased police presence is necessary.
Or how will we prevent their employers from setting up little fiefdoms where they basically own their illegal employees and can do whatever the fuck they want to them no matter how immoral, because reporting him would mean putting yourself in the criminal justice system?
Employers need closer monitoring. The INS has avoided this at all costs, but if they’re serious then they need to start cracking down on those who employ illegal immigrants. We should also have a whistleblower law that protects illegal immigrants from immigration consequences for turning in their employers.
you really want to give the government the power to decide what native born people qualify as citizens and which don’t? Are you mad?
This is what gets me about the hardline anti-immigrationists. They seem to be so very eager to hand over rights to The Government that they don’t even think through how much of their freedom is being prostituted in an effort to keep immigrants out.
I truly don’t believe that democracy can work on a scale as large as the one we’re trying it out on.
That’s the scariest thing I’ve heard. Because if you don’t believe democracy can work, then you are advocating some type of top-down totalitarian regime. You said above that you don’t think it’d be a big deal to have our culture meld with Mexico & Canada. This is exactly why that thought scares me. I don’t want a lot of non-American people coming here and then deciding that the American Government is passe and must be replaced with a king or a dictator. Our governance is our culture.
You have to be familiar with the way the government is laid out in the Constitution and truly buy into the apparently still radical notion that people deserve, inherently, to be free and self-governing.
Well, frankly, I do believe that people deserve to be free and self-governing. But part of being free and self-governing is adherence to laws set in place by the society. That’s exactly the Rule of Law. We can either be ruled by Law out of respect for the others in our society or we can be ruled by tyrants. Disregard for the law is fundamentally a disregard for the principles of self-governance as outlined in the constitution.
Should we change the immigration laws? Yes. We should. But should we be celebrating endless violations of the law of the land as some sort of maverick form of justice? No. Because the authors of this Constitution were very much fans of the Gentlemen’s Agreement form of government whereby we all get to enjoy the benefits of society by agreeing to the rules of the society. Failure to enforce the rules is failure to embrace the responsibilities of participatory government.
“Sincerely, folks, nothing tickles me more than having the kind of life where you make plans to sit around with other folks and talk about the Constitution.”
I gotta tell you, when it’s your job to do this, it sucks just as bad as any other job! I mean, a free-form discussion about it is always interesting, but when I clerked for a judge, it was just as stressful as dealing with angry habeas corpus petitioners who didn’t understand why the prison’s refusal to provide pornography wasn’t a civil rights violation.
“If we have so many undocumented workers, doesn’t that prove we need those workers? If we need those workers, can’t we reform immigration laws to bring those folks into our society legally?”
That is a good point. The unemployment rate right now is at what is called “full employment”. We need immigrants and we also need migrant workers. Of course we also need to have everybody here documented and vaccinated. We most definitely should reform our immigration laws and make it easier to come here, and after that, start enforcing the new laws.
Pingback: Nashville is Talking » What’s Best for All Involved
Whoa. Back up the truck. You have never eaten oatmeal as a breakfast food? Astonishing.
Your thoughtful post prompts several points:
1) You wrote:
“–Whether a great influx of immigrants means the end of some unique “white” culture”
The problem with this interpretation of the issue of ‘culture’ is that it gets the nature of our culture wrong. To be sure, much of our society, both in communities and larger units like towns, cities, states and America writ large reflects our ethnic ancestries.
‘Culture’ is much more, however. In particular, your position implies that our intellectual tradition, a critical aspect of our culture, is somehow race-based. This is wrong.
The Western Intellectual Tradition owes little to the concept of Race. In fact, the Western Thought has had a powerful impact on thought, law and culture around the world precisely because it focuses on Universal Ideas. To the extent that Ideas like ‘Freedom,’ Equality’ ‘Human Rights’ and others are improving lives around the world is a tribute to the non-racial basis for Western Thought.
In this context, it isn’t about ‘white’ culture and you should know better.
2) You wrote:
“You have to be familiar with the way the government is laid out in the Constitution and truly buy into the apparently still radical notion that people deserve, inherently, to be free and self-governing.”
Except when the self-governing people want to preserve their culture?
3) “–If we have so many undocumented workers, doesn’t that prove we need those workers? If we need those workers, can’t we reform immigration laws to bring those folks into our society legally?”
A valid point. It would be easier for those of us conservatives who favor expanded legal immigration to win support if some advocates of greater immigration would stop rushing to use the race issue and would admit that other people can have respectable images of America that disagree with theirs.
4) If you don’t worry about an end to distinctions between the US, Canada and Mexico, can you really care about our distinctive culture? I don’t ask in a confrontational way. But please consider, a single government for the three nations would, of necessity because liberals would certainly hold power at some points, result in greater centralization of government and weakening of the traditional levels of government in the US. The EU is a good vision of what can happen.
Such centralization would require homonization of laws, regulations, communications and a range of other components of daily life. That could, in no long time, result in the marginalization of the things about our culture that you value.
Put differently, your position seems to be that surrendering more of our ability to self-govern will somehow preserve our culture, much of which you don’t worry about preserving but that, by surrendering we will preserve the things ou do care about.
At the biggest-big-picture level, in my I-know-it-will-never-happen-but-gee-wouldn’t-it-be-great world, I think immigration reform would be coupled with widespread societal reprioritization around work and family.
While it’s true that the cost of the bodies is an important element to their exploitation, it doesn’t have to be this way. Our focus on absolute profit (as opposed to relative performance, relative profit, or baseline output) as the central measuring stick, coupled with no firm consensus over basic ethics, means that companies are always going to feel pressure to look for the cheapest labor, the lowest standards, etc. (Except for the few that specialize in social-justice themed products, or certain types of high-end products, for which the manner of their construction is a selling point) I would like to see that change.
And while in my perfect world, it would do so naturally, or the market would be able to coax it to do so(and no, I don’t believe that it could, even unfettered. There are too many externalities to make that a viable possibility, and even though over time those externalities can be compensated for, the amount of time that would take makes it an untenable answer for me, especially since others would crop up in the meantime), I’m willing to see it happen by rule of law if need be.
More than that, though, reprioritization on this fantasy scale would open up a lot of other avenues. If the issue is jobs, period, then there is a lot of unused ‘job space’ just laying around. We could have more people working fewer hours on just about everything. Split shifts, flex time, and alternative work schedules would allow people to spend more time with their families (or on themselves, or what have you) while also allowing more people the opportunity to work in the first place. (Though yes, those things can all be implemented in ways that don’t necessitate more people working, and when well implemented, can be both cost effective and increase productivity. But getting that to happen is almost as hard as the rest of the things I’m proposing).
Rethinking education and putting a higher priority on that would mean more teaching positions (for smaller class sizes), more counseling positions, and more of the assorted other work that goes with it. Rethinking healthcare could have the same benefits. The way things are structured now, law students and med students work insane hours, only to become full fledged lawyers/doctors and… work insane hours. But if there were more of them, this wouldn’t have to be the case. Progressive attitudes toward childcare would do the same thing; if we want high-quality subsidized daycare for working parents, we need high-quality trained childcare workers. If we want any of these things, we need people to train the people who are going to do them, people to support the institutions, and people to make sure that everyone involved is doing their jobs.
And it can be done in a way that doesn’t hurt overall productivity or competition. The problem is that it would require a lot of changing people’s hearts and minds, and even more changing the systems we currently have in place for doing things. We would need to believe in the new structures.
That’s… unrealistic, I realize. At this point in time anyway.
Right, but on a less drift-y note:
I don’t think that Aunt B. is advocating a totalitarian regime. I read it more as a worry without an answer. “I don’t think X will work, but Y, Z, and Q are all worse.” Or possibly a worry followed by an answer; “I don’t think X will work the way we’re going, but Y, Z, and Q are all worse, so here’s what we need to do to make X work as best it can.”
I have the same thought, though. I don’t think that democracy-the-ideal can work on the scale we’re looking at, with the attitudes and structures we have. I think that some of the things we’ve built/we’re building into our systems actively work against the continuation of it as a truly democratic system. The growing imbalance between the branches suggested in this post, for one.
I don’t quite know what I’d advocate to fix it, aside from massive structural change. My first dose is wearing off, so my head’s a bit fuzzy. Maybe I’ll come back to this a bit later.
Mm, okay, not that fuzzy.
Mark, you say that the culture of the US isn’t race-based. While I agree that nobody explicitly made mention of it when we started, a damn lot of our politics and history made the implicit pretty clear. Moreover, many of the particular groups who are most loudly complaining about illegal immigration (whether vigilante border patrol or purely racially motivated groups like the KKK) are doing so in an explicitly racially charged way.
I don’t think this means everyone who is opposed to it thinks that way (Kat, for instance). I don’t think that it even means the majority of people who are opposed to it thinks that way (I think the average person doesn’t much care, but probably thinks along vaguely the same lines Kat does, if not quite as well-researched). The people who are loudest and, sadly, many of those who are most influential (on the tone and direction of the debate, if not necessarily in the lawmaking seats themselves… though I’d wager there’s a fair contingent there too), are definitely, unqualifiedly, making it about race.
Eurgh. Okay, I’m going.
I didn’t say that the culture isn’t race-based. The origins of our people (whites and indigenous peoples to start with Africans, Chinese etc coming later) and the presence of their folk-ways (a much larger concept than the term seems to imply) clearly impose racial aspects to our larger society. The interactions of these groups throughout our history have some very ugly aspects.
My point was that the Ideas which play a major part in our culture and our lives are not racially based. Thus preservation of those Ideas in our society is not racist. It may be Euro-centric and pro-Dead White European Male to some, but that is not relevant to their value or their merit.
As to the last paragraph, there are as many advocates of unchecked (or mostly unchecked) immigration who are the intellectual and moral equivalent of the anti-immigrationists you note. Reasonable people need to get beyond the fringes and discuss this reasonably.
Moreover, many of the particular groups who are most loudly complaining about illegal immigration (whether vigilante border patrol or purely racially motivated groups like the KKK) are doing so in an explicitly racially charged way.
I don’t think this means everyone who is opposed to it thinks that way (Kat, for instance).
This is what gets me. The fact that there are many types of immigration reform out there. And folks like me, who argue for a change in the law but a preservation of the Rule of Law are continually lumped in with the Phil Valentine-shoot ’em all crowd.
Mag, I know you weren’t doing that at all, and I appreciate you making the distinction. I’m just using your comment as a springboard for what gripes me about discussions on this issue. So often I have disagreements with people regarding IllIm and they start yelling at me for positions I don’t and never have held.
IllIm is becoming one of these issues where people talk past one another, always making assumptions about what the other fellow is thinking when they discuss. It’s getting harder to reason together.
On the surface, I agree. But on another level, I can’t believe you just argued that “Euro-centric and pro-Dead White European Male” based ideas and formulations weren’t racially based. Of course their merit is independent of their racial base, but that doesn’t mean that their racial base doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t mean that other ways of knowing/thinking/being/governing aren’t equally valid.
And a lot of this depends on how those ideas are expressed. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be said to be relatively un-racially centered, but the way we have structures set up in our society such that the expression and attainment of those goals privileges white, male, heterosexual, able, upper-class people is not. The fact that these things are seen through a lens where those identity characteristics are seen as not really extant, as “just things” without any context to themselves, that’s important. Nothing happens without a context. White is a race, male is a gender, and heterosexual is an orientation. Pretending that those things are the default and everything else is just some special exception is a damn visible base of bias.
To bring that specifically to this conversations, “our culture” is really a lot of cultures. The whole half the country that I’m sitting in used to be Mexico. The people that were here when that change happened never went away. Those rich white men may have become culturally ascendant over time, but here, where I stand, tortillas are just as American as wonderbread. When people get het up in arms about “preserving our culture” against the random brown hordes, they’re trying to exclude something that is very clearly White. It is something that is a specific strand of our history and a specific part of our culture; not the whole of it. It is excluding something that existed here before it got here, and is probably going to keep existing after the next faddish wave comes after it.
So yes… there are wonderful, unique things about being here. I think it would be a shame to slavishly model ourselves on another country, or adopt a King or Prime Minister in place of a President. But given the context these conversations happen in, and the bizarre insistance on those ideas and cultural memes as “unmarked,” there is no way in hell that’s a neutral assertion. Those are White ideas and a White culture, and while they has value, they aren’t the only way to live, and aren’t inherently better than others.*
* To avoid dragging this into the other thread and the quantifiers, let’s note that a) I said “inherently” and b) I’m disagreeing with Kat’s assertion that our governance is our culture. I’ll agree that it’s part of our culture, but not all of it. The culture here being discussed includes “American” food as the food that’s considered “just food,” American Pop music as a dominant strain, and the idea that the President is in charge. It includes the side of the road we drive on and the way we think about clothing. It includes our standard of living, but cannot be reduced to that. It has some clear advantages over life in some other places (better chances of not getting shot, better chances of having enough food), and some clear disadvantages (very family unfriendly, awful for an industrialized country in terms of reproductive welfare, worse chances of not getting shot than some other places). It is a multilevel, multidimensional concept.
Heh. That comment was directed at Mark, not you Kat. I know that you’re not a screaming idiot standing at the border trying to shoot anything that moves. And I do advocate for more nuanced discussion of this stuff.
It’s hard, though, partially because other people stole your language*. The people arguing for the rule of law are scary. And while I get that you personally mean something different, you’re kind of in a linguistic bind. Until/unless you have a lot of time to define your terms, you’re using language that carries a lot of baggage, and which makes it very hard to get what you’re saying off the bat. The task of creating new language for your points is big and annoying, and probably unfair, but it might be a useful one when entering into heated conversations.
* To possibly derail the thread, it’s like the way I see “White Pride.” I don’t oppose the idea of taking pride in one’s ethnic/racial heritage, even when that is white and seen as unmarked, and even in the face of the not-exactly-incorrect point that all times not designated for marked groups are for the unmarked group. The reason I object to people starting such things in that semantic vein is that other people stole it and made it bad. It was linguistically coopted by people who make you look bad, and although reclamation may be possible, it’s so horribly charged that it’s probably better just to abandon the term. Not the idea, the term and its linguistic siblings.
b) I’m disagreeing with Kat’s assertion that our governance is our culture.
I should have been more clear. I don’t believe that our government is our sole culture at all. But I do think it is the one unifying aspect of our multi-cultural nation. In short, our national Metaculture.
It’s hard, though, partially because other people stole your language*. The people arguing for the rule of law are scary. And while I get that you personally mean something different, you’re kind of in a linguistic bind.
And I don’t even know this, because I try to tune out the CraZy. That’s what gets me. The CraZy hear a good, sound philosophy and twist it to suit their aims. As a Christian I’m used to it. (cf. Fred Phelps)
It does make it very difficult, however, to hold a nuanced discussion with the purpose of actually attempting to arrive at solutions.
I’m in a zone right now and have nothing to add except to say that this is an amazing post on this topic, B. I wish I could be as articulate about this issue as many of you are, and I have learned A LOT just by reading it.
“Those are White ideas and a White culture, and while they has value, they aren’t the only way to live, and aren’t inherently better than others.*”
We are talking Ideas, not applications. Therefore I am wondering if you see no superiority of Western Ideas over the Hindu tradition of caste? How about slavery?
Now you may want to point out that the West has plenty of examples of class sysyems and of slavery. And we still struggle with these. But there is one huge difference.
From the earliest days, the Western Intellectual Tradition has been a search for governing Ideals like Truth and Justice. This has led to intellectual and political conflicts over what constitutes those Ideals. We have seen defenders of Democracy and advocates of Aristocracy. We have seen defenders and opponents of slavery. We have often demonstrated the worst that humans can do.
But our Tradition has always inspired debate, conflict and progress. Thus Democracy, originally a practice restricted to certain males in a small city on the Aegean, has become the presumptive Right of Self-Government for men and women of all races and creeds. Similarly, the concept of Rights as belonging to people not as a gift of the state but as the Nature of Man.
Show me the imtellectual equal of that achievement. Where will you find another way of looking at the world that comes close to what these Ideas have meant for so many.
The real problem is that you seem to believe that Truth, Justice, Rights and other Ideas are just words that we apply as it suits us and not Absolutes that we aspire to understand.
But, ya know, every Intellectual Tradition has been a search for governing Ideals like Truth and Justice. EveryTradition has always inspired debate, conflict, and progress. Sometimes different traditions come to the same conclusions; sometimes not. Sometimes they develop along similar lines; sometimes not.
Now, I’m awfully fond of the “Western Intellectual Tradition” myself, but I know enough about other traditions to know that we’re not unique in precisely the features that you claim are our biggest strengths. In addition, if you’re going to argue on the level of ideas (sorry, Ideas) rather than of applications, you’d better have done your research. For one thing, I’m not sure how you define ‘Western Ideas’ since you seem to think that things like caste and slavery have not, until recently, been part of them. But I also don’t know how you would define, say, India’s intellectual traditions, since you don’t seem to be aware that the caste system there is a clear example of one application of ideas that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
Hahahahahaa. Yes, I do believe that “Truth, Justice, Rights and other Ideas are just words that we apply as it suits us.” I’m a sociologist. I study how people make societies. While there may be Absolutes out there, floating around, their discovery or non-discovery is pretty arbitrary, outside of God Himself stepping down to tell us what’s what. As popular as they may be, Platonic Forms, Natural Law and Absolute Truth are pretty much useless to us, as we have to act in the everyday world.
I… can’t even begin to break down all the different things that are wrong with the rest of that argument. Plenty of other people had and have searched for Truth and Justice as guidelines. The Iroquois had democracy before we did, and didn’t owe a thing to the dead white men we all point to. The Library of Alexandria was greater than anything else in its time. Egypt was incredibly important to the development of much of that western society, and the idea(l)s it brings forth. Intellectually, many other societies at different points in history developed math, science, and a bloody lot of other things.
And none of these societies sprung up in a vacuum, either. They talked to, traded with, and stole from each other. The founding fathers had a lot of different influences. Many are the usual suspects. Some aren’t. (Bridgett? NM? I’ve only got the broadest of brushes, an irascible internet, and all my books are at home…)
I… wow. Nevermind. It’s like suddenly finding you need to translate your thoughts into a color you’ve never seen.
Thank you, nm. My reply was so link-filled Akismet ate it… but I’m not the historian, and you’re more eloquent than I.
(Though, if you want to fish my answer out, Aunt B., I wouldn’t mind seeing if our historians have anything to say about it.)
Well, Magni, one thing I’m gonna do is lay full claim to the Library of Alexandria for the Western Intellectual Tradition. Like the city of Alexandria itself, it was a product of Hellenism. Otherwise, yes, the Iroquois had democratic institutions, the ancient Egyptians had a far higher level of sexual equality than their Greek, Persian, or Babylonian neighbors, Buddhism preaches a classless society — all these good things are Good Things, and human cultures have worked towards them in a lot of ways at a lot of different times and places.
As for immigration, though … my very existence is due to a very short-lived window of immigration opportunity, so I’m in favor of as few restrictions on it as possible. Though as KC will point out, that doesn’t adress in the slightest the situation we are in now. Sigh…
Mm, I rather thought you’d want the Library back. I tend to think of it as a Western thing as well, but in the context of arguments like this one, I don’t want it ignored that it was in Alexandria, Egypt. It is often written/talked about as if it were in Alexandria, Greece, and it just magically sprung up there fully formed without any input from non-Europeans.
Mostly, I really just want an influence map. Like one of those maps with all the different trade routes marked out, but with annotations on what they were trading (people, ideas, governance, disease) besides material goods. I’m sure someone has made one, somewhere.
“…every Intellectual Tradition has been a search for governing Ideals like Truth and Justice…”
No, not really. Intellectual traditions can become rigid and cease to develop.
I didn’t suggest that I “… seem to think that things like caste and slavery have not, until recently, been part of them.” I know they have long existed.
I didn’t deny achievements of other cultures. I certainly wouldn’t deny that cultures influence each other. Where this got started was my criticism of Aunt B’s characterization of American culture as ‘white.’ My point was that the origins of our culture are far more than ‘white’ people or ‘white’ Ideas. As, I note, you and nm have also observed.
“The Western Intellectual Tradition owes little to the concept of Race. In fact, the Western Thought has had a powerful impact on thought, law and culture around the world precisely because it focuses on Universal Ideas. To the extent that Ideas like ‘Freedom,’ Equality’ ‘Human Rights’ and others are improving lives around the world is a tribute to the non-racial basis for Western Thought.”
No, really. Let me get this straight. It’s your position — and I’m hoping I’m misunderstanding — as follows:
The idea of freedom is entirely disconnected from the idea of race in the Western Intellectual Tradition.
The idea of equality is entirely divorced from the concept of race in the WIT.
The idea of human rights has little to nothing to do with the concept of race.
Jesus Christ. Just how exactly do you think any of these Ideas developed? Ideas have histories and the histories of these ideas developed contrapuntally to the vexed history of race. For example, just as a quick one, why was the UN Declaration of Human Rights articulated in 1948? Do you think maybe the Holocaust signified that maybe everyone who you believe subscribed to the Western Intellectual Tradition wasn’t exactly on the same page and it was time to sit down and articulate what this was going to mean from here on out? http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html And for another, let’s just remind ourselves that when the Founders articulated “that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights,” they really were just talking about men — but only those men who weren’t already someone else’s property. There’s a history to how it came to be otherwise, you know. It has to do with race.
She-oot, where to start? So much good stuff here. I guess I could start with clarifying myself. First, I said “white” culture because that seems to be one of Kleinheider’s big hang-ups about immigration, that immigrants are so different than us that they will ruin “our” culture. I don’t believe that to be the case, not only for all the reasons discussed here, but also because I’m not sure what Kleinheider means by white culture. Second, I only mentioned the threat of a Mexican, U.S.ian, Canadian mash-up because that seems to be one of the things Donna Locke’s worried about.
I do pay attention to folks I disagree with and what they’re saying. I was just saying that the things that are big hang-ups from some Nashvillians are not that interesting to me. I don’t see them as enormous problems, or, in the case of the mega-merger, even real possibilities. I think they’re distracting from actual real dialogue.
Coble, I think we mean two different things by “enforce.” Yes, we all have a responsibility to follow the law (though we could have an interesting discussion about whether we’re required to follow unjust laws) and to teach our children to respect it. But we don’t enforce the law. You don’t pull over speeders and detain them until the police arrive. You don’t ask the kids at Mellow Mushroom to empty their pockets in order to prove they don’t have pot. And, I presume, you don’t ask everyone in your car to prove they’re here lawfully before you start the engine.
Our job right now is to follow the law and to report the breaking of laws if they come to our attention. For us to become a country of pro-active law enforcers would indeed be an enormous difference to how we live now.
No, I meant legally. One of the things I learned last night was that, because of manditory minimum sentencing laws, legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens are given harsher punishments than their U.S. citizen peers. But I know you oppose manditory minimum sentences, so I think we can agree that, if a judge has four boys before him and he wants to give all four of them 50 hours of community service, one kid should not be required to go to jail indefinitely.
I didn’t understand all the particulars on this point (so I hope someone can come by and explain it), but damn, it was disturbing. Usually, apparently, if you’re arrested and convicted, you’re deported, but if we don’t have deportation agreements with your home country, you’ll just rot in prison here in the U.S.
I think that’s wrong.
As for the not calling of the cops, I don’t think that’s blackmail. I think that’s just how it is. It’s a statement of fact, and one we have to decide if we can live with.
I think Mag covered my position on democracy accurately. I’m deeply concerened that it can’t work, precicely because the stakes are so high if it doesn’t. I don’t see how it can work, though, if people aren’t educated about, say, basic civics and if they’re willing to give up their basic intrinsic rights the second things get scary.
Our rights should be more important than being safe from all threats. But we haven’t been acting as if that’s true.
But I guess that brings me to my last point. I don’t feel obliged to obey unjust laws. I don’t think that means I should escape punishment for breaking them, but I don’t feel obliged to obey unjust laws.
If we don’t have civil disobedience, we don’t change very easily. I think that’s been shown time and time again.
“I don’t feel obliged to obey unjust laws. I don’t think that means I should escape punishment for breaking them, but I don’t feel obliged to obey unjust laws.”
For what it’s worth, you have my greatest respect for that last sentence. To refuse to obey unjust laws and expect to avoid the consequences is not legitimate disobedience. To refuse to obey unjust laws and be willing to accept the consequences makes the act both legitimate and moral. Well said!!
I wholeheartedly agree.
That’s pretty much where I keep going whenever Kat talks about Illegal Immigration at the micro level. I think that the rule of law is important, but I also think that civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws is important. I don’t think that’s always or even most of the time the main thing that’s going on, but I still think it’s important to keep in mind.
If our laws are unjust, they should be challenged. If you don’t have the legal footing to challenge them, especially because those unjust laws deny you the right and access to do so, then civil disobedience may be all that is left. That doesn’t mean you get a pass for it, because laws are laws; but it does mean you’re doing the right thing.
Is that really so unusual? That seems to be the point of civil disobediance. Are people really thinking that they’re not going to be arrested?
Mmm, sort of? I think a lot of the young ‘shake things up’ activists kind of miss the point on that, or think that being arrested is cool and gives them cred (usually because this particular strain of ‘activists’ are young, upper/middle class, white males… occasionally females, though for the ones I’ve talked to one might substitute ‘cool and gives them cred’ with ‘means they’re really dedicated now’… but the point being that they a) missed the point and b) come from backgrounds that make most of the serious consequences of such acts not-so-serious).
But in this case, it’s a little different. I don’t think that most illegal immigrants are engaging in civil disobedience of the kind we generally mean when we talk about “civil disobedience.” I think most of them are engaging in a sort of civil disobedience by default; breaking unjust laws because the alternatives are themselves broken.*
So when people start making the issue primarily about the law-breaking lawbreakers and their law-breaky ways, all I can think about is people chaining themselves to countertops and facing down firehoses. They were breaking unjust laws because the alternative was untenable. Did they deserve to be punished? Insofar as they were breaking current laws, yes. But the bigger point was that the laws were unjust and needed to be changed. That was the real, right response.
That’s what needed to happen then, and that’s what needs to happen now. (What form that change takes, of course, is a whole different debate.)
* Yes, some of them are doing it because they’re lazy, or because they’re criminals or because they just feel like it. Most aren’t. It’s an incredible amount of work and struggle and danger, especially now. The petty criminals might risk it, but the real dangerous ones are just faking their way in the normal way, or otherwise actively contravening the system. The really dangerous ones are well-backed enough to just do it legally.
And yes, I recognize that a large part of the libertarian argument will be that they could simply not immigrate in the first place, or choose to go somewhere with better/more viable policies. To me, that misses the point. I trust that most people can do basic risk/reward assessments; if staying where they were, with their families and support systems and histories and native languages, was a viable option, they woud probably do that. If travel to a place with better laws was feasible, they would probably do that. Moreover… at this point in the argument – the policy point – they’re already here/trying to come here. Whatever choices they might have made earlier in the process are kind of moot, because we still have to deal with the results.
Ooh, I sure miss that preview button. That last italic tag should have ended after “here.”
… though I can’t say that the tone change is all that bad. I just didn’t mean to sound that strident about it.