Forum, Sept. 11: When to Welcome Immigrants

Sunday, September 10, 2017
When to Welcome Immigrants

It never fails to baffle me how willing self-identified progressives are to push the neediest members of American society to the very back of the line, over and over again.

​We “need” immigrants because we do such an abysmal job of preparing so many American children for a healthy, productive, satisfying life.

​I worked for a number of years in a part-time, seasonal job as a tour guide to mostly public school, mostly minority children in a petting zoo in Queens, N.Y. Almost every single one — many of them living in considerable economic privation, some living in shelters — started out eager to learn, trusting of adults and full of enthusiasm for new things. By third grade they had tuned out everyone because they’d learned that most grownups say nothing of value to them, while attempting pretty consistently to stifle everything worth nurturing.

​By high school those kids are often lost to any future but one of early parenthood, lifelong poverty and, often, early deaths or at the least a variety of disabilities.

One can play endlessly with statistics to get the results you want to advertise. But the laws of physics declare that every immigrant takes up the space someone else might occupy. Takes up a school seat; takes an apartment — and we never have enough low- and moderate-income housing; takes a job; even takes a mentor, or charitable efforts, or a scholarship.

​When every American black child, every Native American child, from Alaska to Maine, every child in Appalachia has a decent present and a hopeful future, I’ll be glad to welcome everyone else. Until then, not.

​Sarah Crysl Akhtar


Think Again About Antifa

The Valley News had an interesting pair of opinion pieces on Sept. 2. First you had Dan Zak of The Washington Post talking about “Whataboutism,” where he takes President Donald Trump to task for saying, “What about statues of Washington and Jefferson?” in reference to removal of statues of Confederate Civil War notables. Then you have Emeritus Professor James Heffernan, saying, in effect, “What about the Orozco murals at Dartmouth depicting a brave Mexican revolutionary?” when referring to Dartmouth President Hanlon trying to put some distance between the college and a visiting professor and his justification of the antifa movement.

If Trump’s point is not valid, then Heffernan’s  isn’t either. If you bother to examine the tactics and statements of the antifa, it’s hard to see how they equate to violent struggles of long-oppressed peoples against entrenched overlords. If African-American freedom marchers had worn masks and carried shields, pepper spray and clubs, as antifa does, when they faced down the police dogs, tear gas and truncheons on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, would they have had the same moral authority?

Much of that authority came from their willingness to protest with their identities fully exposed. Also, they had a vision for a better society in which all peoples were treated fairly and could assume their rightful place as productive citizens. Many antifa are professed anarchists, bent on the establishment of disorder as the ruling principle.

People who support antifa should take a hard look at the movement, and then at themselves. Antifa’s definition of who is a Nazi or a racist seems to be fluid — a matter of convenience and whoever happens to be in their way. I think all they want is an excuse to beat somebody up.

Peter R. Magoon


The Trump Effect

Though Donald Trump has actually managed to transform lying into an art form, along with turning most of other seven deadly sins completely on their heads, statesmen of stature have long advised us to remember that Americans are a resilient bunch. No matter how debauched past presidential reigns have been, we’ve survived: The Constitution really does seem to be an effective and lasting moral guide.

 Yes, Trump (and Mitch McConnell)  have bequeathed us perhaps up to 30 years of  Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, but I submit that the most enduring harm our president has inflicted on his country is on the very concept of the office itself.

A day rarely passes that Trump doesn’t do his level best to erode my understanding of what the office represents — its majesty, the imposing power and dignity and frightening responsibility that attends the title. What we confront from our morning paper inevitably inspires a guffaw, perhaps, or revulsion; I don’t recall anything yet that might kindle a measure of respect.

 Oh, I don’t doubt that eventually we’ll elect someone of genuine stature to lead us again, one who we might actually wish could lawfully lead us in a third term. But I wonder if that person will emerge before the current generation of citizens will be able to take a future president with quite the sense of seriousness that office inspired before Trump.

Tom Brody