One of my favorite quotes from William Mulholland serves as the title of this post, “I can deal with the shit, it’s the farts that wear me down.”. He said it about endless lawsuits over the LA Aqueduct construction, but it equally apropos to the current shitstorm in Washington DC.
Folks: The issue isn’t whether Trump said shithole or shithouse, or that he used profanity at all. Listen to the Nixon tapes. He swore. The issue is the racism underlying what he said. I had a link that explained this well in a recent post. In short, he was indicating that people from a particular region — predominately black and brown — were not welcome in the US, while people from another region — predominately white — were. That’s racism. He wasn’t looking at individuals and their particular skills, health, or other attributes. He was making a blanket statement based on stereotypes of origin.
What prompted me to write this post was another article I saw today exploring how Trump is serving to make explicit the formerly racist subtext, and how a particular segment is responding to those dog whistles. It had a particularly cogent conclusion that bears repeating:
It’s possible to take a “rule of law” attitude toward unauthorized immigration while welcoming legal immigrants (though most Americans who are exercised about the first also oppose the second). It’s possible to support lower legal immigration, on balance, to the US, without caring much about where those immigrants come from.
It’s possible to support “merit-based immigration” as a way to affirmatively select each individual allowed to settle in the US, and oppose forms of immigration — including family-based migration, humanitarian migration, and the diversity visa — that have any criteria other than an individual’s accomplishments.
The problem is that some of the people who espouse all those attitudes are consumed, at heart, by the fear that the America they know is being lost or in danger of being lost. They believe that America has a distinctive and tangible culture, and that too much immigration from cultures that are too different will dilute or drown it; they may even worry about a cultural “invasion.”
This is an anxiety born of xenophobia. It accepts as a premise that people who come to America from certain places “don’t assimilate,” and concludes that there are some groups of people who cannot ever be fully American.
The policy aims of restrictionism can be negotiated and legislated — even as the extent to which they’re underpinned by racism will inevitably be part of the debate. It’s almost unimaginably hard to figure out a way to “end chain migration” that would both pass Congress and avoid a collapse of the immigration system, but it’s still a discussion that can happen.
You can’t negotiate with people who believe that an America that lets in people from “shithole countries” isn’t the America they know or love. Either America is a nation of immigrants or it is a nation of blood and soil.* It cannot be both.
To me, in the end, it is a question of power. Why won’t Puerto Rico be admitted as a state? Because it would vote Democratic, and thus dilute Republican power. That’s a political equation that goes back to the Civil War, where a slave state could be admitted only if paired with a free one for balance. Similarly, why don’t the Republicans want to admit minorities? Because they believe they would vote (when they become citizens) in such as way as to dilute their power base, in such a way that is a threat to the caucasian male privileged leadership positions they possess. And thus, racism and hatred of the other are embraced because it keeps them in the swamp. Drain the swamp? Hell, they are the swamp.
If you want to get rid of the swamp, the answer is not to drain it, but to dilute it with fresh water. Bring in new blood, new ideas, and embrace the diversity of thought and solutions. Try things that haven’t been tried. That is what immigration — from all over the world — brings to this nation, and we have shown with our growth the power that diversity can bring.
* From Wikipedia: Blood and soil (German: Blut und Boden) is a slogan expressing the nineteenth-century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to (specifically Jewish) nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it. “Blood and soil” was a key slogan of Nazi ideology.