First the disclaimer: I wasn’t born in the United States – so I can’t claim to be a “true” American. I was born in India, came to the United States for graduate school, came to love this country much as all love mature love affairs go – slowly, over a period of time as I discovered the many things that make this country unique. I got many opportunities here and still continue to work my American Dream. I am one of those “legal immigrants” – one who is at the end of the line for 10 years waiting for my chance. ( My chance sort of sucks – since immigration in the United States has a quota system and I am from India – and our quota is retrograded to 2001, I think).
However, I digress. I have been watching the media coverage on the Arizona Immigration Law for a while now. And there are the usual dimensions covered – the Republican stance, the Democratic stance, the states where illegal immigration is a law and order issue etc. I don’t intend to write about it.
When I read about how a majority of Americans support the Arizona Immigration Law – it gets me confused, bewildered and thinking. And while the rancor and disgust with the situation is understandable, I still don’t understand why most of America would find targeting a people on the basis of how they look, as an appropriate response. I hear the usual refrain – why don’t they act like legal immigrants (aka, I) – and go to the back of the line. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no line. There is no forum for an illegal immigrant currently to get into the line to legal citizenship. (Hell, even I, who has always been legal, have an Ivy League graduate school degree and have a good job will probably get kicked out if my case doesn’t progress – or something close).
So anyway, here’s the point I want to make – from a perspective of someone who only came to America when he was 24.
One of the most endearing things about America to me as an outsider was that everyone I met was non-judgmental. One was evaluated solely based on one’s abilities. But I am stating the obvious.
So given that backdrop of my impressions – it was bewildering to me to see the same population supporting a law like the one just put in effect in Arizona. To me, the sense of fairness was what set the American people apart from those in most countries – where history had inculcated a sense of presumption about character.
And therefore, it is confusing to me when I see the same American population having the opinions that they have about these laws. I think Americans who have never traveled out of the country don’t know it and therefore have minimal appreciation for how good they have it. About how cheap the food is. And how much cheaper basic services like lawn mowing, dish washing, gas pumping, meat packing, chicken skinning, fruit picking and everything hard, manual, dangerous job is.
On one hand, we as a population cherish those as our “freedoms”. On the other hand, we don’t want to deal with the core reasons as to why it is like that. Much like our cheap gas.
And ultimately, in a democracy – the politicians are but a reflection of the population. And the news media can’t certainly sell a story that a majority of Americans are ignorant when they support these laws – they don’t realize that beyond racism and the immediate knee-jerk reactions, immigration (and “those” immigrants) have their advantages. Advantages that we have come to love. And enjoy.
It would be good if America reacted the way that I have always seen and believed Americans to be. Fairness loving, kind and welcoming.
But maybe like the political landscape, our country is changing as well.