Guest Blogger– Jeff Carter, “Enough”

I can’t take it anymore… I thought I could make it through the next year plus of political posturing and be able to stay silent, but I realize not only that I cannot, but that I should not.

There is an evil wind blowing in this country right now, abetted by the 24 hour/7 day a week media frenzy. We have prominent political figures railing against “immigrants” and blaming “the other” for all of society’s ills. They claim that if only we can “kick them out” or “build a wall” everything will be perfect and we can “make America great again”. Obviously, there are multiple problems with this attitude… For one, even if you are from a Native American tribe, you are the ancestor of an immigrant. And if you are from European stock, your family tree has only recently planted roots on this continent, often after pushing out the people that were here before. Secondly, this is not a new strategy. Dictators and demagogues have used anger against “the other” throughout history to gain and keep power. Most notably in the 20th Century, by the Nazis in Germany. They blamed the Jews for the Fatherland being held down and for the dilution of the pure Aryan race. For them, the “Final Solution” was the answer “Kick them out, take them away. We don’t care what you do with them, just get rid of them and our society will be perfect again”.

Now the target for the demagogues in our political arena are brown skinned, primarily Latin, people from Mexico and Central/South America. Once again, according to the blowhards, “If only we can get them out and keep them out our society will be perfect again. I mean after all they are mostly criminals and rapists, the dregs of their home countries.” Unfortunately, it seems that there are large numbers of our fellow citizens who either actively or tacitly agree with this sentiment. Which brings me back to why I feel the need to speak out. Those of us who have known, worked with, and care about our brothers and sisters who come from other countries and cultures must not stand idly by and allow these misrepresentations and outright lies to go unchallenged.

Several years ago I was laid off from my job in the Atlanta, Georgia area. After several weeks of unsuccessfully looking for a job in my field, and finding it nearly impossible to support a family on state unemployment benefits, I got a job with a large landscaping company. I worked there for two years and stereotypically, many of my fellow employees were recent immigrants from Mexico, and Central and South America. I didn’t know their legal status, but some of the things I overheard during the work days led me to believe that not all of them had proper documentation. If you don’t know, landscaping is a low paying, backbreaking business. All day you are lifting, carrying, shoveling, walking, climbing, and driving. You get very few breaks and have to work in all kinds of weather for barely over minimum wage. During my time working there I came to know, and become good friends with many of my co-workers. My experience confirmed that people are people. There are good and bad in every group, however, the majority of the people I worked with were very hard working, with a generous and caring nature. We shared our toil, our food, and our life stories. The stories they told of their home countries and the often tangled journeys they had survived to get here, has often made me wonder… How bad would life have to be before I would leave my family, travel hundreds (if not thousands) of miles, to a country where I would live in a strange culture and not be able to speak or read the language? Then after fighting to get there I would be in constant fear of having my papers questioned, or missing a legal deadline, or in some other way making a mistake that would get me arrested and deported.

Now when I hear politicians decrying “free loading immigrants” I think of Anselma, who was a gourmet chef and had worked at a tourist resort in Cancun and was now planting flowers in the hot sun; of Jose who was always so happy and so proud of his new U.S. citizenship, but who came to work every day in tattered boots because he couldn’t afford new ones; and of all the others with their stories of dangers faced, families far away, and constant fears of making a misstep. When I hear this wind blowing, I weep and then I get really angry. I think, “These are real people you are talking about. Have you met them? Do you know how scared they are every day? Do you know how hard they work for so little money? Do you not realize that if you were able to make your words reality that much of the American economy would grind to a halt?”

That is why I cannot and should not stay silent, nor should you. Since we are a county of immigrants we must defend “the other” we must make America great again. Not by building walls or passing more restrictive laws, but by returning to the ideal of “Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to breathe free”. We must welcome the other, bring them into our society, work with them, learn from them, associate with them, and love them. Then, and only then, can we truly call America “great”. For that is when we will return to being “That beacon of freedom shining on the hill”.

Jeff Carter is a geologist working for a small consulting firm doing environmental investigation and clean up. He is also husband to Rev. Sharon and father of two grown children and currently lives in Kentucky, even though he continues to cheer for the Tennessee Volunteers.

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