In Defense of 'Fear and Bitterness'
If you oppose amnesty and unlimited “generosity” for the latest wave of illegal aliens, then you are probably fearful and bitter, according to conservative commentator Matt Lewis.
It is an unfortunate aspect of politics that people assign emotional defects to those they disagree with. Lewis, in a recent article advocating amnesty for the current wave of Central American illegal alien “children,” had this to sling at people who disagree with him: “Fear leads to hoarding and bitterness.”
That bit of piffle came towards the conclusion of a remarkably awful article, expressing Lewis’s “optimistic” view about America and immigration. In defense of fear and bitterness, Americans are living through times that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. If people are afraid, it’s probably because they’re paying attention.
Lewis’s piece is easily one the worst recent articles about immigration written by a conservative. Each sentence seamlessly weaves simplistic rhetoric with baffling hubris. Worst of all, Lewis makes people out to have a disorder if they’re upset about the direction of this country.
Lewis leads off with this shamefully manipulative analogy:
“If a child showed up at your doorstep, begging for help, what would you do?”
Usually analogies are offered to clarify the nub of an issue and shed light on the morality or reasoning behind different perspectives. Lewis’s analogy, on the other hand, is morally empty and completely devoid of any regard for facts.
There is a moral imperative, still existing for some nations, called self-preservation. In contrast, individual households are free to take diverse and even conflicting approaches to whoever arrives at their door. Matt Lewis can give away as much as he wants to “children” at his doorstep. But a child at the doorstep is different than a teenager who has climbed your fence, or kicked down your doors, or kept entering your house without being invited.
As a factual matter, 84% of the illegal aliens apprehended at the border are teenagers, not “children.” Several enrolled in high schools despite being over 30 years old. The illegal aliens act as if they are too good to follow our laws, or are entitled to entry into this country. The welfare state, multicultural dogma, and affirmative action will reinforce that perspective. The “begging for help” invoked by Lewis’s wretched analogy will soon transform into demands for taxpayer funded “help.”
One of Matt Lewis’s “begging” children
To remold Lewis’s analogy with a touch of factual accuracy: If teenagers came to my door, saying they want to break the law and get away with it, I'd send them home.
“But a lot of Americans who would respond to such a scenario with compassion also believe that America should simply shut its door to desperate refugees.”
The people crossing our borders are not generally refugees because they don’t meet the long-established legal criteria for refugee status. Attaching fanciful terms to illegal conduct only makes the lawlessness on our border worse.
“The question of whether or not America is legally obliged to show this kind of compassion is irrelevant.”
Of course, compassion should go beyond what is legally required, but coddling people who disregard our laws is an affront to every American. Compassion does not oblige us to undermine our nation’s interests.
“I'm tired of hearing people say things like, ‘You know what Mexico does if they catch you sneaking into their country?’ To which, I answer: ‘Do you want to emulate that kind of behavior?’”
“The fact that other nations are less humane -- less generous -- is irrelevant.”
Lewis appears to be confusing inhumane treatment with enforcing the law, a rhetorical trick often employed by the ACLU that doesn’t generally persuade sensible people. Using “generosity” as a synonym for humane treatment is a distortion that has resulted in countless failures of social engineering. It is actually very relevant that other nations encourage their own citizens to violate American sovereignty and abuse the American welfare system to alleviate their own blighted conditions.
“Let's hold ourselves to a higher bar. This should be a point of pride.”
Degrading our sovereignty may make Lewis proud, but I think that more Americans derive pride from having a nation that respects itself enough to maintain our sovereignty. Knowing that we are actually a nation of laws, not of men, is a point of pride as well.
“And I'm tired of conservatives acting as if we live in a world of limited resources, where we are all fighting over a small piece of the same pie, instead of realizing we can grow that pie.”
Whether or not the economic pie is growing is an empirical question. Maybe the pie is growing but not fast enough, so that we don’t have pie to spare for low-income illegal aliens. Maybe the pie is not growing, and we have American citizens that haven’t gotten a piece yet. Maybe immigrants have already taken enough of the pie.
“This populist rhetoric is the talk of defeatism, of fear, of scarcity. It is in utter opposition to the Reagan/Kemp brand of optimistic conservatism that helped transform the world.”
I’m optimistic that a double-walled barrier and severe penalties for employers who employ illegal aliens would make America a better place for American citizens. Besides, optimistic conservatism can, at times, lend itself to hubris. Hubris is a fatal weakness, for individuals and for societies. The binary choice Lewis presents between optimism and pessimism is pure nonsense.
“It's the cry of victimhood -- not the talk of a prosperous nation, or of kindness or of greatness. It's the mindset of a nation that truly believes its best days are in the rearview mirror.”
For some Americans, their best days are in fact presently in the rearview mirror. Those Americans deserve our consideration. For instance, think of those American IT workers who had to train their own foreign replacements. Those Americans could be forgiven for feeling, for a time, that their best days are behind them.
“Fear leads to hoarding and bitterness.”
In an article full of monumental fatuity, this line stands out above all the others because it’s so hackneyed and flippant. If people are afraid, it’s likely because they’re paying attention. Some may be “hoarding” because they don’t know if they can count on the market economy to function fully. If someone were to express to me that they were bitter about what’s happening to our country, I would listen to them. I wouldn’t seek to dismiss them for harboring a valid emotion, as Lewis does.
“The GOP can become the party of the angry and the dispossessed -- not the party of the aspirational and the generous. But why would we want to?”
If Lewis wants to prove his generosity, he should take his own money and make someone’s life better in Central America. There are Americans having a hard enough time paying their bills and preserving their families, to say nothing of saving. The average American is not interested in using immigration policy as a means of instant moral gratification.
Perhaps the Washington commentariat should stop being so fixated with optimistic posturing, and think more about the consequences of public policy. This country is not in a good place right now. To deny the challenges we face, and pretend that the lawlessness at our border has no role in those challenges, is profoundly selfish and even destructive.
John Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences '07) is a writer whose work has appeared in The Daily Caller, Townhall.com, World Net Daily, Human Events, Liberty Unyielding, Accuracy in Media, and FrontPage Magazine, among others. He has been a featured guest on the Laura Ingraham, Jerry Doyle, and Lars Larson programs.