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What is this election about?



Trump, in full alliterative mode, has declared this “the election of Kavanaugh and caravans.”

If it is, he’s in bad shape. Only 25% of Americans—far fewer even than the one-third that comprises his base—believe Kavanaugh told the truth in his Senate confirmation hearings. That means three-quarters of us don’t believe him—believe that Kavanaugh is, in fact, a liar. Whatever credibility the Republican-led Supreme Court had following the 2000 election (and it wasn’t very much) has now been reduced to near-zero, as SCOTUS becomes an outpost of the RNC/Fox “News”/Trump cult.

Well, okay, Mister President, if you want this election to be about Kavanaugh, bring it on! We’ll take the women’s vote and you can have the rapists.

But wait, there’s more to the Trump campaign pitch: that Caravan, winding its way northward somewhere in southern Mexico. The footage has been alarming: thousands of destitute Hondurans jammed onto that border bridge, while Mexican police tear gassed them and Trump, a bully who loves to shove his considerable weight around, threatens to shut down the southern border.

This dispute about illegal immigrants always teeter-totters between two polar opposites: Democrats tend to view undocumented immigrants compassionately, especially when they are provably trying to escape from rape, gang violence, penury and murder (as in the case of the Hondurans). Republicans tend towards strict law-and-order, insisting upon proper, legal entry into this country.

The problem with the Republican point of view is that they cannot shake the perception that their attitude is stained with xenophobia—an intense hatred of foreigners with darker skin color (would they be as upset if Swedes were trying to get in?). Where does this perception of Republican xenophobia come from? Democrats didn’t invent it; Republicans earned it. Nor is it anything recent. There’s always been a “know-nothing”strain in American politics, actively hostile to immigration even though every single American who ever lived was an immigrant or the descendent of immigrants (except for Native Americans). Sometimes this strain infects Democrats (as it did throughout much of the 20th century). More recently it has migrated into the Republican Party and morphed into a much more virulent strain.

There’s an eerie similarity between two conservative fictions that are current among American Republicans. One, stemming from the Christian wing of that party, says “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” The other, from the party’s law-and-order wing, says “We have nothing against people of color, only people of color who break the law.” The reason I call both “fictions” is because they’re both based on unsupportable principles. When a Catholic or evangelical, speaking of (say) a gay man, says “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” he conveniently forgets to explain how “hating the sin” resulted in killing the sinner over the 2,000-year span of the Christian church. How many gays were burnt at the stake, tortured, had their genitals cut off in Christ’s name? (Christ, who for all we know was gay.) Perhaps the Church no longer officially sanctions such abominations, but in keeping homophobia alive (which they do every chance they get), they nurture the hatred that, at any time, can and does re-erupt into physical violence against homosexuals. It is patently absurd to speak of “hating the sin but loving the sinner.” The “sin” (a stupid word) is the sinner: you cannot separate a man from what he does and believes. That Platonic or Thomistic system, which creates a false dichotomy between “mind” and “body,” has now been debunked in favor of a more holistic way of looking at human existence—a way that is more in conformity with the way humans actually live and perceive themselves: as integrated wholes.

The other fiction, that Republicans resent people of color only when they break the law, rests on the assumption that most law-breaking is by people of color. In certain areas of that country that may be true; in others, it isn’t. Oakland has a lot of Black crime, but Red states such as Alabama (highest opioid rate of addiction in the country), North Dakota (where opioid-related deaths are soaring) and West Virginia (the country’s highest drug-overdose rate) prove that conservative Christian Caucasians also break an awful lot of laws—not only drug laws, but also the associated felonies of theft, domestic violence, impaired driving, criminal assault, wire fraud, and on and on.

I, personally, have no problem with a few thousand Honduran immigrants coming into this country. I would like to see the process organized and orderly; there’s no reason it can’t be, except for the xenophobia of Republicans and the pandering to it by their president. And I believe most Americans agree with me. The number of Americans who support legal immigration is on the rise, while the number who want to decrease it is falling.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that legal immigration is whatever the government says it is. When a conservative, xenophobic regime is in power, it restricts the numbers of ways immigrants can enter legally. But any regime can change the rules anytime it wishes to. In the case of the Hondurans, why not examine them case by case? Why not let them in, if they haven’t committed violent felonies? Why not absorb a population that—as far as we can tell—is entirely peaceful, wants only to work (at the kinds of jobs Americans won’t: gardeners, hotel maids, field hands, housekeepers) and in their own ways are devout and spiritual?

Why not? Because of Republican xenophobia. They want to make America a white, gated community: foreigners need not apply! (Or gays or non-Christians, for that matter.) We saw, in Germany in the 1930s, how white, so-called “Christian” people turned their country into a gigantic concentration camp, and suffered the disastrous result of their bad choices: the complete destruction of Germany. Is the same thing happening to America?

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