With the Republican presidential candidates each trying to say increasingly offensive things about immigrants in order to prove to the base how opposed to immigration they are, it’s no wonder that my Facebook feed is filling up with depressing anti-immigrant memes from my conservative friends and acquaintances. One person has been on an aggressive tear, sharing every post she can find condemning immigrants as “illegals” who mooch off our tax dollars, steal our jobs and destroy our country.
While scrolling through her page, I stopped shaking my head in frustration long enough to chuckle at this particular meme:
“If you don’t like it, leave!” is actually a common refrain in her posts, but the hypocrisy had only finally struck me. How do these two schools of thought coexist? In one breath, this person is encouraging someone to emigrate if they’re not happy with their homeland. In the next breath, this same person is condemning people for emigrating from their homelands to make a better life. If she doesn’t want the outcasts from one country, what makes her so sure that another country would want the outcasts from ours?
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What I’ve realized by perusing these conflicting memes is that it’s really not about people immigrating to or emigrating from the United States. It’s about a strong desire for monoculture, a desire to be surrounded by people who think and act like themselves. You don’t agree with me? Leave! You don’t speak my language? Stay out!
Several of other posts I’ve seen address how no one respects the principles this country was founded on anymore. Of course, history tells us that this country was built on immigration, welcoming “huddled masses” from all over the globe in search of a better life. Native Americans comprise less than the two percent of the U.S. population at this point, so you’d have to be kidding yourself to think that the United States was founded on the idea of keeping immigrants at bay.
We’ve seen members of the Christian right seek office and openly use the Bible to guide their decisions and ignore the rule of law. Yet this group of people is the same one that blasts President Obama for “destroying” the Constitution when he pushes for affordable health care. The “Constitution” gets used as a cover to protect certain rightwing views, even though there’s plenty of protections that document provides Americans that conservatives would happily ignore.
It takes some real hutzpah for someone to proclaim their own views as being “patriotic” while outright dismissing the rest. That First Amendment right that allows someone to tell people off is the same one that allows other Americans to dissent and fight for democratic change, all without being asked to leave the country.
America is and always has been a diverse group of people with a variety of ideas coming together to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps those who cannot handle immigrants or natural-born citizens who have different politics or view the world in a different light should be the ones who need to find another country.