1 year ago
So there is a phenomenon in American political and social life that seems to me to need to at least be acknowledged: our relentless urge to pull the ladder up after ourselves.
The ladder, of course, is the ladder of opportunity.
See, the thing is that while we often refuse to acknowledge this, all of us stand on others’ shoulders as we make progress in life. The accomplishments of medicine, the arts, and science, for example, all frame the context in which we live our lives and make our way. I, for one, am utterly blessed to have been born in an era where science can make good and complex eyeglasses: my eyes are lousy, and whatever successes I have had have been in part derived from the fact that I have had good glasses since I was six years old. Had I been born a century ago, my life would be lousy. But I wasn’t, and it isn’t.
In some sense, then, my basically successful life has been utterly dependent on other people’s work—the work that created the glasses that I have used to see my path to some kind of success.
Viewed this way, the plain truth is that all of us benefit from others’ accomplishments. Like antibiotics? Safe drinking water? Electric light (and batteries)? Whatever uses you make of these things, someone else had to make them before you could benefit from them. And those people, in turn, built off others’ accomplishments. it’s just how the world works.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget the socially-connected nature of our lives. It is all too easy to think only of our own — very real — accomplishments, and to imagine our successes are entirely of our own making.
It is likewise easy to imagine that others’ failures are entirely the result of their own flaws and fumbles.
We can see these attitudes in lots of parts of political and social life. To wit:
- Recent immigrants are often the brunt of jokes and disrespect from more established immigrant groups.
- People with jobs often perceive that any form of welfare is little more than coddling the poor—even when, in many cases, the employed have enjoyed government support in the past (like public education, tax breaks for home ownership and, in Mitt Romney’s father’s case, actual welfare when George Romney’s family moved back from Mexico when George was a child).
- There are retirement towns in Arizona that have been exempted from paying that portion of local property taxes that goes to support local schools—an exemption granted on the theory that the retirees’ children didn’t go to school in Arizona, so they shouldn’t have to pay for the educations of current Arizona children.
All of this—and much more—is akin to pulling up the ladder behind you as you climb into a tree house: you got yours, so screw everyone else. Such selfishness is perhaps inevitable given that people seem to imagine our successes as totally ours and thus attribute others’ failings to their personal flaws, but in the end this kind of selfishness is self-defeating: the only way any of us can hope to succeed is to make sure that lots of people have lots of opportunities to succeed, even as we recognize that not everyone will.
An America with strong ladders that can hold a lot of people, even those who sometimes fall off, will be a better America than one where the ladders are reserved to the people with tree houses.
1 year ago
I think the kids of those [undocumented] immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship, and I think military service should be a path.
2 years ago
2 years ago
2 years ago
2 years ago
Several days have now passed since Alabama’s anti-immigration law, the harshest and most abusive in the nation, came into full effect. HB 56, a de facto criminalisation of migration, replaces any sensible immigration policy with the favorite solution these days: let’s put them behind bars– and we might as well make a profit out of it.
The negative consequences of such shameful legislation have been felt immediately. Within hours, it had claimed its first victims – from the detention of a man who later turned out to be residing legally, to themassive fleeing of migrant workers and school children, to even cutting off water services to families or individuals who can’t prove their legal status. It is the most draconian and oppressive set of provisions that this country, which claims to be the bastion of liberties and rights, has seen since the era of segregation.
Recently, John McMillan, agriculture commissioner, proposed that the farm work left behind by immigrant workers be supplied with inmate labor.
So, here is how it goes. First, the state passes a harsh immigration law. Then, it detains large numbers of immigrants. Third, private prisons (LCS, CCA, GEO) receive fresh inmates. And finally, the artificially created labor shortage is supplied by the new inmates. Does this sound like modern-day slavery to anyone?
The rest of the country can only look in shock and dismay, as once again, Alabama, a state renowned for its historical role in racism, segregation and slavery, leads the nation into another round of shame.
2 years ago
3 years ago
[T]here was Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, celebrating civil rights in the Georgia, and chortling excitedly about the 2011 All-Star game in Arizona. In the hands of Selig, irony becomes arsenic. Thank God that Commisioner Selig was stupid enough to choose the Civil Rights Game to honor, among others, the great musician Carlos Santana. Santana was supposed to be the Latino stand-in, a smiling symbol of baseball’s diversity. And maybe, he would even play a song!
But Bud picked the wrong Latino. Carlos Santana took the microphone and said that he was representing all immigrants. Then Santana added, “The people of Arizona, and the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” In a perfect display of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Georgia, the cheers quickly turned to boos. Yes, Carlos Santana was booed on Civil Rights Day in Atlanta for talking about Civil Rights.