I think it so very perfectly encapsulates our desire to constantly re-write and whitewash the past. Since history has already decided who the good side and the bad side are in most every conflict, it's pretty easy to look back and pat ourselves on the back for our presumption we would have been squarely on the good side. It's what allows us to pretend like everyone loved MLK and the freedom riders and the lunch counter sit-ins, because they were so obviously correct, when at the time, a majority of the nation disagreed with what the freedom riders were doing and felt lunch counter sit-ins were doing more to hurt the cause of civil rights than help it.
We've got another handy example of this happening in real time as Trump's attempt to ban entry for travelers from numerous nations was shot down, only to be followed by a ramping-up of immigration enforcement and deportations, with ICE raids happening all across the nation and ICE agents working to lie about who immigrants are to paint them as villainous. And, of course, this is likely to only get much worse following Trump's SOTU, in which he played the classic xenophobic card of claiming all of our problems are due to dirty, dirty foreigners and their dirty, dirty foreign ways.
A popular narrative to try to sell these policies is that the people we're deporting or not allowing to enter the nation are bad and dangerous people, and keeping them out/kicking them out is a matter of national safety. Many others counter that by pointing out that a large number of people being deported/prevented from entering are actually refugees, very often refugees from political violence either directly inflicted by the US government or indirectly through regimes supported and financed by the American government.
But regardless of the position take, ultimately the heart of the debate is whether these people are "worthy" or "deserving" to be in America, in large part defined as whether they're fleeing something truly dangerous, thus giving us a moral imperative to accept/continue to allow these refugees.
The problem is that for one side of this "debate," there seems to be no one who is truly deserving.
Side note: this pretty well parallels the Right's concern over the "deserving" poor. Realizing that a platform of "Fuck the poor, let them starve to death in the streets" is not terribly politically palatable, they instead attempt to divide the poor into the "deserving" and...well, they pretty much never articulate the implied other category, again I'm assuming largely because it's not terribly palatable to many. But given the constantly-shifting and extremely-narrow criteria it takes to meet the definition of "deserving," it leaves one to strongly suspect they truly see no poor people as deserving of assistance.
It's pretty easy to understand this by looking at a case in which it's extremely difficult to argue the "deserving" portion of the immigration debate -- Jewish refugees during the Nazi regime. As you can see from the poll below (from the twitter account Historical Opinion, though I snagged them from this pretty good WaPo article) in 1938, about 2/3rds of Americans not only opposed allowing refugees fleeing Nazi persecution into America, but actually agree that "we should try to keep them out."
Of course, you could argue it's easier to see which opinion is "correct" with the benefit of hindsight and all that. But hindsight wasn't really necessary for the second graph below, which is the results from a poll conduct after Kristallnacht, so it wasn't really a secret that the Nazis were pretty shitty to Jews and other groups they didn't like. Not that the Nazis had exactly ever hid this fact, but I suppose you could make the argument that in the early days of the regime people might not have known to take them seriously. But once they started instituting official mass violence against Jews and other minorities, it's hard to argue that people could have assumed the Nazis weren't serious about all of their anti-Semitic proclamations. Not only that, but this poll question was only asking about whether we should accept children who are fleeing Nazi violence. So you can't even make the (already absurd on its face) argument that there might be Nazis posing as refugees to sneak into America and then...I dunno, take us down from the inside? Whatever the argument is, it doesn't hold up when we're discussing children fleeing from the Nazis. If ever there was a group that would be the dictionary definition of "deserving immigrants," I think you'd be pretty fucking hard pressed to come up with something better than children fleeing Nazis.
But as you can clearly see, a strong majority of the nation felt children escaping from the Nazis did not meet the definition of "deserving" immigrant. So I could write several thousand more words on the problematic construction of dividing immigrants/refugees into "deserving" and "not deserving," but nothing I could write would make this point nearly as well as this poll result. If Jewish children fleeing Nazi violence does not meet the bar of "deserving," I think it's safe to say no one ever will. Although, of course, now pretty much everyone would agree that we should have accepted these children fleeing the Nazis. Just like I'd be willing to be that in 50 years it will be so obvious that we should have been open to accepting Syrian refugees.
But of course that belated realization will be just about as useful to Syrian refugees as it was to those Jewish children denied entrance to the US...
|For those that don't get the reference in the title, you really need to watch Much Apu About Nothing|