Show your work

A while back I published an article about “expat privilege.” While I didn’t dig into it so much in that article, one of the greatest privileges an expat has, though one that is somewhat invisible, is the ability to basically ignore a lot of annoying shit. What do I mean? Are you reading this in the US? What’s dominating your news cycle? What can’t you stop hearing about, and won’t stop hearing about until next November? Yup, election coverage, and even worse- the Republican primaries.

Yes, obviously I get a lot of news from the US, via Twitter and Facebook. But what I’m getting is nothing like what you’re probably experiencing in the States. I’m dancing around a lawn sprinkler while you get blasted with a fire hose. Now keeping in mind that I am mercifully spared from feeling the full force of the GOP primary shit-circus, you can forgive me for not being 100% on the ball when it comes to the issues being discussed. So is it just me or does it seem like 90% of the Republican contest seems to revolve around who can be the biggest dick to immigrants, illegal or otherwise? I mean it really does seem as though the Republicans, having lost on gay marriage and going to war at the drop of a hat, have decided to shuffle off every single issue under the sun except immigration. Oh…And Muslims of course. I mean look at this shit:

How could anyone watch that exchange and not demand a coast-to-coast minute of silence, not out of mourning but pure shame?

I don’t want to digress to the topic of Muslims in America, but on that topic I’ll say this: If you think there are Muslim terrorist training camps in America, you pay my airfare and expenses, plus a modest fee, and we’ll go to one of these camps. That’s right. You say they exist, and they’ve obviously got you scared shitless, so being the hardcore badass that I am, I’ll personally escort you, unarmed, to these locations so you can rest assured that ISIS is not building a secret army in America. Call me the James Randi of political bullshit in that case.

Let me get back to this immigrant thing, though. When it comes to anti-immigrant rhetoric I’ve heard it all. Hell, I’m by no means innocent of subscribing to that bullshit myself. But there’s something I just don’t understand.

You see, there’s plenty of research disproving common claims such as how illegal immigrants steal jobs or how they’re committing more crimes or that they’re some how sucking the country’s coffers dry. The evidence against these claims is pretty much overwhelming, to the point where the only way one can continue to object to it is by alleging a massive conspiracy to falsify all of it. But let’s just ignore all that for a moment.

Even if you ignore all that evidence and believe some or all of the illegal immigration rhetoric, is there no point at which you start asking yourself what precisely these immigrants are doing to you? Let me rephrase that. Say you’re an employed, middle class white person, possibly a homeowner. Do you ever start to wonder about the ways, if any, your life is affected by these immigrants, legal or otherwise?

Obviously the first arguments such people would bring up would be stealing jobs, but even if that were true, their job clearly wasn’t stolen. I’ve never met someone who admitted they’d lost their job to an illegal immigrant. I’m not saying it’s never happened, but as comedian Doug Stanhope once pointed out in a routine- you’ve got to be pretty unqualified to be replaced by an illegal immigrant in any job that isn’t ditch digging.

With job stealing out of the way, that will leave the alleged tax burden. Okay then, get out your tax info and a calculator and show me how much money you personally are losing out on thanks to illegal immigrants. Oh, you don’t know? Well do some research then. Typically those programs which are available to illegal immigrants are also available to the US population as well, so it’s not like the illegal immigrants are getting some kind of benefit set aside for them.

Even if you start talking about things like crime, aside from the fact that both legal and illegal immigrants offend on a far lower rate than that of the native population, you have to concede that a crime committed by an immigrant is not somehow worse than one committed by a citizen. Assault, rape, and murder are just as bad regardless of who commits them, and we also know that these crimes all tend to take place among people who know each other.

So the point here is that while the topic of immigrants always seems to rapidly rile people up, it’s really kind of abstract. I mean if you’re going to get extremely angry about something, you should be able to actually explain how this thing is affecting you. It doesn’t necessarily need to be blatantly obvious too. Whenever you hear politicians wringing their hands and telling you “there’s just not enough money,” you can always cast an eye towards the Pentagon and find millions, if not billions of dollars that are being pissed away.

I’ve talked in the past before about how some Americans just seem to be perpetually angry, often about stuff that isn’t even happening. They never seem to be relieved when you tell them the thing they’re constantly angry about isn’t really a thing at all. But fine, if you want to be angry, shouldn’t you at least be able to explain why?

Think of all the people killed or maimed in car accidents in America. The second most common cause of accidents is excessive speed, number three is drunk driving. Incidentally number one is “distracted driving,” but that’s rather vague so I’ll stick with two and three. Why don’t you see more people screaming about speeding and demanding more speed cameras? There’s a case where it’s laughably easy to explain why you’re upset about speeding- they cause accidents, including fatal ones. Drunk driving is even worse, though it isn’t as common a cause as speeding. Yet where is the politician talking about this issue?

The thing that really worries me about this decline in critical thinking and political discourse is that I fear the rise of a sort of vatnik mentality in the US. While the vatnik is content to live in shit so long as he is able to believe that Americans and other Westerners fear his country, I think we have all seen plenty of signs that there is a rising category of Americans who are happy to vote for politicians that continually decrease American living standards, all out of fear that somewhere, somehow, there’s a foreigner who overstayed his visa and who is living it up on government money. They’re wholly unconcerned as to whether this person even exists. The very idea is enough for them to slavishly follow anyone who talks about what he’ll supposedly do about this non-existent state of affairs.

America’s institutions and law will, at least for the foreseeable future, prevent the country from turning into something like Putin’s Russia. But only a fool would think these things can last forever without the vigilance and responsibility of the public. With the right conditions, a growing number of Americans can be duped into demanding the destruction of those laws and institutions. If they protect illegal immigrants, “terrorists,” “criminals,” or unwed mothers, their may be calls for their appeal, or at least wink-wink agreements between public officials and law enforcement to simply ignore such rules.

America’s position in the world in terms of development and freedom is by no means enshrined in stone. So chuckle at Trump and his fanboys at your own risk.


3 thoughts on “Show your work

  1. A.I.Schmelzer

    I think it is basically a reverse to tribalism.

    As soon as economic resource get somewhat scarce, people do, unconciously or conciously, band together. The bigger and better connected that “band” is, the more advantadges they have over other such bands.
    People in the West, partly because the real economic data of the USA isnt that hot (but whose is nowadays?), and partly because they hear “the sky is falling” every day on the news, think that they are in such a situation, and thus gang up upon the newcomers.

    Ganging up on the immigrant is kind of the “lowest threshold”. Thing is, those immigrants arent there yet, so you arent actually plotting to murder your neighbour yet.

    This is a thing that really gets me riled up when some pampered Harvard grad mouths of at how the Balkans would be a totally great place if people would just move past their “stupid 18th century tribalism”. Or all Syria needs being “moving on from sectarian tensions” These tribalisms resurface the economic situation is shitty, and if the USA would suffer economic shocks comparable to those suffered by 90s Yugoslavia, or Iraq or Syria, you would get intense “tribal” polarisation too. It would look a bit different in the USA, but you would get different, perhaps warring, camps mostly based on social identity.

    Concerning returnees from Syria:
    I call shenangians. Heck, if it was me sitting in the Kremlin, Russia today would be full of “I joined ISIS to fight gloriously, but then they stole my left kidney, pimped me out to a Chechen homo, ransacked my bank account to buy Hentais, and then sent me home for a ransom of Salo, which they want to torture kurds with.”

    The most effective propaganda agains the early USSR were disillusioned returnees, the same propaganda could be utilized against ISIS, and you need some idiots with “Jihad cred” for this.

  2. sglover

    That video snippet is painful. I only watch CNN when I want to catch up on celebrity news or the latest famous murder, i.e., never. I’d heard that Trump was being criticized for not correcting a yahoo who called Obama a Muslim; I hadn’t heard of said yahoo’s bedwetting, racial purity preamble.

    But that’s the Republican Party, 2015 AD. I’m still inclined to get a helluva schadenfreude kick out of Trump, for acting out what Republicans have been saying (always sotto voce!) for my entire life. In addition, while I’m generally cynical and pessimistic about the American political system, I actually believe (hope?) that Trump’s antics repel twice as many people as they attract.

    It’s not clear that Trump represents anything really new. He seems to fit in pretty nicely with the tradition that includes the Know-Nothings, the KKK resurgence of the 20’s, George Wallace, and Perot. (Perot didn’t play the race angle, but his schtick was long on “We need a strong he-man leader to tell THEM what to do”.) There seems to be a solid third of Americans that always swoons over the fuhrerprinzip — but there’s still that other two-thirds.

    Please don’t take anything I said as a resounding endorsement of the Dems. For years their best and only response has been, “Hey, we’re not Republicans — can we get back to the trough, now?” Though I have real hopes for Sanders…


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