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What Do You Think of These People?

July 17th, 2014

There is a crisis going on in Northern Africa, one causing immeasurable violence in impoverished areas. The situation is intolerable even for the strongest of people, but the children are being hit the worst. If they stay, they face worse and worse fates, many likely to die. Thousands of children are forced to flee, and make their way across the Mediterranean to France, a nation with not just proximity but political investment in their home region. Boatloads of young children, wave after wave, wash up on the shore, hungry, desperate, frightened, and lost. It is a refugee crisis, but made up of the most innocent of the displaced.

The French, however, are pissed. Sure, they had a hand in what happened in that region, but these children are unwanted. They don’t give a crap about their plight, they don’t even care that they’re children. Thousands of French people, backed by millions throughout the country, mass at the shores and around the holding camps where the children are, yelling and screaming at the children. “Nobody wants you!” those in the crowd shout angrily at the kids. “Go back where you came from!” they spit. “They should come here legally,” protesters tell reporters. “These kids carry disease, and they expect us to pay for their needs,” one French patriotic group claims, distributing fliers vilifying the children. “They should go back to where they came from.” When reminded that such a return would likely result in their deaths, the protesters shrug. “Not our problem.” As buses filled with the young refugees drive out of holding centers, protesters surround the buses, beating on the side of the vehicle and shouting angrily. Some even go so far as to call it a literal “invasion” for which the military should be tasked to respond.


This, of course, is not happening in France. But reading the story, tell me: if it were, what would you think of these people?

More importantly, what would the people who are doing this now have thought if this were France doing it a year ago? Having helped create a crisis in a nearby developing country, to have waves of innocent children forced to flee for their lives… and then have the wealthy, comfortable first-world nation callously treat them like vermin and go ballistic at the thought that we might actually help them or something. No, let’s go out of our way and scream at them.

And send them back to the slaughter.

I think that even these wingnuts would have been taken aback at that—had another country done it. But us? No, that’s perfectly justified.


The idea of looking at things from a different perspective works with immigration in a more general sense as well:

Imagine you are married with two kids. The country hits really hard times, akin to the Great Depression of the 30′s (we almost went there a few years ago, remember). You lose your job, your house, almost all of your possessions. No work is available, though you would take any job and are constantly looking. You are reduced to living in a shack in a filthy part of town. Your kids frequently border on starvation, gravely need basic medical care. You are desperate.

Then a well-off family in a gated community tells you they will hire you to clean their house. It’s for way less than minimum wage, but you are way past that by now. Anything is better than going without food. But in that gated community, they voted in rules to disallow such hires—only approved cleaning services. The problem is, those services charge a lot, and this family would rather hire you for cheap—so they’ll bend the rules for their own sake.

However, because of these rules they passed and supported, they demand that you sneak through the hedges in the park near the creek in the back area of the community. If you’re caught, they’ll deny knowing you, and you could go to jail for trespassing. It’s degrading, not to mention a pain to do this at 5 a.m., but you have no choice. You do what they demand.

Later, reports come in that grungy-looking people have been spotted in the community. The neighborhood is outraged, fearing for their safety and worried about property values dropping. “These people just steal things, use drugs, and are violent,” the refrain goes—and the people who hired you echo these complaints. Worse, they scream at you because the landscaper is charging extra because of lawn damage in the private park—something you can’t help because the only way in is across that field right after it has been watered. But you employers blame you for it anyway.


What would you think of people like this? Because the gated community asshats are pretty much who we are.

We hear all the time about illegal aliens causing all these problems. How come we never hear about illegal employers? Because they’re far more at fault. You think the immigrants are the ones causing Americans not to be hired? You think the immigrants are the ones making off with the loot? You think they would not rather come into the country legally? No, they don’t want these things—but they have no choice. We have the choice—but instead of doing the right and responsible thing, we do it the screwed-up way.

You know how often illegal employers are caught or penalized? Almost never. And the “penalties” are a joke—usually a pittance, and then negotiated downward from there.

The immigrants are not the problem. Not by a long shot.

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  1. Troy
    July 18th, 2014 at 01:46 | #1

    Crossing an international border to support your family and pursue dreams of a better life is not an inherently criminal act like rape or robbery. If it were, then most of us descend from criminals. As the people of Texas know well, the large majority of illegal immigrants are not bad people. They are people who value family, faith and hard work trying to live within a bad system.

    When large numbers of otherwise decent people routinely violate a law, the law itself is probably the problem. To argue that illegal immigration is bad merely because it is illegal avoids the threshold question of whether we should prohibit this kind of immigration in the first place.

    http://www.lp.org/issues/immigration

    (this is why I’m a “left-libertarian”, LOL)

    There’s no law preventing people from moving between neighborhoods, cities, or states.

    Why there are limitations for moving between nations is one of those Matrix-level foundational rules that have been inculcated into us without our active understanding.

    Human rights exist at a more fundamental level than law — every person on this planet has the inherent right to have the freedom to make a living.

    An area that excludes others from entering it has the moral duty of supporting the welfare of those people it is excluding.

  2. kensensei
    July 18th, 2014 at 12:12 | #2

    Luis, the story you tell here is helping me redefine the terms “Liberal” and “Conservative.” Without being critical or pejorative, I have come to a deeper awareness of how these terms define our basic values, and the differences therein. So here goes:

    A “Liberal” is willing to sacrifice some degree of his/her own quality of life/wealth/freedom in order to benefit the larger group (e.g. society).

    A “Conservative” is NOT willing to sacrifice any of his/her own freedoms/wealth, etc. and resents the fact that the larger group is “taking” something from him; the “What’s mine is mine” mentality.

    The Liberal understands that the needs of others are neither less nor more important than his own. Needs are needs, regardless of whose needs they are. When a liberal respond to the needs of someone in the larger group, s/he understands it’s impact on himself and immediate family. And yet, he expects his sacrifice will be reciprocated when his need is greater.

    Hence, giving up something means being an inclusive part of the greater whole. This is the “What’s mine is ours” mentality.

    Many wealthy make large humanitarian gestures because they understand they can make a difference in the world. They understand there is a limit to how much money they can spend and the rest is just excess. Other wealthy are not as humanitarian, and keep their entire share for themselves. They may manipulate elections and pay off politicians to make the system work more in their favor.

    I suggest that the latter types are less inclined to help others because they are too busy helping themselves. So it is not a question of money, but a question of values. Some are born to respond to the needs of others while some simply chose to ignore them.

    Your post illustrates this divide clearly. Well-done.

    –kensensei

  3. Luis
    July 18th, 2014 at 12:29 | #3

    Ken: pretty much. I think that’s why Ayn Rand resonates so strongly with conservatives, despite her atheism. Conservatism is nominally about maintaining the status quo, but I think it’s something more fundamental: preserving what I have, and my ability to get more of it. It is a self-centered worldview, and any philosophy that justifies or venerates selfishness, as Rand’s does, is very much welcome there.

  4. Luis
    July 18th, 2014 at 12:43 | #4

    Troy:
    Human rights exist at a more fundamental level than law…
    Precisely. You don’t hand over the little Jewish girl to the Nazis. In a more mundane scenario, if a prison is on fire, you don’t let the inmates burn. The nature of the current crisis makes the reaction more galling: these aren’t prisoners, they’re kids. And right-wingers are out there shouting, “send them back into the fire.” Nice.
    … every person on this planet has the inherent right to have the freedom to make a living.
    Hey, you’d better watch out, that’s Ninth Amendment territory. Scalia sez, “if you want a right, pass a law.” If those kids want jobs, they shoulda hired a lobbyist.

    The sad thing is, we’re way beyond the point where conservatives see anyone but Americans enjoying the protection of civil rights. Hell, they don’t see most Americans as having civil rights. In fact, one could argue that conservatives do not believe in rights at all, but rather one takes what one can. You don’t have a right to anything except the chance to grab something. If you’re the one who didn’t grab it, then you’re SOL. That defines their philosophy on so many levels. If you’re rich, you have the right to keep what you got. Even elections don’t matter–it’s about what you can dominate and take by sheer force of will.

    That’s why people like the archetypal white male Christians often hate change so much, they fear losing what they’ve taken. Those people on the border, they don’t see suffering children, they see blobs of protoplasm that represent a threat to stuff they feel they deserve.

  5. kensensei
    July 19th, 2014 at 10:53 | #5

    John Steward (or possibly Cobert) said it best,

    “the nation of immigrants is good at telling the newer immigrants they don’t belong.”

    –kensensei

  6. kensensei
    July 22nd, 2014 at 11:36 | #6

    Luis,
    I am posting again to share that I have changed my position on the unaccompanied child immigrants issue.

    I agree with you on the refugee status of these innocents as well as the Jews-fleeing-Hitler analogy. However, it isn’t fair to put the financial and/or absorption burden on Texas alone. Texans need to accommodate these children into their public schools and communities and pay higher taxes as a result.

    I just feel the burden that these children cause should be shared more equally among all states.

    –kensensei

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