Thirty-two years ago this month, I registered to vote for the first time. It was one of those rites of passage that I will always remember.
This seminal event did not, however, constitute the beginning of my interest in politics. I can remember, from a very early age, watching the evening news with my parents. Or with my grandparents, who lived only a block away. I learned about the Watergate break-in, the Vietnam war, and the re-education of Patty Hearst. My parents campaigned for Tom Bradley for mayor, and George McGovern for president. The 1970s brought a whirlwind of change to our nation.
It took a while to figure out my political identity. Was I a Democrat, or a Republican? Liberal or conservative? One thing I knew early on, was that I hated dishonest arguments and false tests. At the end of the day I might agree with you, but if you use deceitful means to win me to your side, we won’t remain allies for long.
Truly, many American voters hold to a single pet issue to vet every candidate and decide every ballot initiative. It might be abortion rights, or immigration, or tax reform. Nothing else seems to matter, if a fellow citizen holds the “wrong” opinion on these important matters.
I’ve seen mayoral hopefuls disparaged because they held the “wrong” view on abortion. Nevermind that municipal governments have no authority in matters that are long-settled by the federal courts; this guy must be stopped! I’ve seen police officers threatened because they arrested an illegal alien. Forget that the guy was caught in the act committing a crime; the cop is obviously a racist! Grover Norquist says we should reject any candidate who won’t oppose any and every tax increase. As if nothing else matters.
Enough. This world is too big, and our problems too complex, to be ruled by zealots who view every situation through the narrow lens of their ideology.
…And yet, in these past few months, I find myself falling for this very syndrome that I so despise: In many ways, uncontrolled illegal immigration is sapping the strength from our vibrant economy. So much so that one of these days, if nothing is done, we might have nothing left to share. This is because the issue has so many facets:
National sovereignty. Do we have a country, or don’t we? Do we have national boundaries, or not? Every country in the world has the right to decide who can enter, and when, and under what terms. THIS is worth fighting for.
Rule of law. We have laws about who can come here, and when, and under what conditions. We debate them endlessly in our national legislature. Then millions of people sneak in anyway, and we do…nothing. So we pass new laws, and we do...nothing. Last time I checked the Constitution, the executive branch didn't have the authority to pick-and-choose which laws to enforce. THIS is worth fighting for.
Christian duty? Some would say that we, as a Christian nation showered by God with material prosperity, have a duty to share. And I couldn’t agree more. But does that mean that strangers have the right to just come in and take? That’s a very different question. And THIS is worth fighting for.
Hypocrisy. Just a few years ago, Mexican president Vicente Fox appeared before a joint session of Congress to tell us that we’re too selfish and that we should open up the border to our poor impoverished neighbors. And perhaps he’s right. But there are some things he forgot to mention: It would be a constitutional violation for any foreigner to interfere in Mexican politics, and every inch of his southern border with Guatemala is fortified with machine guns and impenetrable walls. If we applied Mexican immigration law on our southern border (look it up, you’ll be amused), it would be tight as a drum. Surely THIS is something worth fighting for.
Not a day goes by, that I don’t thank God that I am privileged to live in a free and prosperous country. And this, to no merit of my own. And if you’re so eager to give it away to anyone who shows up, it only goes to show that you don’t truly appreciate the sacredness of what you have.