Some folks call me liberal; others call me conservative. My twin brothers-in-law, for instance, call me lots of names while playing chess. I think I’m consliberal or conliberative, a mixture of many threads. Both individual and communal minded. I like free enterprise and capitalism, it’s just that human beings suck and lie, cheat, steal, defraud, plunder, rape, pillage… you get the point. Therefore, we need a government entity to protect the community from the uber wolves who have no conscience. We also need government because we suck at being good citizens. Left to my own devices, I would not drive the speed limit nor get my car inspected nor pay taxes in a timely manner. Nor would you, comrade. I might shoot the neighbor’s barking dog at three in the morning after listening to it all night. Fish and hunt when and where I felt like it. Make my own rules as I went along. Still, we need productive citizens who make money and pay taxes in order to have a government that in turn protects us from foreign and domestic threats. But this is not my point, it’s just intro blather.
Lately the political/news porn lens focus has been on migrants. It’s not a new fear about the foreigners, the different ones. Way back when, it was the Catholic and the Jew who were feared and despised. Then it was the Eastern Europeans and then Asians and then Central Americans… all coming to destroy our perfect union, which has never been perfect. Somehow these unwashed savage despicables were going to take our jobs, our land, and our women, which never really worked out, and in any event our ancestors took all of that from the Native People just after they hit the shores.
Anyway, talking with Gary after Sunday School this morning, he mentioned having had new citizens to his lovely home over Thanksgiving. “It was neat. Here we were eating Thanksgiving dinner with immigrants.”
“Gary, unless you are Native American, you’re an immigrant too. You just had a head start.”
“Yeah, I guess so. I just don’t know about the immigrants who don’t want to assimilate to our culture, you know, and want to stay in their own closed off enclaves.”
“You mean like the Amish, the fundamental Mormons, the Shakers, the Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn, the Klan, the Branch Davidians, or drag queens, or gypsies, or…”
“No, I was thinking about these Muslims. They don’t want to assimilate and I can’t see how they can want to be Americans and at the same time work against being an American. You know, try to bend our country into an Islamic state.”
“I hear you. Everyone seems to have an agenda, but what I like about our country is that it’s like this huge quilt that is made of loosely affiliated people groups who somehow find a way to coexist. Farmers from Vietnam, bankers from Canada, doctors from India, pilots from Norway, nurses from Belgium, etc. Like last week in New York City, we drove through China town and Little Italy. Didn’t make it up to Harlem or Spanish Harlem, but these places are all heavily ethnic yet assimilated. Actually, I’m not sure what a fully assimilated American would look or sound like, George Clooney maybe?”
“But it seems like these Islamists are radical and want to make us like them instead of just joining in, finding a niche for their culture inside the existing one.”
“Yeah, the guns and bombs are hard to ignore. Hmmmm. If one percent of Russian immigrants are evil, and one percent of Africans, and one percent of Mexicans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bolivians, well… I don’t know how you keep that per cent out unless you keep them all out. And that does not seem very American. I’m sure there were unsavory Irish, German, Italian and French immigrants. You and I descended from such stock and we’re pretty despicable. Heck, Georgia was a penal colony, for goodness sakes! Let me Google something on this…
The British used colonial North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Merchants would transport the convicts and auctioned them off to (for example) plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America, representing perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the 18th century. The State of Georgia for example was first founded by James Edward Oglethorpe by using penal prisoners taken largely from debtors’ prison, creating a “Debtor’s Colony”. However, even though this largely failed, the idea that the state began as a penal colony has stayed both in popular history, and local lore. The English also would often ship Irish and Scots to the Americas whenever rebellions took place in Ireland or Scotland, and they would be treated similar to the convicts, except that this also included women and children.
“Can you imagine this today? Importing a group of known criminals, 100% of them known convicts. And what about slavery? The despicables there were doing the importing. It was all okay then when cheap labor was needed. Today we send good jobs overseas and import sex trafficking victims, but it’s the same old sad story of evil people taking advantage of others.”
“You really think we’re despicable, I mean, you and me. A lot of the stuff I say about you is just joking, you know that, right?”
“Gary, even despicables like us get a swatch of printed poplin in that grand old immigrant quilt I’m talking about. We’ll be in the armpit section, but we’ll still be part of something bigger, better than we are.”
“So you don’t think we need to buy a bunch of guns and ammo and start patrolling the mall with Josh?”
“Actually the mall is going to collapse under the weight of its uselessness coupled with its undesirability and history of bad management. Folks just stopped migrating there when competition showed up.”
“You think some other country will open its arms to these refugees, then?”
“Yes. A land with barren spaces and no ingrained culture to overthrow.”
“In this hemisphere?”
“Sort of…I was thinking of Antarctica. If you squint, it sort of looks like a bunch of Amish guys dancing with Hassidic Jews and some Shiite dudes.”
“You are welcome, my fellow traveler brother.”