We are a nation of immigrants who don’t like immigrants

Germans-emigrate-1874Immigration is a hot topic today. The blending with racism and nationalism is hard for me to ignore, and it’s interesting to watch the rationalization that people use to avoid confronting their own racist views and implicit xenophobia. This kind of thing takes several forms, each revealing. On the whole, I’m pleased that people struggle to rationalize this, because it shows me that they see racism/xenophobia as a bad thing, and don’t want to think of themselves that way. I wrote about this earlier; the relevant quote was “I know that most people don’t want to be racist. I know that most people get angry when somebody calls them a racist. That’s good. It tells me that they and I share the belief that racism is bad. That makes me happy, and I’m glad we agree that being a racist is not a good thing to be.” But that doesn’t make it go away. We need more. We need to see it out in the open, so we can end it in ourselves if we truly do not want to be racist. Immigration and our views on this is a good place for this exercise, so let’s spend some time looking at a couple of issues, and what people have said about immigration policy that may reveal some not-so-kind, but correctable, views.

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“Shithole countries”

Trump said an awful thing. Although he denies it, several sources have confirmed that, in a closed-door meeting about immigration policy, he asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” People went nuts, with good reason, but I think the focus has been wrong. This is cross-posted from my FaceBook, word for word (except this paragraph of introduction).

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Trump and the democrats

President Trump has had trouble getting the GOP-controlled congress to pass signature policies. The Senate failed (by a very slim margin) to repeal Obamacare, and Trump and the GOP leadership clearly do not get along very well. This shouldn’t be a surprise, he didn’t get along with them during the primary season, or the general election either. I don’t think any of that was about politics, but more about personality, and people can only fake their way through those kinds of deep feelings for so long.

So Trump has turned to democrats to try to get stuff done, or at least that’s what his supporters are saying. From what I can gather among my diverse group of FaceBook friends, and outlets like FoxNews and Breitbart, etc, his supporters seem to have divergent responses to his new partnership with democratic leadership. I’m finding this fascinating, and revealing.

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Do as I say, not as I do…but actions speak louder than words

The scientist in me craves information. I want to know what’s going on and why. It’s undoubtedly what made science so attractive to me. It’s also what makes research with human subjects so unappealing to me. People lie, and can’t be trusted (of course I know that’s not entirely true, but when it comes to research, it’s a real problem and I’m continuously impressed by those who take on those problems). We know people lie because we see it all the time. This isn’t a misanthropic judgement, it’s just a statement about who we are. Most of it is unintentional, and we even lie to ourselves. How many times do we say that we don’t want to eat that last chocolate, but we eat it anyway? We say that we wanted to go to the gym, but we stayed on the couch instead. We become living contradictions. We have the verbal report (even the voice in our head) saying that want something (or don’t want something), but our behavior tells the opposite story. When faced with this contradiction, if we’re trying to figure out which is the real version (the not wanting to eat the chocolate, or the eating the chocolate), I think the behavior tells the real story. We may say or think that we don’t want to, and a piece of us might not want to, but if we eat the chocolate, we clearly wanted to more than we didn’t want to. To make it worse, how can I know if somebody is lying when they say that they don’t want to do something, but they do it anyway? Until we invent a mind-reader, and can be sure that we aren’t lying to ourselves, all I have is the action, and, to be as cliche as possible, actions speak louder than words. What makes me say this today? Sanctuary cities. It’s a stretch, but follow along if you want.

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A safe world? With lots of flight? How are both true?

On Point, from wbur radio (broadcast on NPR stations), had a segment yesterday that created a bit of a conflict for me. The story was about migration (of people) and the dangers of migrating through particular parts of the world. On the show, Leonard Doyle, from the International Organization For Migration, described the present time as being in the midst of a boom in migration. The segment starts with the host reading a statistic:

…sixty five million people are now in flight because of war or persecution or terror. It’s considered the largest displacement in human history.”

The guest confirms this to be true, and continues to paint a picture of humans being at a time of mass movement, all because of war or persecution or terror. I don’t doubt that these numbers are true at all, but I have a hard time reconciling them with something I wrote about earlier: that deaths from war, worldwide, are remarkably low these days.

I don’t have an answer for this inconsistency, but, looking at both stories, it appears that people are fleeing their homes at a very high rate (historically), even though combat deaths are markedly low. That makes me think there is some other factor at play. Perhaps it’s the increased communication and awareness of the rest of the world. Perhaps more people see what other cities look like, and are more willing to uproot and try to reach them. I don’t know, but conflicts like these excite me. Maybe I’ll get an answer someday…or I’ll forget all about it by this afternoon.