You’re Angry at the Wrong People

It’s very common for xenophobic people to say something like, “Illegals are taking are jobs.” They don’t care if it’s true or not because truth is not the primary aim of the xenophobe or the racist. Their primary aim is to get people angry at undocumented immigrants and then let the hate do the heavy lifting. Lately, the same people that say things like these are also saying that the economy is so much better now than during the Obama Administration, with low unemployment and higher consumer confidence.

So, which is it? Either “illegals” are taking jobs, or there are more jobs than ever. Again, honesty and critical thinking are not the goals of those who would vilify and entire group of people for political gain. It’s a tried and true political maneuver by those without vision to find scapegoats and to play on the fears of the people.

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When you dig into the facts of undocumented immigrants and jobs, you find that the overwhelming majority of jobs done by undocumented immigrants are jobs that sit idle without them. According to the Brookings Institute:

“According to a comprehensive National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analysis, immigration does not significantly impact the overall employment levels of most native–born workers. The impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native–born workers is also low. Immigrant labor does have some negative effects on the employment and wages of native–born high school dropouts, however, and also on prior immigrants, because all three groups compete for low–skilled jobs and the newest immigrants are often willing to work for less than their competition. To a large extent, however, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back–breaking jobs that native–born workers are not willing to do. Sectors with large numbers of undocumented workers include agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality services, and seafood processing. The fish–cutting industry, for example, is unable to recruit a sufficient number of legal workers and therefore is overwhelmingly dependent on an undocumented workforce. Skinning, deboning, and cutting fish is a smelly, slimy, grimy, chilly, monotonous, and exacting job. Many workers rapidly develop carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be a dangerous job, with machinery for cutting off fish heads and deboning knives everywhere frequently leading to amputated fingers. The risk of infections from cuts and the bloody water used to wash fish is also substantial. Over the past ten years, multiple exposés have revealed that both in the United States and abroad, workers in the fishing and seafood processing industries, often undocumented in other countries also, are subjected to forced labor conditions, and sometimes treated like slaves.”

So I guess Trump wants to bring back slavery? Kind of? Yes?

What is really happening here is that you — my most conservative of friends — are angry at the wrong people. You’re angry at Juan and Ramón for traveling hundreds of miles under the most horrifying of conditions and getting a job as a slave instead of being angry at the fat, happy and rich dudes at the top of the financial food chain who play fast and loose with other people’s money. It was neither Juan nor Ramón, nor Juanita, who sold sub-prime loans to people with very bad credit to the point of crashing the economy in 2008. None of them had any say in Walmart recently firing hundreds and closing down stores all over the place.

Speaking of which, did you notice that the president congratulated himself for Walmart giving out bonuses under the guise that the recent tax plan allowed them to do so, but said nothing about Walmart continuing to sell a ton of stuff from not-America? Weird, huh?

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Yeah, okay. Not selling American is Walmart’s least of its problems.

Nah, man… You’re angry at the wrong people. Congress had a chance to fix immigration back during the Bush Administration, but they didn’t because they couldn’t come to terms on their differences and do something good for the country. Even after the Republican President had asked Congress to fix immigration, and the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the Housethey still couldn’t get it done. So here we are, ten years later, dealing with immigration again. But, yeah, get angry at Pedro and María and little Carlito.

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No, don’t get angry with Carlito.

And I’m also looking at you, my most liberal of friends. You’re all angry at Trump and his supporters, and you can’t fathom how people voted for him to get him elected. But you ignore the decades that people in the Rust Belt and Appalachia were ignored and even laughed at for wanting something to be done about their declining situation. “Those hillbillies,” you seemed to say. “Look at them not using their white privilege.”

“But, Ren, didn’t you also not fathom how people could possibly vote for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions?” you ask.

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And, like a big boy, I’ll admit that I was angry at the wrong people. Instead of being angry at the previous administration and the many different state administrations that misappropriated the funds during the recovery so that not everyone benefited, I was angry at people who, understandably, voted for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions. If you really think about it, the economic downturn and the recovery was the perfect opportunity for the Democrats to finish off the insurgency within the Republican Party and show that the Tea Party offshoot cult, er, branch of the Republican Party were really all nuts. Obama and friends and friends could have tried to pass legislation to benefit the poor and disadvantaged Americans who would eventually vote for Trump. Even if the Tea Partiers blocked such efforts, Hillary and friends and friends could have pointed to such efforts in 2016 and asked for more help in helping others.

But no. The economic recovery ended up leaving a ton of people behind, and they were not going to buy what any Democratic candidate was selling given how Obama didn’t work so well for them. Then you had Hillary Clinton, who wouldn’t let Trump hoist himself by his own petard, make one elitist misstep after another. However, in doing so, we got what can very well turn out to be the most ineffective and embarrassing president in history.

I mean, you know it’s bad when Trump makes you miss Bush 43, a president who took us into Iraq under false pretenses.

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Okay.

What the adults in the country need to do is to sit down and think hard about who — or what — is really at fault for “what is wrong with America.” Is it Hector and Esteban who traveled hundreds of miles at great peril to be treated as slaves? Is it gay and lesbian Americans who ask that they be treated as equals and not as lepers because of whom they happen to be attracted to? Is it Black Americans who ask that their people not be summarily executed by police during not-so-random traffic stops?

Or is it super-wealthy business executives who pay through the nose so that favorable legislation gets passed for them? Is it the college coach who gets paid millions while so many young men and women cannot afford higher education? Is it the drug dealer who sells opiates and other life-ending drugs to the most vulnerable? Or is it the “association” that fights hard for the rights of guns to be unsafe while mass shootings kill children and suicides pile up?

It’s okay to be angry, but it’s better to be angry at the right people.

“How to deal with road rage”

I don’t know if I’ve told this story before, but here it goes… A few years ago, when I was driving down to DC for classes almost every day, I decided to pull into a fast food place and grab lunch. I was a little rushed because I wanted to get to school early and do some readings before class. I pulled into the drive thru lane without seeing that a man in an SUV was trying to get there as well. I honestly didn’t see him,

The man started yelling at me. He used a lot of foul language. He even threatened to get off his vehicle and come after me. I tried to ignore him, but he kept honking his horn as I tried to put in my order. I ordered a combo meal and a slice of cheesecake. When I got to the window, I asked the girl to give the cheesecake to the man behind me. I pulled ahead afterward and waited to see the look on his face. She gave him the cake and he looked over at me. I waived at him. He gave me the finger. I drove off. Continue reading

Antiestablishmentarianism

I remember going to a political rally with my grandfather and uncles when I was a child in Mexico. They marched for a really long distance and then rallied at the town square against the politicians in power. I didn’t get the grasp of it all then. In time, I came to understand that they were part of the PAN (National Action Party) in Mexico, a political party that stood in direct opposition to the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party). The PRI had dominated Mexican politics for decades. The PRI grip on power did not break until the late 1990’s, culminating with Vicente Fox winning the Mexican Presidential Election of 2000. By that time, my grandfather had passed away.

At my grandfather’s funeral, several top-ranking members of the PAN came to pay their respects to him. They draped the party flag over his coffin and stood in an honor guard for several minutes. They thanked my grandmother for his service to the party. A few days later, I asked my dad what that was all about. Dad said that my grandfather, his father, was very active in politics. He was often seen policing the polling stations, taking people to and from rallies, and meeting at the state headquarters of PAN to plan their electoral strategies. I was a bit surprised at all of this since grandpa was a very quiet and reserved man. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry in the 16+ years that I got to know him.

Then again, you don’t need to be angry to be dissatisfied with the politics of your day. I’m kind of glad for that, actually. It’s the very vociferous, angry people in Mexico that got killed or disappeared during the darkest days of the PRI’s rule. I’m sure grandpa was angry, but I’m sure he was smart about it. (Dad once told me that my grandfather had almost cried in frustration when one of the few PAN senators had proposed something and the PRI senators just laughed.) I’m also sure that he was fair about it.

My father, on the other hand, is nothing but disillusioned with politics. He wants nothing to do with them, won’t give his opinion about them in public, and will complain about politicians in private. (He says that this is a good strategy for someone who owns their own business like he does, and I agree.) He used to go with my grandfather to police the polls, but that all ended when grandpa passed away. Since then, dad has been very reserved in his activism. He stands in contrast to my mother. Mom is pro-everything and anti-almost everything. That woman has an opinion and backs it up by force, if necessary, and with plenty of words. I shudder at the thought of ever debating her on anything.

So that’s my family history of political views and activism. Once we came to the States, my political views have been diverse and very much guided by my stage of maturity and position in life. You’ll probably be shocked to read that I listened to Rush Limbaugh almost every day when I was in college and well after that. You might also be shocked to read that I used to agree with him on many things. One time, he read from an essay by Michael Crichton on why global climate change was not a real thing… And I agreed!

Well, I agreed for a couple of hours. When I got home that afternoon, after listening to Rush on the drive there, I looked up information on climate change. I read the literature and “did my own research.” It was then that I came to the conclusion that, as a scientist, I could not deny the evidence that the climate is changing and that we are affecting it with our pollution of the environment. As a human being, however, I didn’t want climate change to be true. I wanted to continue to burn fossil fuels forever and life as if the things I did in life did not affect others. I was being selfish.

Then I went to school to be an epidemiologist and realized even more that all the evidence points to the fact that what I do here and now affects people on the other side of the world, whether I like it or not. I also came to the realization that people who made, say, 30 million dollars a year could afford to pay a little more in taxes… Much to the horror of some very conservative people I used to work with. In their opinion, I was being turned into a “Liberal” by going to school and getting my master’s degree in public health.

But it’s not about being a Liberal or a Conservative. (I’ve always been in-between, if you believe my political compass results.) It’s about seeing what is right and what is wrong, and doing the things that have been shown to work or have the best opportunity for working. In some cases, these “things that must be done” are unpalatable to one group or another, or both… But they need to be done, and there are those among us who are willing to do them. (Long live the troublemakers.) So, when I propose that this or that be done, some will see me as a Liberal, while others will see me as a conservative. I’m neither:

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Okay, I’m a little like Gandhi:

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Even with that graph up there you can see that people really do differ in their political views, even when they’re labeled as “leftist” or “fascist” or whatever. Can we get along? Well, maybe, but I find it hard to get along with someone like Adolf up there, or Joseph Stalin… Thatcher? Well…

This leads me to the final section of this post and to explain the title of it. There are people in this world who are completely against the “establishment,” regardless of what that establishment is. I’d almost classify my father into that group, but he pays taxes and votes. I’m talking about the people who see someone like President Obama and have a severe reaction to him. Kind of like this:

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Just can’t win.

These are the people you see on message boards and in commenting sections, complaining about whatever the story is about and blaming the government (and, because it’s 2013, they blame Obama). In fact, nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen (in their view) without the government being involved and being guilty of doing it. The terrorist attacks on 9/11/01? It was the government… Either the government ordered the attacks or didn’t do anything to prevent them. Hurricane Katrina? Same thing: The government failed to act. The recent mass shootings? The government.

The government.

What’s funny about most of those people is that they are quick to point to the US Constitution when they demand justice or freedom, all the while ignoring that it is that document and subsequent social pact which created “the government.” Without the restrictions that have come about from having a government, we wouldn’t have any of the freedoms that we enjoy. We’d be a banana republic… Talk about a government that can’t get anything right. And I sometimes try to point this out to people by explaining my point of view, where I used to live in a very much authoritarian, one-party country. I also saw that country change into a democracy with a lot of troubles. But it changed. And it did so for the better.

But, many times, I end up tired and frustrated because these people hold firm to their beliefs that the government is evil, and that it doesn’t matter who is in power, nothing is getting done right. I should have learned by now.

Silly hope in humanity.