There is an interesting situation developing as a result of our military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq that, from where I sut, could seriously impact on the issue of immigration reform. This situation also speaks volumes about what the people of Afghanistan and Iraq think about the US’s intervention in their internal affairs.
Help Wanted – New York Times is an editorial urging the Immigration Service to allow more immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan to enter the US legally. Most espcially, they want to expedite the immigration of Afghans and Iraqis who have assisted the US military forces there, serving as translators and who knows what else.
One can look at these people from two very different perspectives. The Times clearly sees these people as heroes of a sort. They "have served this country at great risk," and now face retribution from their own people who do not support the US presence in their country. The Times feels they deserve special treatment from the Immigration Service, and perhaps they do.
But, from a different perspective, these people are traitors and saboteurs. They are "Quislings" who have sold out their own people. That is why they can no longer stay in their own counrry, why their lives are in danger. During the American Revolution, many British citizens living in the colonies supported English rule and assisted British forces in whatever manner possible. When captured by the rebel forces, they were hung as spies and traitors. Often, these people were the special targets of American forces who shot them and/or burned their homes, much as the British did to American sympathizers. To the British, these American patriots were terroristswho needed to be eliminated, and the American rebels thought the same of the colonists who supported the British.
Do you see the analogy? An even better one, and the reason I sued the word "Quisling," would be people like Vidkun Quisling of Norway, who collaborated with the Nazi occupying forces in his country. To us and to the majority of Norwegians, he was a traitor. But to the Nazis, he was a "hero." Now, I’m not equating the Bush Administration with the Third Reich, but there are some historical similarities between the Nazi "lberation of Germanic people," as the Nazi propaganda machine put it.
These similarities should give us pause and make us do some serious reflecting on how we are perceived in these countries. are we the foreign oppressor? Are we interfering in a country’s internal affaris, where we have no right, only to foster our own self-interest? And, if the answer to that is "yes." who gave us the right to be that sanctimonious and self-righteous?
In case you think I am a bit upset about this issue, you are right. Not that I have anything against helping these people. They are in a similar situation to the refugees from Vietnam after the withdrawal of American forces there. Many came to this country as political refugees or were sponsored by private parties. I personally helped sponsor two boys from Vietnam and reunited them with relatives in California. So, in principle, adding extra visa slots or whatever it takes to bring these people here is fine with me.
But, my concerns are twofold and they both center around American bigotry and hypocrisy.
First of all, you only have to read the news to know that there is a very strong anti-Muslim sentiment in this country right now. Muslims have been the targets of numerous hate crimes since 9/11. Are we taking these people out of the proverbial frying pan only to throw them in the fire? Do you relly think the bigots in this country will stop and ask if they were collaborators before attacking them? I think not.
Second, these people will come here, many of them with no marketable skills or training, looking for work and find their opportunities very limited. They will be forced onto the welfare rolls or even into criminal activities to survive. Poverty has a way of doing that to people. That will give the bigots even more ammunition for more restrictive immigrstion policies.
Andhow do you think that will make the Mexican migrant farm workers feel? They and their families have been coming here to work in our fields and orchards for generations, yet are treated like dirt by the very people they help feed. Many of them have children who were born here, go to school here, and will come back, unless the situation gets really ugly, to work in the fields and orchards with their parents. Is that fair? Is that moral? Is that what Jesus would do?
Immigration reform is a very complicated issue made even more so by the spectre of American bigotry. That bigotry is grounded, as is so much else of what we do as a country, in our Puritan ethic, in our compulsion to purify the sins of the rest of the world. Well, let me quote the source the new-cons are so fond of quoting – the Bible:
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
John 8:7 King James Version
Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
Luke 6:42 King James Version
The moral of the story is this: let’s clean up our own act before we start telling other people how to run their internal affiairs. I suggest we start with the hypocrisy and bigotry that is the cultural baggage we are burdened with because of a misguided adherence to Puritan fundamentalsim.