Almost unthinkingly, the throw down and show down involving the Central American migrant caravan has crystallized into a virtual Mexican standoff. Today’s focus is not on the latest development: fund wall to end US government shutdown, but on those hapless wretches trapped in no-man’s land at the edge of the land of milk and honey.
This is today, but matters eerily remind of a precedent from before, way back.
The precedent and close parallel was in the ashes and despair that came in the aftermath of World War II: the huddled masses were in what was euphemistically called Displaced Persons camps. Prior to that, they were in prison and then refugee camps; and before that it was concentration camps.
It was at Bergen-Belsen in Northern Germany that the Allied soldiers stumbled upon tens of thousands of hungry, fearful, trapped shadows of what were once human beings: the living, walking dead. Except that many could not even walk, so brutalized they were. Around this time the US immigration carousel commenced its usual incomprehensible gyrations.
There was a bill before a Democrat-controlled Congress. President Harry Truman wanted to extend a humanitarian gesture, do something, even though at this point, the full horror of the genocide was still unknown. A war of words promptly started.
Here is a sampling: subversives, criminals, revolutionaries. One Congressman from the Deep South said that not only should those immigrants already resident in the US return to wherever they came from, but also that there ought to be an end to all immigration. Period.
The time was in 1946 when, by far, the great majority of foreigners in the US (or in line for migrating to the US) were of European extraction. Yes, it was in a politically less correct time, without the uninterrupted glare of satellite television and 24-hour saturation news feed, and no restraining talons of social media.
At the same time, I should point out that President Truman also had a civil rights bill before the Congress. Double trouble, it was, and of the most unacceptable kind involving Jews in Europe and coloreds in the US.
Now even though today there all those ever-present electronic constraints, as well as a more sensitive time, the record shows that when history changes, it does so by painful torturous degrees; and that nothing is really new under the sun. Consider the rhetoric from the leader today: criminals, rapists, drug traffickers, and terrorists in a continuous stream of such invectives doing well as identifiers.
In 1946, the burgeoning fear and preoccupation of the American nation was communism; in 2018, it is about terrorism, which now has many paternities. Let it be said: those massed at the US border are not of pure Nordic stock, thus the necessary care to avoid offending is minimal. I suppose more could have been said (and not for the better), if speakers didn’t have to be careful, given the age. But in both instances identified here, such pungent rhetoric provokes swift passions and find ready receptive hearts in a frightened doggedly hard-right audience.
I venture further. For sure, be it in Germany or Central America, fraud, perjury, and forged papers will be kneaded into the mix. Guyanese can identify with such practices having resorted to the same during their own decades-long exodus toward the Promised Land. But just as surely, there are the fearful, pitiful, and hopeful usually forming the majority. It does not matter one whit.
In politics, people are pawns in the calculations and moves of cold dispassionate chessmen. Hence, this proposed barter about ending shutdown by funding the wall. Pause for a minute, please, amidst the mounting cynicism. The US immigration system is arguably in its most terrible state ever. Admitting one caravan will serve as incentive for others to risk the grueling ordeals associated with such a trek for a shot at the rainbow waiting.
Clearly, both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature and the Executive have to examine current and future demographics more thoughtfully and unselfishly, rather than only politically and superficially. I acknowledge this is easier said than done. There has to be less fear of winning or losing the electoral edge of the Hispanic bloc, now the largest minority group.
Similarly, there has to be less anxieties over the potential demographic time bomb of massive influxes by more and more mass Hispanic arrivals. It could be any other group from any other place, but they have the geography in their favour. All the nativist-oriented politicians know that the low birth rate of native-born Americans (read: white Americans) is not going to change dramatically, all other things holding equal.
Editor, the sensible, pragmatic approach calls for (demands urgently that) Congressional leaders craft and compromise, then cooperate for consensus in a structured, orderly, and numerically-wise manner to fix an immigration machinery that is not just disastrous, but also increasingly tragic.
Of course, nobody will be exactly thrilled with the final outcome, but everyone gets to claim partial credit, partial victory, and some satisfaction from participating tirelessly in what could be something that is truly historic and far-reaching.
Think for the next few decades, or at least the breather of a few precious years. Part of the problem is a lack of leadership, and when that happens, the lesser equipped fill the vacuum with whatever suits their fancy. With the sad result that drags down and embarrasses a proud nation.
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