Increasing Support for Child Sacrifice

If opinion polls are correct, more and more Americans are in favour of child sacrifice. No, I’m not making some sort of oblique reference to abortion. Some of you may think this is too bizarre, but it is true.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California has publically called for the deportation of American citizens who are the children of illegal immigrants. In a Fox poll published by the conservative group ResistNet, 56.5% of 1500 repondents supported this idea. So am I just given to hyperbole and tenuous metaphor by calling this child sacrifice? I don’t think so, and here’s why:

Hunter and supporters of this idea are downplaying that citizens who happen to be the children of undocumented immigrants are, in fact and in law, just as much citizens as Duncan Hunter. This is their legal status in US and international law. They got their citizenship the same way he did, even if you consider them second-class citizens – admittedly a way of treating some people that has a long and glorious history.

Duncan Hunter thinks this has to be done for the greater good. He said, “you could look and say, ‘You’re a mean guy. That’s a mean thing to do. That’s not a humanitarian thing to do.’ We simply cannot afford what we’re doing right now. We just can’t afford it. California’s going under.” In other words, “it’s not nice and it’s not a civilised way to treat a human being, but we’ve got to do it anyway. California can’t afford for us not to jettison these citizens.”

Citizenship entitles someone to all civil rights. It is long established in the US (and in international law, but that’s a concept despised by many Americans) that everyone within the boundaries of the US for whatever reason has certain civil rights protection, but it will be easy enough to disregard that. However, depriving a citizen of their civil rights is more serious. To strip a large class of people of the citizenship they have always had – these are not children naturalised by the grace and favor of the US Government – and that they acquired in the same way as all other natural born citizens is a big step.

I am not suggesting that Hunter is not entitled to hold this point of view, but rather that it should be explictly stated. He considers some citizens to be less desirable than others, so those in the majority should exercise their democratic voice to deprive that citizenship. Perhaps it is worth other Americans considering what safeguards are in place to prevent another majority forming (based on however they want to form an association or declare an affinity of common interest) that finds them in the minority and decides to forceably remove them from the country of their citizenship? The new majority may even hold sway long enough and significantly enough to pass a Constitutional amendment to enforce it.

This is child sacrifice in more than just a metaphorical sense. Once these children are stripped of their citizenship, they not longer have a right to be in the country of their birth and they can then be deported. That is the stated ultimate objective. It’s just a matter of opening up one of the gates in the big wall, shoving them through and quickly locking it behind them. On the other side of that wall is a drug war that has claimed the lives of over 20,000 mostly innocent people in the last half-decade. In that environment, a lot of those children thrown over the wall will probably not survive for long. But their deaths are necessary to keep Duncan Hunter’s California and the US from going under. It’s a price that has to be paid. Most Americans won’t think it a heavy price, because they didn’t want that class of citizen in this country anyway.

One of the things the US needs to do to stop the flow of immigrants is to make it a less attractive destination. If we can show the world that the US is a place where some citizens have more rights than others and that any undesireable group can lose their civil rights at the caprice of any given majority of sufficient size, maybe they will start to look elsewhere. A lot will still come because life on the margins is still outweighed by the economic opportunity, but the new apartheid will discourage a few.

Times are tough and everyone has to make sacrifices. Every citizen needs to be willing to make sacrifices for the common good. You know, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. That includes all these Latino kids. Their country needs them to give up their citizenship, their opportunities for the future, and in some cases their lives, so that everyone else can continue to enjoy the American way of life.

I would say that Hunter and his supporters do need to act fast. At this time a significant number of these citizens are below the age of majority. They are children subject to the whims of the enfranchised adults. If they are allowed to grow up, they will have a say in their own affairs and enjoy the full rights to exert their citizenship (that they admittedly acquired they same way Hunter and most Americans did) and try to oppose being thrown out of their country. It is much easier to deprive a child of their civil rights than someone who can speak up for themselves.

Some of these undesirable citizens are already adults. If legislation enabling certain people to be stripped of their citizenship and deported is proposed, there will not doubt be protest rallies. If they were good citizens they would be doing this willingly, not engaging in some sort of protest. If they are participating in rallies against giving up their citizenship, it just shows how unAmerican they are, doesn’t it?

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Recent conversations and a few newspaper articles about the death of Ted Kennedy have revealed the continuing animosity toward Kennedy with regard to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. This has highlighted to me the tendency that we often have to think and act in a personal way toward public figures. This is true of politicians, celebrities, and notorious criminals, and those we might think fit into the triple overlap of these categories (if it were a Venn diagram, they would be in the middle).

With elected politicians, we have a responsibility to call them to account for their actions and decide whether they should continue to represent us – by impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, and by voting against them in the next election for lesser reasons. Except for citizens of Massachusetts, this is where unforgiveness toward Ted Kennedy falls short. Though he was nationally known, he did not represent the nation. He was elected by the people of Massachusetts and it was their decision, for better or worse, to return him seven times to the United States Senate.

The idea of forgiving or not forgiving public figures not personally known to us is foreign to any concept in the scriptures. Jesus said we should pray, asking the Father to “forgive our tresspasses and we forgive those who trespass against us,” and said further said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” It’s a personal thing.

Not forgiving Ted Kennedy is about as pointless as the politicians on Capitol Hill who apologised last summer and this summer for something they didn’t do. In July of last year, the U.S. House of Represenatives apologised for slavery and racial segregation. The Senate did the same thing in June of this year with almost identical language.

This is ridiculous for a number of reasons. First of all, neither the House nor the Senate ever legalised slavery. Slavery has always existed. (It still exists today, even in the US, but that is a subject for a future post.)

Admittedly, they did vote to approve the Corwin Amendment which would have prohibited any other Amendment to the Constitution allowing the federal government to interfere with slavery. (Congressmes and Senators from the seven Deep South states did not vote for the Corwin Amendment, as they were already in the process of seceding – it was a Northern proposed amendment to preserve slavery.) Despite their apology 148 years later, that amendment is still pending as it was only ratified by the state legislatures of Ohio, Maryland, and Illinois.

The only slaves that could be said to have been owned by the United States itself were those used by the Union armies in the Recent Unpleasantness. Not the freedmen soldiers that everyone hears about, but the still enslaved laborers. (I can’t imagine why those Yankee-authored history books fail to mention this.) Neither the House nor Senate mentioned the Corwin Amendment or the use of slave labor by the bluecoats and I don’t think either body had either issue in mind.

On the other hand, Congress at times voted to restrict slavery’s extenstion into certain territories. It then voted to abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Likewise it passed the 14th and 15th Amendments to send to the states for ratification. It passed various Civil Rights Acts. So even if it could apologise, there is nothing to apologise for.

But what really angers me about both House Resolution 194 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 is that both purport to apologise on my behalf. “The Congress…apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws…” This may surprise some people, but I have never owned a single African-American slave. I would go so far as to suggest that no living American citizen has ever owned a single African-American slave. Having been born less than four months before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into effect, I can also assure readers that I have never promulgated or enforced any Jim Crow laws. (But then again, neither has the US Congress, in its present, or any previous, incarnation, as Jim Crow laws were state laws.)

I have lots of ancestors who owned slaves. Lots of slaves. Just for the record, I do not apologise for them either. I couldn’t even if I wanted to do so.

I do admit to calling another 2nd grader “nigger” in 1971. I will not even offer the excuse that my erstwhile friend Scott encouraged me to do it. I was beaten soundly about the buttocks by the school principal and had to apologise, so I think I have paid my debt. (I hope that any of my friends who haven’t forgiven Ted Kennedy for the Chappaquiddick incident will not also refuse to forgive me for something that happened two years after.) However, I do not believe the US Congress needs to apologise for this on my behalf.

Keeping History in Context

At the same time as the election of Barak Obama, in GCSE history we are covering race relations in the United States 1929-90. I’ve never taught this in an American school, but imagine the approach of the syllabus would be roughly the same. We look at the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the effect of the Depression on blacks, segregation in the Second World War, Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock, Ole Miss, Rosa Parks, MLK, and the key events of the Civil Rights Movement. The key idea is that white people, especially but exclusively Southern white people, hated black people (though we aren’t authorised to cover that they were only called “black” for a brief moment in time in the shifting language from Colored to Negro to black to Africa-American). Whites were mean and evil to them, but somehow the black people passively resisted all the white people and eventually Barak Obama was elected.  That last bit falls outside the time period, but it is too good to not mention.

I was commenting on another blog about the relationship between Obama and the legacy of slavery, an institution which the blog owner referred to as an atrocity, saying the same thing I told my students when introducing the background of slavery in the US: we have to be careful in imposing the values of the present day upon the past. People in the mid-19th century lived within a completely different frame of reference. It is very possible that people living 130 years from now will be tempted to condemn aspects of the present day which we cannot imagine would be any other way.

C.S. Lewis says as much in his well-known introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

Thus I think about my cousin Melba. Melba was my dad’s first cousin, born in Kentucky in 1915. I got to know her before she died and I don’t think there was an unkind bone in her body. I don’t think I ever heard her speak an unkind word.

Melba and her husband were tobacco farmers. Her husband had died not long before I met her as an adult (we had visited in their home when I was a very young child) and she was winding down the farming. Being the family genealogist that I am, you can imagine that I took in every story I could about living through the 20th century as a tobacco farming family. Tobacco farming is very labour-intensive. Melba spoke with affection about the niggers that worked for them, especially one man who worked for them for many years.

My late 20th century ears were a bit shocked at first. After all, this was a word for which I received corporal punishment from the school principal when I was in the second grade back in 1972. (In my defense, even then, I didn’t habour any ill feelings for the black pupil. I was only saying it because my friend Scott was saying it, but it was a offense of strict liability.) Then she referred frequently to a nigger woman that had been her domestic help until recently.

I don’t for a minute think that she thought of any of these people as equals. But neither did she habour any ill will. It was just the society in which she was raised. She probably supported segregation as long as it lasted in the Bluegrass State. I don’t remember her speaking about it in any negative way. That was just the way it was. On the other hand, I never heard her complain about integration. Maybe she did at the time, but by the time we talked, that was just the way it was.

At the same time we can be glad that everyone in the United States has the same civil rights and participation in the political process, and appreciate that common attitudes have changed, we need to be careful how we characterise the nature of those developments and the broad strokes with which we tend to paint history.