Seniors, by virtue of having lived many years, often fall into mental “traps.” One such is thinking you’ve “seen it all.” Another is “there’s nothing new under the sun.” And, of course, “because I’m older, I’m wiser.” Fact is, if you stay connected to the world while learning to let your thinking “go with the flow,” there are lots of new things to see, plenty of new things to experience and you’ve found age and wisdom are entirely unrelated.
All of this has come home in the recent days as I’ve experienced the most disgusting, racist, obscene, hate-filled and embarrassingly ignorant rhetoric of too many fellow citizens and, especially, the trash talk coming from many of the Republican candidates for president. It’s the subject of likely Syrian immigration. With the possible exception of John Kasich, that bunch has earned our contempt and outrage by engaging in behavior unfit for anyone in public life. Or, aspiring to be.
As a registered Independent in Oregon, my voting pencil swings from side to side on our election ballots. Neither major party earns blind allegiance nor acceptance of the entirety of all candidates offered. So, when I condemn the major affront to our national dignity by Trump, Huckabee, Bush, Paul, Forina et al, it’s without picking one party over the other. All are deserving of our collective contempt as individuals and by the despicable trash coming from their own campaigns. Party aside.
Maybe more than any other recent issue, this one of how to deal with accepting Syrians fleeing war and all its madness has exposed the absolute fractures and canyon-like separations found in our national consciousness. It appears all who’ve voiced their opinions from the neighborhood bar to the national Capitol are entrenched and unmoveable in support or opposition to accepting these human beings in our house.
I came across a new word in all this rhetoric as I’ve tried to see this issue from more than one viewpoint. It’s “asylee.” Not something found in everyday conversation. It means an alien at our doorway “found to be unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution." That “persecution or fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”
Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful, permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States. The number of immigrants defined by this description is limited to 10,000 per fiscal year. The same number the President has set for 2016.
This seems to be the nub of the whole immigration legal status. Oh, there are presidential executive orders, various laws and even the U.S. Constitution. But the asylee status is regarded by most immigration experts as the best definition under which the current crop of Syrian and other refugees from war and persecution fall.
My point of going into this one brief, non-political and non-emotional example is to show there really are some legal and humanitarian parameters for a realistic discussion without all the B.S. emanating from presidential campaigns and cowardly, uninformed residents of statehouses coast-to-coast. Of course, there are other legally descriptive and fitting approaches to the immigration debate. But reasoned debate has been entirely overcome by huge numbers of people with no idea what they’re talking about. Voices playing to other sick minds with unfounded fears with large helpings of racism and unfounded nationalistic hate.
As usual in subjects of national political import, the governors of Oregon, Washington and California seem to be leading voices of what the situation is, what the facts are and what actions need to be taken. Or avoided. All three have said Syrian refugees will be admitted and welcomed. The plain fact is, any citizen, governor or ignorant politician who takes the opposite stance does so with no recognition of what the laws are in such instances and what powers they have - or don’t have - to deal with immigration.
When the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, exhibited massive ignorance for all to see in a letter to the White House, bringing up the shameful subject of internment camps for Syrians, he established the bottom of the barrel on the issue of immigration. What we did to Japanese-Americans in 1942 was the most unconscionable act of widespread degradation this nation has ever taken into the depths of racist hatred against an entire segment of our society. If hizzoner is truly serious - and that stupid - I propose his personal Virginia living room be designated “Camp One.”
This Syrian issue represents a lot more than just a new home for people trying to keep their families safe and together. It goes to our national conscience - it questions if we really mean all the words in our Pledge of Allegiance - it challenges all those high-flown images of a truly just America we all were brought up to believe in. It questions that massive statue in the waters off New York City - the one inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ... send these, the homeless, tempest tost (sic) to me.”
We have an empty house next door. A Syrian family would be as welcome to move in as any other - much more welcome than the bellicose, racist, trash-talking, mindless political hacks that fill our evening airwaves. Their kind should not be welcomed anywhere. Especially at the ballot box.