The debate over illegal immigration is nearly perfect for Bush's core voters
If I understand the hardcore position on illegal immigration, it runs along the following lines: First, we have to close all our borders so no illegals can enter the country anywhere and under any circumstances. Obviously, this entails focusing first on our southern border, then the ports, and finally the northern border. This is because illegals are, after all, illegal. It is also because they contribute little or nothing to the United States; they steal jobs from citizens; they have easier access to all kinds of public assistance; and they don't pay taxes. Finally, there are roughly 10 million to 12 million illegals presently in the United States. Offering them any kind of amnesty is unacceptable because (to return to the obvious) they broke the law.
This equation is beautiful mostly because it posits the problem in such a way as to make, not only any solution, but even any action at all, nearly impossible.
It all has to do with prayer. Nonbelievers think prayer is about asking the Lord for something that one hopes to get in return. Sometimes it is about that, but that is the most philistine aspect of it. Prayer is a communication between the individual and the creator. It is not Western Union or e-mail. It is a spiritual and holy act, one of soul-deep love, appreciation, and supplication, but, at its purest, it is entirely spiritual and not worldly. When we are deep in prayer, we should be at our best, our holiest. If one's prayers were more like letters to Santa, and if the Lord directly answered them, it would be unseemly and corrupting.
Likewise, Bush's core voters know the world is a profoundly screwed-up place, loaded with pure evil and bad people intent on doing bad things. Political speech, like prayer, is about the sacred act of communication and should have nothing to do with actual actions.
Over the decades, one American political party or another has gained the upper hand, usually either in response to dire, unavoidable, real-world problems or because it offered a complete, utopian vision. Never have we seen a more idealistic, truly fantastic, and holy vision as the one Republicans now preach. Forget reality, and ignore nonbelievers; that junk just gets in the way. Great political rhetoric (current Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld-speak being the purest ever offered) unlike, say, poetry, fairy tales, or science fiction has nothing to do with reality. This is a holy crusade!
Bush was elected president at one of the greatest times in this country's recent history. The United States was the richest and most powerful nation in the world, and the success of a half-century campaign against inequality, sexism, racism, and economic problems had resulted in some progress and a certain internal stability.
Now, at least in the case of Jews, Catholics, and fundamentalists of all stripes, Americans know one thing: If we brag or even take for granted our personal success, achievement, and happiness, then the Lord Our Creator is obligated (under the rules of Abraham and Job, as well as a dozen other strictures) to take them away from us. And they will be taken!
The Bush base, as true believers, understand that it is not the power of prayer, but the very act of prayer, that is important! They understand that righteous intent is more important than proper or productive action. They have truly done the Lord's work and, in less than a decade, pulled us back from the brink of success, stability, equality, justice, and international cooperation. Bless them and theirs!
Back to the debate over illegal immigration. The perfection of this argument makes the Rubik's Cube look like tic-tac-toe. It has been set up so it can't be solved!
Let's begin by agreeing to accept the anti-immigration arguments as well-meaning, nonracist, nonpartisan, and accurate. Thus, we must begin by ignoring the facts.
(In Texas, for example, illegal immigrants pay exactly the same state taxes everyone else does. In California, they may pay some trivial amount less, but most of the taxes gas, property, sales impact them as much as anyone else. Some don't pay federal income taxes. Most of them, of course, earn less than the minimum required to pay taxes anyway. But currently budgets for Social Security and Medicare don't just incorporate, but are dependent on, the billions in withholding dollars that illegals leave in the system.
In California, it gets even better. Instead of accepting personal responsibility, as they wish all others would do, hardcore anti-immigration folks there blame immigrants for collapsing public schools, an overburdened public-safety net, urban-upkeep problems in general, and probably even the Santa Ana winds. In this way, they can ignore that their own opinions and votes created many of these problems when they passed Proposition 13, capping property taxes and starving public schools.)
Keeping in mind the important consumer principle that, in purchasing a commercial object, one shouldn't think about how it was produced. This is true for most food, meat (do we really want to see a bloody cow?), cheaper goods made abroad (with the "Support America" bumper sticker on the Toyota), and, oddly, even roads (they just appear, don't they?). Under this principle, we get to disallow the extraordinary and far-reaching contributions of illegal immigrants to enable our way of life. It allows us to ignore the fact that almost all of us are dependent on them we certainly don't want to pay more for houses, food, clothes, building projects, eating out, staying at hotels, and so on.
Consequently, to deal with the problem, first we seal our borders, locking them up so none of them can get in to this country! I heard a border-police chief argue that no matter how much it costs or what manpower it takes, protecting the border would be worth it if we could keep out one al Qaeda member!
Then we deal with the 12 million immigrants already here which is where the genius really comes in. The same champions of law who felt that Bill Clinton should be impeached not for getting a blow job, of course, but because he committed perjury when he was asked for no apparent reason whether he had gotten a blow job know the bottom line. These folks are illegal: Any accommodation means condoning lawbreaking!
This logic has created a situation in which nothing can be done! Practically speaking, deporting, imprisoning, fining, corralling even 10% of that population would destroy this country economically, certainly, but even an attempt at such would suck the soul and decency right out; the United States would never recover!
There is no economic, social, legal, psychological, political, moral, or diplomatic expert of any decency that would argue for this deportation as practical or possible. Even if one believed it to be correct, it is the impossible course.
But, since such immigrants "broke the law," we can't grant them amnesty, or anything even vaguely resembling it. Why, making them citizens would be rewarding lawbreaking!
Perfection achieved. Here is a situation that can't be solved but which works perfectly. The anti-immigration crowd has so many groups to blame in this situation that they must be in near ecstasy from erotic self-servicing. They get to hate the illegals and the countries they came from without being racist. The government has failed them. Republican and Democratic politicians and leaders have failed to solve this problem for generations! Trumpeting common sense, they know the solution is obvious and easy. Perfection is achieved because the solution is also impossible!
This is where I bring up Iraq. The fraternity boy Bush wasn't really supposed to invade Iraq; he got carried away with the prank. The idea is to have a situation (illegal immigration, Iraq) that, if you just use "common sense," could be easily solved (get rid of illegals, invade Iraq) but isn't because of the ________ (choose a category, and feel free to add your own: Democrats, government, trilateralists, internationalists, communists, devil-worshippers, Illuminati, evil people). Solving this easily solved problem would make not only the world a better place and the U.S. a tougher and more moral country, but would also improve the lives of each and every God-fearing, decent citizen!
Importantly, this is about prayer, not about base materialism. When one wakes up every morning, lives every day, and goes to sleep every evening, one needs some group to hate and some problem to fume about. Righteous indignation, moral outrage, and thinking about how simple it would be to do what is so obviously right instead of all the wrong that everyone else is doing are the pathways to achieving spirituality. "Thinking" is the important term. Prayer is holy and pure; actions always have those damned consequences.
Obviously, this works best when the situation is not really that serious a problem (Iraq, illegal immigration). First, you blow it all out of proportion. Then you become aware that most things wrong in your life are either because of this situation or because of the people who don't entirely agree with you about how to consider it. Crucial here (sadly, the point Bush missed) is that you don't solve it but complain, wail, and rant about it, fume, and direct your anger toward it. Contemplate it all day, wear it upon one's heart, speak of it on the radio, and write of it in letters. Actually, taking action can just lead to the failure of unerring belief and prayer (which is why it is important to focus on a problem that really is not that important).
Our dear, long-deceased black standard poodle Poocho used to race around our back dayroom, which had a wall of windows facing the back yard, barking hysterically at any cat that had the arrogant daring to walk across our yard. He would throw himself at the locked back door, barking viciously, making it clear that if he could only get out, those cats were going to suffer. One day, as he hit the door barking, it flew open. Poocho was startled for a second. Then he looked around, got us all conceptually to agree with him, and stood right by the door barking as though it were still locked. He had, after all, tangled with some of the cats before.
Bush, just loving male-to-male good times and collegiate fraternal hijinks, forgot the guiding principles. When the door flew open on Iraq, so to speak, he went sailing out, full of good cheer and love of his country and fellow man, knowing that the party was just beginning.
As a result, prayer is meaningless. The right is reluctant to talk of Iraq, so they have largely stopped. The devout wish to move away from the secular, mundane world and back to spiritual pursuits. As such subjects are absolutely pure in their artificiality, pettiness, and general unimportance, let us concentrate on illegal immigration, banning gay marriage, and passing that constitutional amendment against flag burning. And Democrats, by the way, when did you stop beating your wives?
Postscript: I'm sorry, but one thing I can just never get around is that this is a nation of immigrants. Every new generation from the Irish, Poles, and Eastern Europeans to the Chinese, Mexicans, and South Americans has been met by exactly the same hate rhetoric and apocalyptic social predictions as we are now hearing. I am the grandson of immigrants. They came here legally, despite the best efforts of anti-immigration politicians, leaders, and political parties to keep them out. If it had been illegal, I'd like to think that, rather than staying stuck in the ghettos of Poland and Russia, they would have figured out a way to get here anyway.
Sure it's just a poem, not a law or constitutional amendment, but I think the most truly decent and unquestionably moral vision of America is found in the following (and I wonder when such thoughts became blasphemous, indecent, liberal, and anti-American):
"A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"