I’m always the first to admit when I’m wrong. Well, perhaps the second. Or third. Whatever. In my November 24 op-ed for Mexico News Daily, entitled “Pew bombshell won’t change the rhetoric,” I botched it big-time.
In that piece I described how the Right’s – and in particular Donald Trump’s – bigoted rhetoric against Mexican immigrants would not change despite the latest Pew research indicating the U.S. is experiencing a net loss of Mexican immigrants.
My reasons were essentially twofold, and based both on the hard and social sciences. First, through the process of evolution by natural selection, we have been hard-wired to exhibit xenophobia and tribalism, to be naturally suspicious of groups different from us (such as Mexicans), and to blame others for our self-made problems.
Second, fear sells. As I’ve said before, you can’t keep it on the shelves. In this case, the fear of the brown-skinned “others” who may be taking our jobs, raping our women and introducing our children to drugs. You know – the Ann Coulter-type racist polemic.
Well, when I said the rhetoric wouldn’t change, I was wrong. It has more than changed, it has completely disappeared.
After the Islamist Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the GOP found another, even more threatening menace to the Norman Rockwell American way of life: Muslims! It seems that Mexicans are off the hook (for now). Instead of selling the fears of job losses and social degradations at the hands of America’s great unwashed Mexican migrants, we’ve stumbled upon a new fall guy to distract our attention from our self-caused endemic problems.
Namely, Muslims who want to impose sharia law, whose goal is to create a new caliphate in Middle America, who are striving to instill terror on us infidels to the point of forcing our women to wear bags, our men to grow beards and profess allegiance to Allah and his prophet Mohamed.
Gone is the Orwellian Trump-speak of building “big beautiful walls” or deporting 11 million undocumented workers along with their American citizen children. No, sir. There’s a much more succulent scapegoat to roast over the spit of ignorance. Now it’s about banning all Muslim entries into the U.S., requiring Muslims to register with government authorities, and turning back all would-be Syrian refugees.
But to give credit where credit is due, Trump and his acolytes aren’t just shooting from the hip: within the vade-mecum of the GOP there’s plenty of historic precedent for these policies. For example there’s the return of a thousand asylum-seeking Jews aboard the MS St. Luis in 1939, where a quarter later died in death camps. Or the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and the confiscation of their property. The Donald has done his homework!
Now, I’ll be first to admit that Islam has a problem. Unlike some of my fellow secular humanists (with whom I’m engaged in perpetual debate over this issue), I’m no fan of the tenets of Islam. It’s a backwards, repressive, too-often violent, Bronze-Age mythology that should be relegated to our prehistory.
Luckily, most American Muslims are nominal believers, not unlike Mexican Catholics. It’s more about cultural comfort than the literal belief that the Prophet flew to the heavens on a winged horse or that a cracker literally turns into the body of Christ.
So I won’t go out on a limb again by predicting that the hyper-partisan rhetoric against American Muslims or Syrian asylum seekers is here to stay. Indeed, if the aphorism that history repeats itself holds any truth, then we might expect those dirty Italians or drunken Irish to take their turns on the block of flapdoodle and pestilential public policy ideas once more.
Among Trump’s semi-literate hillbilly base, an enemy will always be needed: trying to sell the nuanced discussion of facts to people with only a dozen working synapses is tantamount to trying to sell a sensible Volvo to someone only in the market for a sexy, hopped-up Camaro.
If there is a more accurate condemnation of the once drolly and now hectoring preachments of a politically cynical and capricious GOP, I am at a loss to explain what it might be.
Until next year, wishing everyone a happy holiday season.
Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, a specialist in law and public policy and a regular contributor to Mexico News Daily.