Appropriating Identity

Freud convinced us all that our identity is primarily sexual in nature.  Today we’re being programmed to believe our identity is also a matter of citizenship.

A man drowned in our city last week.  He was trying to rescue a young girl who was caught in a rip tide – a powerful current that can prevent people from making it back to shore.  The girl survived but the man in his 30’s did not.  Initial reports said the girl was his daughter.  Later reports claimed that it wasn’t.  It was a tragic situation no matter how you look at it.

But the local paper decided to look at it as a matter of citizenship, proclaiming in the headline that an ‘immigrant’ died trying to save the girl.

The article went on to talk about how the man had come to the US looking for a better life but now was dead.  Really?  This is going to be an immigration issue?

What is this supposed to make me feel?  Am I supposed to feel worse because this was an immigrant or better?  Is this supposed to make me more pro-immigration because this man accidentally died trying to save someone else, or more anti-immigration?  What is the point in turning the story this way at all?  We all know that our nation has plenty of immigrants past and present here.  That is part of our identity as a nation, part of our strength.  The issue isn’t whether or not we have immigrants or continue to have immigrants, but rather how those people arrive here and how they assimilate.  None of which has anything with a man trying to save a life and ending up dead in the process, and it’s a disgusting attempt to politicize a loss of life.

It’s further topped by my state’s ‘glorious’ march towards taking on the Federal government on immigration issues.  Our Senate passed a bill prohibiting local authorities from cooperating with Federal authorities on matters of immigration involving detained individuals.  Since the House is controlled by the same party, it will likely pass there as well before going on to the governor (of the same political party) for signature.

Ultimately, this isn’t going to help legal or illegal immigrants in our state.  It certainly isn’t going to help immigrants gain citizenship.  It’s going to hurt pretty much everyone – even our illustrious leaders.  I hope that the Federal government makes good on threats to cut Federal funding to cities and states that openly flaunt Federal law.  I hope that the cut-off of funding is painful and teaches some important lessons and not simply the idea that you should do what the Federal government tells you.

First of all, I hope it demonstrates the futility and stupidity of simply refusing to obey the law – or demand that the law not be enforced – rather than changing the laws.  The Civil Rights movement was powerful because it challenged the law and sought to change it.  People suffered the consequences of civil disobedience in order to show that the law was wrong and needed to be changed.  But to simply ignore the law and insist that nobody enforce the law?  What does that accomplish?  What victory does that gain?

Secondly, I hope it is a wake up call to people that we rely for a lot of things on the Federal government.  I may not personally think that’s a good idea but it’s a reality.  And states either need to insist on greater autonomy and figure out ways to fund it, or quit whining and complaining and fighting against the Federal government on one hand while putting their other hand out all the time for subsidies, loans, and other forms of support.  The idea that we should get the things we want without having to play by the rules is dangerously endemic in our society at the moment – at least in certain quarters.  It is equally dangerous for our political leaders to have this mindset, for the average citizen to, and for those who come here intent on living illegally.

But before any of this happens, a lot of people are going to suffer.  People who rely on programs funded in part by the Federal government.  We’re going to be told by our political leadership that this is because Trump is a mean President who is intent on causing harm.  But that’s a lie.  The truth is that it’s happening because our political leadership isn’t willing to actually do their jobs to come up with an immigration policy that works for those who wish to abide by it, and politely but firmly tells those who refuse to abide by it to leave.  Like every other country in the world does at some level or another.

Coming up with laws that work is a good situation.  Passing resolutions defying the law of the land is ultimately a cowardly cop-out for the harder work of actually sorting through and solving problems.




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