Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why do I do it?

Why do I defend the supporters, if not always the organizers, of things like the Tea Parties or the Arizona immigration law from charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, or all the other "isms" that get thrown around in UU blogs? Why did I speak up before the Presidential election against UU bloggers who said candidate Obama's poll numbers proved how racist America is?*

To begin with, it's simply not true. Tens- depending on the issue, hundreds- of millions of Americans are not "ists" who base all their decisions on "isms". That's a problem with calling our position on everything "Standing On The Side Of Love"- sometimes we come to really believe that those not standing with us are all haters. It seems to me that some UUs, despite all our vaunted reason, understanding, and tolerance are simply incapable of believing that anyone could genuinely care for people and still come to a different position than ours.

Secondly, it's counterproductive on many, many levels. To begin with, when you call someone an "ist" of any kind, you've just written them off in your mind. After all, "isms" are irrational, and irrational people cannot be convinced by rational argument. If you've been doing this, I give you the words of Benjamin Franklin from 1776: "These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, they are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about - they are proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. And whether you like them or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation that YOU hope to create. Now, either learn how to live with them, or pack up and go home! In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife."

And, of course, they will write you off as well. You just deeply insulted them; they can here the contempt in your voice. They know that you, too, are incapable of being moved by their arguments, so why should they bother to enter a dialogue with you? For example, last night Mayor Bloomberg of New York speculated on the nature of the terrorist who planted the car bomb in Times Square: "Home-grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." How do you think NY attendees of Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings who opposed the Healthcare reform bill felt, knowing that's how he sees them? What do you think the odds are that they'll ever listen to another word he says on the subject?

And, of course, if you assume irrational motivations for all your opposition, you won't even try to understand their actual motivations, their real fears. And since you don't understand what they really want, you'll miss all opportunities to find a genuine compromise, or an outside of the box answer. If, for example, you're convinced that all those against the "living wage" proposal are just a capitalist pigs operating on the "I got mine, Jack!" principle, you'll miss opportunities to get their cooperation on other assistance programs that don't trigger their fears of economic backlash.

And lastly, it's just plain unseemly. We're religious bloggers. We're supposed to be the good guys. If we can't discuss an issue without demonizing the opposition, who can? If UU bloggers- including ministers and religious professionals- cannot write with compassion, cannot display any faith in their fellow man, what does that tell the world about UU itself?
 
*To this day, I cannot understand how polling better before the election than any other candidate of his party since Roosevelt, and getting the highest first-term landslide in a century is evidence of racism. OK, technically, LBJ got a higher vote, but I don't think that counts as he was a sitting president, even though not elected.

26 comments:

boston unitarian said...

Hello,
I think you raise some very valid points. Many thanks and
Blessings, BU
ps. I recently blogged some words by A.P. Peabody that I think may apply...http://bostonunitarian.blogspot.com/2010/04/most-persuasive-argument.html

Red Sphynx said...

Hear, hear!

Bill Baar said...

Read John Steel Gordon's Obama and the Liberal Paradigm

Thus the liberal paradigm divides the American body politic into sheep, wolves, and would-be shepherds. The shepherds must defeat the efforts of the wolves.

UU Societies filled with outspoken would-be shepherds fighting off wolves. They talk-and-talk without a thought anyone at Church could disagree, and the politcal Conservaitves seldom say much 'cause that's not what Church is about for us.

Gordon again,

Not only does the liberal paradigm not even come close to agreeing with the social and economic reality on the ground today, worse, it has largely congealed into a political religion, especially in the nearly 30 years since Ronald Reagan shifted the nation's political center of gravity, just as FDR had done 48 years earlier. Since liberals care about the sheep, all who disagree with liberalism must not, making them morally inferior if not downright immoral. Thus the nastiness in American politics is largely on the left. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, her treatment in the liberal press was ugliness personified.

The conservatives of today bear little resemblance to those of the 1930s that cartoonist Peter Arno immortalized heading down to Manhattan's Trans-Lux theater to hiss newsreels of FDR. They are instead abubble with ideas to reform aspects of American politics and economics that badly need reform, such as the tax and legal systems, and the impending entitlements crisis. They want to utilize the great power of markets to force efficiency, drive down costs, and drive up yields. But liberals refuse to engage those ideas, simply because they are not liberal ideas and must, therefore, be wrong if not the latest plot by the wolves to exploit the sheep.

But in a world where a majority of Americans work at white-collar jobs, have high-school and college degrees, own their own homes, and hold financial securities in their own right, the so-called wolves are now a majority. If liberals don't begin to take that fact into account in formulating policy, the Obama administration will not only be an unsuccessful liberal administration, it may well be the last liberal administration.


So when I go to a fund raiser for my GOP Tea Party backed candidate for Congress (a GOP reformer who beat the Hastert backed candidate in the primary... that's what the Tea Pary is doing...refreshing the GOP) and bump into a friend from Church --gosh, I had on idea!-- I realize there are plenty of UUs not buying into the paradigm. That moment wasn't a Neapolitano-one-off event. It happens to me often enough.

We Political Consevatives in UU Churches don't have to shatter the older order. It's imploding of it's own accord... whether anything will arise to replace it in UUism, I don't know... but without new thinking, we're on the fast track to History's ash can. Obama's election not bringing a wave of old-stlye Liberal members...

...we better build a UUism where a small-government, libertarian, Tea Partier will feel as comfortable as anyone else knowing, as my Church covenant goes, we gather ...not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after truth and goodness.

I'm not particularly optimisitc, but who knows.

Joel Monka said...

BU- an excellent quote, and very pertinent to this discussion.

Bill- Yes, the Tea Parties are refreshing the Republican Party; in today's Primary elections here in Indiana, we have one open Senate seat and nine Representatives- and 55 Republican candidates for those offices! Personally, though, I wish all that effort was going into third parties, like the Libertarians. If Republicans win, the RNC isn't going to adopt Libertarian ideals just because they got all those votes, or at least they never have in the past. Casting the same old vote will only get you the same old thing.

As to whether the UUA is getting more welcoming of political conservatives, all I can say is that at least the two I attend here in Indianapolis are less openly insulting, which is actually quite astonishing considering from where they started. I wouldn't have believed it ten years ago, but I can imagine a day when a conservative will be welcomed.

Chalicechick said...

Welcomed as a Conservative, like "Hey, I hear you want to lower the capital gains tax and I think that's awesome," no. But if it helps, when I first started going to my current church, I was still a fundraiser for Republican congressmen. I made no secret about it and got minimal guff for it.

FWIW, I don't think that the Arizonans who favor this bill are all racists. I mostly think they are scared. But fear seems to turn in to racism pretty easily and I think fearful intentions can have racist effects. No matter the intentions of this law, I think anyone who says that citizens with dark skin aren't going to suffer more harassment because of it are kidding themselves.

I think the politicians who are creating these laws and playing up those fears don't have racism as their main goal. As Arizona and America-after-9-11 have illustrated, fearful people line up to turn in their civil liberties and make their leaders more powerful.

That said, no matter the intentions of people, I don't think we can let them off the hook completely from the racist upshot of what they are doing.

CC

Chalicechick said...

Oh, and I was completely on your side on the "Obama's only leading in the polls by a little = white privilege" fight. I really thought that was wrong.

I think saying that this law is going to have a racist upshot is a lot less wrong.

CC

Joel Monka said...

CC- to take your points out of order...

Yes, you've always understood these points, and your writing has reflected it since the forum days before your blog, and no doubt before that, except I haven't seen it. It's no wonder you're quoted so often. These posts haven't been aimed at you, they've been aimed at UU bloggers who use words like racist, fascist, dictatorship, etc. The kind who, when their opponent makes arguments A., B., and C., simply cry "Racist!" and think they have actually refuted the arguments.

Yes, there is bound to be a disparate impact on Hispanics. If most of the country's drugs, drug gangs, and drug violence entered through Canada, and most of that through a single state, then there would be a disparate impact in that state on people whose sentences sound like questions, Eh? If they came from Sweden, there'd be sidelong glances at tall blondes.

"As Arizona and America-after-9-11 have illustrated, fearful people line up to turn in their civil liberties and make their leaders more powerful." Which civil liberties are being turned in in this case? Resident aliens have been required by federal law to carry their ID on them for nearly seventy years now. The new law in fact is less onerous than the federal law; it accepts drivers licenses as sufficient. If the letter of the law is obeyed by the police, (assuming, of course, that the law is held to be constitutional, which I doubt it will be), what has changed? If they don't, then a lot of lawyers will get rich. Will some officers violate peoples' civil rights? Yes- pigs will be pigs; I have a scar on the inside of my lower lip a pig gave me in 1974. But do you really think that the minority of police who act like pigs really need this new law to act like pigs? Don't you imagine they're acting like pigs right now?

Bill Baar said...

FWIW...the folks fleeing Mexico are scared too.

The place is falling into civil war. That's the larger issue media and Congress are ignoring, and the cynic in me says that's racist of a sorts i.e. deep American parochialism.

Read Antonio Weiss in the Guardian: Beyond Mexico's war on drugs

Look through the news stories coming out of the western press on Mexico and it is hard not to get the impression that this is a country ravaged by drug wars; where violence, narcotics, and corruption permeate every aspect of life. However, the media's focus on these regrettable problems has masked one of the great cultural schisms to occur in Latin America's recent history – the divisions between the increasingly socially liberal Mexico City and the rest of the more conservative country.

So we have a Civil War emerging between left and right (at least per Weiss) with the attending social dislocations and growing violence and nary a UU can figure out to hook up what's happening south of us with the migrations north.

Like Mexicans don't con't for much unless they've come north at great risk, in which case they become sheep worthy of shepards to defend them against anglo-wolfs. The only frame too many UUs can view Mexicans. Not as citizens of a country undergoing their own transformation for which we may well be stuck intervening if it gets really bad.

Chalicechick said...

Bill,

Rather than not being able to figure out that conditions in Mexico are driving Mexicans to take the risk of coming up here, my impression is that most liberals take that as a given. Your article is from a liberal British newspaper. Even I've written about it before, but it is a point that I think is sufficiently well-known and obvious that I don't bother to talk about it every time. It is conservatives who are always talking (or hinting in the case of politicians) about mexicans coming up here to commit crimtes.

Joel,

As I wrote last week, the police did not used to be able to treat a Terry stop (which is a stop when a crime is suspected but the officer can't prove anything illegal has happened at the time of the stop) as a formal interrogation. The police can now stop people on the flimsiest of pretexts and demand their ID, Soviet-style. This is a big change.

Federal Law does allow the border patrol to set up checkpoints certain places, but the border patrol generally only sets them up fairly close to the border and from what I hear is pretty scrupulous about checking every fifth car if they say they're going to, not just checking people who look poor, Mexican, or both. Also, the BP doesn't reqire passports at inland checkpoints, they also accept drivers licenses from US citizens.

It can't even be justly said that "Most" of the country's drugs and drug violence is coming through Mexico. I certainly understand that people are told that is the case, but given that most types of Heroin come from Asia; LSD, PCP, GHB, meth and increasingly pot are homegrown; a fifth of the US's ecstasty comes from the UK but a lot of it is also made in the US; and pretty much everywhere in the world grows pot, I don't think it is accurate.

Some drugs do some out of Mexico. Also, Columbia leads the world in Cocaine production and I do assume lots of that comes in through Mexico. ((Though lots more of it is snuck in on international flights, snuck through Canada (which also growsn lots of pot) snuck through on cargo ships, etc, etc.) But so many drugs come out of so many places, including the US itself, that I'd say claims about "most drugs" are more bias and fear mongering.

If you don't think yelling "fascist"* should go without response, I don't think repeating the same lies and exaggerations unexamined should go without response.

CC

*Item: After reading that this post was "aimed at UU bloggers who use words like racist, fascist, dictatorship, etc" I went looking for those blogs you're talking about. When I googled "UUA Arizona Fascist" (without the quotes) the only UU blog I got was yours. You also get the UUA website with someone growing up when Franco's Fascist government ruled Spain. But I don't think that counts.

Indeed the most relevant post I turned up googling "Unitarian Arizona fascist" was this one. Where "fascist" is in a quotation from Umberto Eco, who is Italian. I guess he should know.

Looking for "Unitarian Arizona racist" brought forth another post fromt he same guy who seems to take the same sort of complex view that you and I do.

The other UU blog post that comes up in the first ten when I google that set of words? This one.

So where are these posts you're responding to? I'd like to read them but I can't find them.

Joel Monka said...

CC: taking your last point first- without a search, just from what I have in my notes, more of such comments came from the UU Facebook than blogs, like "To me, this smacks of Nazi Germany, having police question citizens based on their skin tone and forcing people to carry their papers everywhere. Of course it's racism... Yes, 'Your papers please' is Nazi-like... I hope we can find a way to not legalize racism." Amongst bloggers, my notes only have "The law is racist. I find it hard to get around that simple fact.", a comment from Rev. Cyn.'s blog, (She opens the post by saying she won't say 'Nazi', but then goes on to quote the 'First they came for...' poem, which is kind of like saying, "I won't use the 'duck' word, but you waddle and quack.") and Monkey Mind, which takes a balanced view, but does say, "And, hopefully, also unconstitutional as it seems inescapably racist." So it's probable that I was conflating reaction to this issue with many others in my mind- but then, this post isn't only about the immigration comments, but a general practice.

As to the amount of drugs and crime in Arizona, there seems to be a lot of conflicting information even from official sources and reputable news organizations. I took my information not from politicians but from articles like this one from the LA Times: "It was Phoenix, after all: More ransom kidnappings happen here than in any other town in America, according to local and federal law enforcement authorities... But police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported." Adding the reported and unreported makes three kidnappings every single day; that sounds like a lot of serious crime to me.

Maybe crime is going down, but that's not what the police there are saying. From the NY Times: "“The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here." The DEA says, "Arizona is directly north of the Mexican State of Sonora, a major trafficker stronghold which has experienced a significant increase in violence associated with drug smuggling over the past year." I don't know why there would be a disagreement between the FBI and the local police about whether crime is increasing in Arizona, but the DEA agrees with the police.

(continued)

Joel Monka said...

(continuing)
"It can't even be justly said that "Most" of the country's drugs and drug violence is coming through Mexico. I certainly understand that people are told that is the case, but given that most types of Heroin come from Asia;..." Again, from the DEA, "Over the past decade, the United States has experienced a dramatic shift in the heroin market from the domination of Southeast Asian heroin to a dominance of the wholesale and retail markets by South American heroin,... Indicative of larger shipments of Mexican heroin being smuggled into the United States are several seizures that occurred in the Southwest in recent years... In October 2000, 46 kilograms of black tar heroin were seized in Arizona at the San Luis port of entry. This seizure ranks as one of the largest ever made along the Southwest border."

"...LSD, PCP, GHB, meth and increasingly pot are homegrown;..."

"Mexican-produced methamphetamine is the most predominant type encountered in the state and is frequently smuggled across the Southwest Border (SWB) where it transits through Arizona. Arizona serves as a major distribution hub, staging area, and transshipment point for Mexican methamphetamine smuggled across the SWB destined for domestic cities throughout the U.S., specifically Midwest cities. The locally produced methamphetamine originates from independently owned and operated laboratories that are responsible for yielding small quantities for local consumption. The Arizona nexus to these areas is an indicator that the Mexican methamphetamine sources of supply are based in Arizona and responsible for supplying trafficking groups throughout the U.S."

"...LSD, PCP, GHB, meth and increasingly pot are homegrown;..."

"Marijuana smuggled into the United States, whether grown in Mexico or transshipped from other Latin American source areas, accounts for most of the marijuana available in the United States. Marijuana produced in Mexico remains the most widely available."

"...a fifth of the US's ecstasty comes from the UK but a lot of it is also made in the US;..."

"Another emerging trend is the use of Mexico as a transit zone for MDMA entering the United States."

"((Though lots more of it is snuck in on international flights, snuck through Canada (which also growsn lots of pot) snuck through on cargo ships, etc, etc.)"

"The U.S./Mexico border is the primary point of entry for cocaine shipments being smuggled into the United States. According to a recent interagency intelligence assessment, approximately 65 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States crosses the Southwest border...The Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas are major transshipment points for cocaine distribution from Arizona throughout the United States. Cocaine is shipped from Colombia by air, land and sea to controlled regions in Mexico, where it is then transported to staging areas near the Arizona/Mexico border... Traffickers utilize the vast irregular terrain of southern Arizona and lack of adequate border surveillance by law enforcement in this area to their advantage in the movement of cocaine to staging areas."

If I was repeating lies, exaggerations, and fear mongering, I got them from law enforcement.

Chalicechick said...

As for what people actually, wrote:

--I don't think comparisons to other regimes, though I usually say "Soviet," where everybody, citizens included, had to carry ID and be prepared for at all times police questioning, whether or not they had done anything wrong, are particularly unreasonable. This is not a case of "this politician is doing something I don't like, so I'm going to call him a Nazi," this is a pretty specific comparison of policies with a focus on criticism of the policy.

--I do object to people calling supporters of the law "racist." I don't particularly object to calling the law itself racist, because, again, I think it is navoidable that it will have a racist upshot. Both articles you cited featured only people calling the law racist.

(((when their opponent makes arguments A., B., and C., simply cry "Racist!" and think they have actually refuted the arguments.)))

Having read both Rev Cyn and Monkey Mind's blog posts, I'm shocked that you really thought that's what they were doing. Monkey Mind's post is thoughtful and to my mind addresses addresses some of A,B,C as far as Arizona is concerned. He just deniest that A, B, C is a problem in Rhode Island and says that laws to control/prevent A, B, C aren't necessary there. RevCyn's was written more quickly and seems to take a "If Racism is in the solution, no matter the problems, we need to find a different solution" stance.

So, again, where are these people: "These posts haven't been aimed at you, they've been aimed at UU bloggers who use words like racist, fascist, dictatorship, etc. The kind who, when their opponent makes arguments A., B., and C., simply cry "Racist!" and think they have actually refuted the arguments."

I get that some drugs come from Mexico, and had already said that, but I'm not sure where you're getting "most" though. I will concede that "most" cocaine comes through Mexico. It's too bad that the DEA's efforts in Mexico, are proving so ineffective, but I'm fairly cynical about the drug war

I like the FBI statistics because they are presented AS statistics, not as part of an article trying to make a larger point and using statistics to justify it. In theory, that doesn't make them any more reliable, but I find them more trustworthy for this reason.

CC

Joel Monka said...

"...Monkey Mind's post is thoughtful..." I said about Monkey Mind, "...and Monkey Mind, which takes a balanced view,...", and of Rev. Cyn's, "...She opens the post by saying she won't say 'Nazi',..." I also said "So it's probable that I was conflating reaction to this issue with many others in my mind- but then, this post isn't only about the immigration comments, but a general practice." In the first paragraph of the post I had mentioned the presidential race, which was one of the first two things I had thinking of when I said, "The kind who, when their opponent makes arguments A., B., and C., simply cry "Racist!" and think they have actually refuted the arguments." I was thinking of being told that the argument that Senator Obama was doing better in the polls than any other Democratic candidate in modern history was "not logical"- it was still racism, regardless. Or in a different blog, Governor Palin being chosen was proof of "white privilege", and my pointing out that nobody said that about Howard Dean, and Palin had more political experience, had been elected to more offices, and ran a more populous state with a higher budget wasn't considered a serious argument. There were other past instances of racism and sexism claims I was thinking of, too- the post was inspired by the Arizona debate, but not limited to it, and had said so in the beginning.

"I get that some drugs come from Mexico, and had already said that, but I'm not sure where you're getting "most" though. I will concede that "most" cocaine comes through Mexico."

Ok, Most cocaine. On Marijuana, I quoted the DEA saying, "Marijuana smuggled into the United States, whether grown in Mexico or transshipped from other Latin American source areas, accounts for most of the marijuana available in the United States. Marijuana produced in Mexico remains the most widely available." There's the word "most". On meth, combine the quotes above concerning the nationwide distribution of Mexican meth with "Clandestine laboratories in California and Mexico are the primary sources of supply for methamphetamine available in the United States." "Primary source" sounds a little like "most". Those three drugs alone are most of the illegal drug problem in the United States, by any measure- number of users, amount of money spent, number of arrests. The biggest of the second tier drugs is heroin- and the quotes above use the phrase, "...a dominance of the wholesale and retail markets by South American heroin..." which is now largely being imported through Mexico, and distributed within the US by Mexican polydrug dealers. And while most ecstasy is manufactured in Europe, a large amount of the actual smuggling is now transshipped through Mexico. That's where I'm getting "most" from. Perhaps the DEA figures are wrong, and perhaps I'm misinterpreting their use of "most", but I don't think the evidence against those figures and that interpretation is so clear-cut as to amount to repeating lies, exaggerations, and fear mongering.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Interesting to read you discussing me here.

Certainly, I have learned that if I say, "I'm not saying Nazi," people hear, "She's saying Nazi." That and that the Niemoller poem cannot be heard in any other context than Nazism by some people, even if you're saying, "I'm not using it for the Nazi context, but rather for it's underlying meaning." No, I wasn't saying it waddled and quacked like a duck, honestly. But apparently you can't use a poem about a duck to talk about something else other than a duck, even if you declare that's why you're using it.

It's difficult for me, because I do try to reserve the word "Nazi" for, well, Nazis. But, at the same time, I have a lot of background in the literature of the Holocaust, so sometimes the examples of that literature are what spring to mind for everything from the beauty of a butterfly to, well, immigration laws, even when the situation is not analogous to Holocaust.

Bill Baar said...

I have a background with survivors of the Shoah. I would feel uncomfortable making this analogy in front of them if they were still with me.

Joel Monka said...

Cynthia, you accidentally swerved into a classic rhetorical technique- accusing someone of something by defending them of it. The method- and it's actually taught this way in some political circles- goes like this: "I wouldn't call him a duck; I reserve that word for waterfowl. "That being said... " then you go on to describe him in exaggerated terms that sound duck-like, and end with a quote on ducks. From that moment on, he will be inextricably linked to ducks in everyone's mind, while you can deny you ever said so."

As that was not your intent, it would have been better not to exaggerate what the law says, nor close with a poem about Nazis; not everyone will understand that you have an interest in the subject. There are a lot of quotes you could have illustrated your point with; two leap immediately to mind: “Justice will be served only when those who are not injured by crime feel as indignant as those who are.” –Solon. "Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it to me"- Matthew, I've forgotten what number.

Elz said...

Thanks to all for a thoughtful thread on an important way we stay small. I often represent our religious community as a theological community with, at one extreme, the trinitarian Universalists who see everyone as saved -- through the healing, loving self-sacrifice of Jesus -- and at the other end, the radical Unitarians who share Emerson's belief that immoral acts can accumulate greatly enough to send someone to hell, not through a divine decision, but simply through the natural momentum of a rolling, gathering force.

In the vast middle, I like to think, are the selective, situational reflectors, dicussers, like those in this thread today.

And BTW, if I might mention a pet peeve of Latin Americans -- they HATE being lumped in as "Mexicans" -- they come from many countries, often with a history of warfare against each other -- and they'd be happy to tell you exactly which enemy you REALLY are looking for in many cases.

Joel Monka said...

Thanks, Elz. You're right about that pet peeve; I've heard similar sentiments from Native Americans when people speak of what "the Indians" believed or did- there were more than 500 Native nations, with as much variety as Europe.

People on both sides of the discussion often assume they know what a Central or South American looks like, too, which belies the diversity of the Americas. Not everyone from south of the US border has Spanish, Indigenous, or a mix of those heritages. There is considerable African heritage, as well as northern European, especially French and German. There is also a significant number with Asian heritage, particularly Korean, Chinese, and Japanese- Peru had a Japanese President. You can't even assume they're Spanish speakers- the largest country in South America has Portuguese as the official language.

ogre said...

"Yes, there is bound to be a disparate impact on Hispanics."

In that case, there is a problem.

The concern about drug smuggling does not legitimize viewing every individual who "looks" Latino (or at least not like a good, white Arizonan) as a possible non-citizen.

Bereft of a national ID law (which, last I checked, most Americans (conservative and not) vociferously oppose), there is only a very small class of things that a police officer can ask for when he stops someone on the freeway for any typical traffic stop. Those would be driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof on current insurance.

The presumption is innocence, particularly before one's even been charged. Until there is some meaningful evidence, on what basis does a police officer ask for proof of citizenship? Skin color. Features. Accent. None of those are reliable.

(Seriously, proof of citizenship? Carry your birth certificate everywhere you go in AZ--and be sure that it's not a certificate of live birth from HI, because that means you're a Kenyan...)

Indeed, they grossly impose on members of a class who are citizens. Given that the class pursued by the law is *not* the drug smugglers (who are talked about as the stalking horse for the law) but simply non-citizens, the level of crime which is of concern is simply not of a grade that warrants such an imposition on people who happen to "look like" people who are in the country illegally. The class objected to is less likely, from all substantive sources, to be engaged in criminal activities than citizens.

If drug violence is the real concern, then a law targeting the issues of drug violence would make sense.

This law doesn't.

Living, as I do, south of a permanent Border Patrol station on I-5, and looking Northern European, I can tell you that I can think of precisely once that I've been stopped long enough for anyone to do anything more than look at me and the others in the car--in well over a decade of driving through it. 99.99% of the time, I drive up, someone glances, and waves me through. But I see people who have suspect skin color and features stopped for a conversation all the time. It's what Latino (citizen) friends report, too. Funny how they're in almost every 5th car.

The law is racist in effect and in application--and it's predictably so. It's not an accident. Given the other laws being considered and passed (or nearly so) at the same time, in AZ, it's pretty clear...

AWAC said...

I appreciated your comments. Refreshing with all the knee-jerk reactions occuring lately in the UU world.

Doug Traversa

Bill Baar said...

Ogre, the law has stiff penalties for employers who don't verify citzenship or legal status when hiring... so what's the difference asking the Police to do the same given the guidelines in the law?

Directed towards Hispanics, well, you else would fit down in Arizona? I don't know the state that well, but I know a similar law would yield plenty of Asians, East Europeans, and Irish here in Chicago.

Maybe I've set it on this thread before, but I'd favor opening up the US to anyone with a job offer. The Free movement of Labor, Capital, Goods, and Services...maybe starting with all the CAFTA NAFTA signing Nations (Guatamalians freely working in Mexico... see wht the Mex Gov thinks of that!)

Obama's BELIEVE! card by the way has recieved no notice among UU bloggers.... the ACLU's concerned about it... given all the past hoopla on the UU blogosphere on civil liberities issues, the silence is strange.... Obama getting a pass?

Joel Monka said...

"Those would be driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof on current insurance."

Which is all this law calls for. The law specifically states that a drivers license satisfies the ID requirement; it does not require that you carry proof of citizenship, and if you're holding a drivers license, the officer cannot legally inquire further on such a stop. That's why I had posted a link to the law.

I'm not arguing that this is a good law. I stated from the first sentence of the first post that the law is unconstitutional- I stated it three times in the first two posts alone, not counting comments elsewhere. That is not and was not the point of these posts.

My intent in the first post was to defend the 70% of the people of Arizona who support the law from charges of racism. As I said before, since only 58% of Arizona is non-Hispanic white, to hit 70% support on the basis of racism, you'd have to have a lot of self-hating Hispanics, too.

The point about the drivers license is pertinent because 70% of Arizonans feel that as everyone has to show their license on a traffic stop, the law is not racist. The average Joe or Jane expects to be asked for ID if they're arrested in any circumstance, and therefore do not feel it's racist. That's why 70% of Arizona supports it.

Will police abuse their power? Yes, I said so in the comments above. In fact, I expect the courts, even assuming this law is found constitutional, (which as I said repeatedly, I don't believe will happen) will inform Arizona that illegal aliens have rights, too, as New York just found out

ogre said...

A driver's license suffices *if* it's an AZ license. That's because AZ requires proof of citizenship/legal status for a license.

But for the many states that don't... those licenses don't suffice.

I am permitted to drive anywhere in the USA because I have a DL and because all states have to recognize the DLs of other states. Every state requires registration and insurance. We all have to have those things in vehicles which we are legally operating.

And that's it.

The state -- no state -- has the right to insist that I carry evidence of my being a citizen with me (at all times) or risk being hauled "downtown" because a cop thinks I "appear" suspicious.

It's not a question of who'd be swept up in IL. There's no such law there. There is in AZ. The impact is onerous, particularly on Latinos and Native Americans. Given that significant populations in those areas have been there since *long* before the (mostly) white cops who will be asking after their citizenship... that's just obnoxious.

I do believe that there's a racist and nativist impulse behind the law--the information about the AZ Senate's leader following Stormfront on Twitter, the information on the help formulating this law. The law is racist, and its impact is racist.

That doesn't mean that the only people supporting it are racists. Some are. Some are simply scared shitless; they've been fed a load of dingoes' kidneys about an invasion of evil, murderous drug smugglers who want their water, women, jobs... and that this flood of people is huge and growing (not shrinking) as well as a pool of criminality.

Terrified people aren't rational. Scared people aren't. People who are stressed (and there are legitimate reasons to be in the current world...) who are fed a lot of crap about things to be afraid of... are going to support bad--even evil, racist, malicious--legislation if they're informed that it will be good for them.

THAT lesson was proven in the Wiemar Republic, among others.

Since I'm taking a heavy class-load and have a raft of other obligations and commitments (church, family, other)... I've no idea what BELIEVE! is. But then, I have no illusion that I'm perfectly informed about everything.

Joel Monka said...

Bill was referring to a plan unveiled a week ago by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), "The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal."
Read more here

Bill Baar said...

A cop anywhere can haul you in because her or she thinks you "appear" suspicious.... If your in a Federal building or airport there are signs asking the public to report you if "appear" suspicious. They're praising the vendor in NYC because he called a cop on something suspicious.

Bill Baar said...

PS On ID cards...watch Don Berwick's confirmation testimony...he's a big believer in nat id cards with our med records embedded in them.

This is coming if the guys I know have their way. Appeals to the geek in me, but I understand the fears.