Don't Build the Danged Fence

immigrationThe U.S. Congressman from Iowa’s fourth district made some comments about immigration recently. Actually, he’s made a lot of them over the years. We can’t let him frame the discussion or worse, re-distribute his memes. For why, read Mark Karlin’s interview with George Lakoff, “Progressives Need to Use Language That Reflects Moral Values.

The idea of building a fence around the U.S. border is as lame as a joke about corn at a 4-H meeting, funny though those jokes may be. Proponents of what Senator John McCain of Arizona called the “dang fence” across the southern U.S. border, don’t get the humor. In 2010, I wrote about immigration,

The author believes that as long as we maintain borders, we create a form of apartheid where the haves (in the U.S.) will use the have-nots (in Mexico, China, India and Africa) to do their menial work here or in their countries, largely without social justice. The borders serve to keep them out, when we should be letting them in. America will grow stronger with open borders, even if most Americans and some Arizonans don’t believe it.

Troll activity on Blog for Iowa was heavy after that post, mostly from organized groups who favored restricting immigration, illegal immigration particularly. The same folks who gave us Arizona’s SB 1070.

To deny the global reality of population growth is plain dumb. To think the U.S. can keep everything to ourselves reflects a lack of understanding about who we are as a people, and how we fit into the global village.

To deny the effects of our wars on the creation of conflict migration is to ignore the vast amount of U.S. blood and treasure invested in our endless wars.

To deny climate change is to lack an understanding that it will impact not only small island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives, but will result in tens of millions of people needing someplace to go.

To deny the economic reasons why undocumented people from Mexico, Guatemala, and other places in central America come north is evidence of a misunderstanding of the role U.S. policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement played in creating economic reasons for the migration.

There is nothing new in these denials and a lot to learn.

What we learned in grade school that applies is from the Great Wall of China. Our teachers taught us that while the wall may have been successful in keeping nomadic groups and warlike people out of China, the unintended consequence was that Chinese culture calcified during the period. Whether what our teachers taught us is historically accurate, I can’t say, but it makes sense. The United States will be the less for building a fence to keep people out.

So as we hear outrageous comments about immigration in the media, and in conversations in society, I urge you to refrain from repeating their memes. Instead, work toward solutions. There is no single resolution to the need for immigration reform in this country. But it begins with each of us, individually and collectively.

While you’re at it, and while I’m being a bit preachy, read Derrick Jensen’s article in Orion Magazine, “Forget Shorter Showers: Why personal change does not equal political change,” and get involved in local politics.

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