Getting Real About Immigration

As someone born in the United States of America, I have a thought-provoking relationship with the topic of immigration.

Back in grade school, sometimes our conversations in American history courses would just barely veer towards the injustice of European settlers claiming this land as their own and using force to dominate the native tribes.

These conversations were short-lived back in grade school. We quickly ran into a limit to how far our hearts and minds were willing to probe the issue.

The dialogue would conclude with statements like, “What’s done is done,” “There’s nothing we can do to change the past,” and we rested on the laurels of what little the U.S. Government has done to assuage the cultural damage done to the Native American people.

That was decades ago.

In the time since then, I’ve noticed a major shift in how far American hearts and minds are willing to stretch in order to take the conversation further.

We’ve gotten bolder in our dialogue. We’ve become more resourceful and empathetic in our thinking, as the tides of social consciousness have permeated us from sea to shining sea.

The reason any of this is relevant to contemporary perception of immigration is because I’ve spent my whole life in a society that has contradicted itself in incredibly hypocritical ways. The core culprit in this hypocrisy has been exactly what I have already said: Americans have not, as a unified whole, been willing or able to look reality directly in the eye for long enough to meaningfully expand our perceptions and integrate new categories of cultural behavior.

Our current immigration policies, in short, spring from outdated ways of thinking.

What makes these ways of thinking obsolete, is that they are largely based on fear, denial, and guilt. Also, ethnocentrism, which is a short stone’s throw away from delusion.

Fear. Being afraid of others coming and driving us from our land, pillaging our resources, and ultimately overpowering us.

Why would we fear those things exactly? Simple: Because conquest is a hallmark of human history.

Oh, and because that is exactly what our ancestors did to those who were here before they were…

Henceforth, guilt.

Perhaps many of us do not experience that guilt directly, by jumping headfirst into denial.

We were born into a land of privilege and convenience. It’s easy to ignore the ugly aspects of the reality of how this privilege and convenience came about, because if we admit the truth, our birthright of this land of freedom may be tainted. Do we deserve our privileges?

In actuality, it is not a matter of what we deserve. That was a fallacious question. I was born into this country by accident- a biological process I had no say in. People born into less privileged parts of the world had no say in the starvation, violence, and cultural atrocities they face, either.

I do not inherently deserve my privilege to eat copiously any more or less than someone in Burundi deserves to starve to death.

This ties into ethnocentrism, which is the belief and cultural lifestyle that one’s own country of origin is superior to all others. It’s a type of national pride that drives an illusory wedge of separation between ourselves and other human beings all over the world.

Ethnocentrism is not a product of objective reality, because objectively, our nation and borders do not even exist. We made them up as part of the human story.

Ethnocentrism is a product of our stories. In America, we’re encouraged to love our country and to deeply and completely give ourselves over to its narrative.

Other countries perceive America differently than we perceive ourselves here, because they weave the narrative to suit their own perceptions.

As citizens of Planet Earth, our feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs about ourselves and one another are all born from the version of the human narrative that resonates most deeply, or the one that has been fed to us from the outset of our lives.

Since there can technically be as many narratives as there are life-forms, the meanings we extract from the human story cannot accurately be considered absolute or objectively reliable.

From a cynical perspective, our meanings could be considered downright delusional. The implication here is that, cynically speaking, everything about our human world, from nations and borders to currencies and institutions of all kinds, is a collective form of mass psychosis.

Alas I’ve spent enough time in my life being cynical, and that has not proven practical.

To be practical is to celebrate our human ability to craft narratives, share them, and live within them together.

A story that can be written, can be re-written. The re-write can include all of the warmth, depth, empathy, compassion, equity, and balance that may have been lacking in the previous draft.

Instead of seeing society as delusional and psychotic, it is much more fun and sane to see ourselves as amazingly powerful co-creative badasses.

And together, we can creatively reinvent our perception of immigration to make a human world that works for everyone and marginalizes no one.

Of course, there are a bevy of concerns to consider and solutions to implement, which we’ll address throughout the week.

Until then, here are some questions I’d love some feedback on:

1. Do you support the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico? Why or why not? If you do support this, then what problems do you believe the wall will solve?

2. Do you identify with your country of origin more or less than you identify as a human being? What are some of your thoughts on this?

3. As humans, are we inherently different depending on the geopolitical region we were born into?

4. Do you have any specific questions you’d like to see addressed on the topic of immigration this week?

To be continued on Tuesday, October 24.

Also published on Medium.