Yeah yeah yeah, I know I should stay off politics, but when you’re a half-breed like me, it’s hard to stay quiet on the issue of immigration, in this age of anti-immigrant trash talk.
My high school math teacher, Mr. C–, is a spectacular human being. Or at least, he was when I knew him. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that he changed the actual hardwiring of my brain. He was part mentor, part teacher, part friend. I already had a natural love of mathematics when I met him, but he added an element of joy to it for me, a sense of its connection to music and poetry, and a notion that it was okay to have a wide-eyed (or perhaps wild-eyed) curiosity about the magic of it all. He also loved wilderness, and he passed that on to me and many other students lucky enough to pass his way.
Hold on a second. I don’t remember where I was going with this.
Oh! Right. Life is so transformed by Facebook. A lot of peeps like to complain about Facebook, but I think it’s an amazing free amenity. I’ve reconnected with some really important people in my life thanks to it, including family members. And also Mr. C–, who eff-bee-friended me. So I get to see his feed now.
I’ve totally lost the thread of my thoughts. Maybe it’s the thinset I’ve been working with that’s making me woozy. Give me another second.
Oh! Right. So Mr. C posted up a photo.
Get it? Native American. Telling other people in America… You get it.
I’m not sure it had the intended effect on me. What it got me thinking about is fear. It doesn’t take much to make an illegal into a legal. The way I figure it — sitting here tonight in my ignorant, unread, off-the-cuff mindset — you only need three elements. One, a well-armed military that’s willing to kill a lot of people to free up some land. Two, a government that orders it to go ahead and do that, even when it’s in contravention of legal treaties. And three, a civilian population willing to go cultivate and live on the now-unpopulated land.
That’s how we did it here in the You-Ess-of-Ey. In middle school, I learned about Manifest Destiny. I remember the history teacher saying the two words over and over again, and having no idea what she meant. “What is the manifest destiny?” I kept wondering. Is it a document? A theory? A government policy? it didn’t seem like that’s what she was describing. I still remember the epiphany, the moment when I realized that all it meant was “what white people want.” Also it meant “GREED.” It was a strange feeling, being 13 and realizing this is how we justified taking all the land between the Pacific and the Atlantic.
I think bullies fear being bullied. And we’re a country of bullies. We kept human slaves long after most of the so-called “civilized world” had abandoned the practice. We got much of the land we wanted by taking it illegally, in violation of treaties we signed. Right from the beginning, our government and our military slaughtered and abused civilians and innocents, intentionally and with eyes wide open. We lied and made false promises. Our settlers moved into Indian territories and waited for the government to come get rid of the redskins. We took land that belonged to others. We did it by force, and we resorted to actions that, in the 21st century, would be called war crimes and terrorism. We are a world superpower, and we stand on the shoulders of people who engaged in great evil. It’s in our national DNA.
I don’t really think it’s economics or nationality or language issues or whatever that drives anti-immigration sentiment. Deep down, I think it’s simple fear. It’s no wonder so many Americans fear illegal immigrants. We know what we’re capable of. Maybe we think they’re capable of it too.