Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arizona Immigration Gestapo Shows American Aversion to Complex Solutions

In a recent insightful column, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. said Arizona's new law requiring local police to be the state's immigration gestapo focuses attention--once again--on "one of the least attractive traits of the American character. Meaning a preference for responding to complicated questions with simplistic answers."

In the process of analyzing this, Pitts even manages to applaud President George W. Bush's 2006 attempt at immigration reform, torpedoed by the same American character flaw. Excerpts from his column follow:

If we really wanted immigration reform, we'd have had it years ago.

In 2006, President George W. Bush supported a proposal that would've required undocumented immigrants to take English classes and pay fines and back taxes in exchange for guest worker status and, eventually, citizenship. "I know this is an emotional debate," said Bush. "But one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we're talking about human beings, decent human beings that need to be treated with respect."

But Bush was shouted down by angry people carrying "Go back to Mexico!" signs. Their counter proposal? To somehow round up and bus an estimated 11 million people to the border, an idea that was to pragmatism and practicality as Lady Gaga is to modesty and restraint.

Similar thinking, if you want to call it that, is evident in the bill recently signed into law by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona...

Predictably, the new law has galvanized protesters around the country. Incredibly, one of the state's own congressmen, Democrat Raul Grijalva, has even called for a boycott. He told, "If state lawmakers don't realize or don't care how detrimental this will be, we need to make them understand somehow."

But if the willingness or ability to understand existed, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Bush's reasonable proposal would have long ago been the law of the land.

Unfortunately for him and for all of us, he was unable to surmount one of the least attractive traits of the American character. Meaning a preference for responding to complicated questions with simplistic answers. Meaning a distaste for any remedy that requires more patience than the average microwave or that cannot be explicated on the average bumper sticker. Meaning a bias toward the angry, emphatic response, a native suspicion of anything that acknowledges complexity, thereby indicating weakness of purpose or softness of heart.

Meaning, metaphorically speaking, a tendency to use the meat cleaver for vascular surgery.

From this impulse we get debacles like the three strikes law that once sent a man to prison for 25 to life after he stole a slice of pizza, or the zero tolerance rules that got a girl kicked out of school for bringing Midol to class.

Now that impulse gives us this: an open invitation to ethnic profiling, an embarrassment to American ideals, an arguable violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and foolish politics, besides. Or does anyone believe the GOP's pathway to power lies in offending the nation's largest minority?

You know something is haywire when a congressman campaigns against his own state. But Grijalva is right. Until this shameful law is rescinded, Arizona is a great place not to be.

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