Monday, April 26, 2010

The One About Immigration

I am interrupting my series on the boring ancient Christian documents (link) to write about something a little bit more important than the past: the future.

A few weeks ago, a man came into the library where I work and asked a simple question; he said, “how does someone become a citizen?” I wish I could have answered the way someone would have answered my Canadian ancestors, and said, “Simply cross the line and prosper well—welcome to the land of dreams and prosperity!” That America closed its border a long time ago.

The person who wanted to become a citizen was illegal—a common story in California. She had been in the country with her husband (also here illegally) for over ten years, and had children who had been born in this country; her youngest son barely spoke a word of Spanish, and is as American as they come. So what is the answer to her question? It’s easy—pack up and move back to her country (Mexico), because you cannot become a citizen of the United States if you are here illegally. Her youngest son would be able to sponsor her in about six years also.

Why am I writing this? If you hadn’t heard by now, Arizona’s governor has passed new legislation to make anyone in Arizona who is in the states illegally, a criminal—which means prison time, a fine, and a one way ticket back to Mexico. It also means my wife, a born and raised United States citizen, can be questioned on suspicion of being in the United States illegally because she looks Mexican—most states call that racial profiling of the worst kind, but Arizona believes that questioning American citizens is not only socially responsible, but their right.

So back to the family above—if they lived in Arizona, they would be charged as criminals, fined, and returned to Mexico. And their ten year old, who is American and barely speaks Spanish?

Why are they doing this? Because they are criminals! Because they broke the law and now they must pay! Because they are wasting American tax dollars! And because they are a bunch of arrogant, racist, white dicks who don’t want dirty Mexicans contaminating their land.

Here’s one fact people don’t talk about. It is a documented fact that immigrants actually do not hurt the economics of America—in many respects they help it. America loves taxing, so don’t think for a second that just because you are here illegally you don’t pay taxes—the federal government has absolutely no problem collecting money from these so-called criminals. You want to know how badly immigrants hurt the economics of this country? Read this article.

The fact is if you are a wealthy Mexican, you’ll have no problem getting into this country; if you are a smart Mexican and the country can benefit from your brain, you’ll have no problem getting into this country. The problem is those two types of Mexicans. The ones who make good Americans are the one who come here with the dreams of a better life—who want nothing more to contribute to the diversity that makes this country so great—the ones who will be happy with living as middle-class citizens. And those are exactly the ones who don’t stand a chance of ever getting here the legal way.

Does it make you a criminal to want a better life for your children? Arizona thinks it does. And if you think it does then why don’t you get yourself out too? It’s easy to forget that Americans forcefully planted themselves on this soil, and continued to illegally revolt against the English government to steal this country away from the king (who had stole it from the Indians). But I guess you have some justifiable excuse for why that was okay. The fact is people shouldn’t be here illegally—in ideal world the government would grow a pair and figure out how to make it possible for our neighbors South of us to immigrate to this country—and how to make it possible to grant citizenship to the ones who are already here.

What does this have to do with Christianity? Arizona citizens are largely in favor of this bill, and there’s bound to be just a few Christians in that state. If any of you are reading this post, then consider what your state is doing. These people aren’t criminals! You don’t need a green card to be American—you just need a dream of something greater. Don’t fear them—embrace them! If you want to protest the fact that they are here illegally, then give them a chance to become legal. Consider the fact that they are here illegally because they don’t have any other options—they are not stealing from your state! They are contributing to it. Are there people who cheat the system? Of course! But there’s American’s who cheat the system too. There are always going to be cheaters, but deporting them won’t stop that.

Social responsibility isn’t a naughty word; it’s a Christian word—it means as Christians we are supposed to care for everyone—American or non. It means if there’s someone who wants to come to this country and dream, then we should help them build—not put up barriers to stop them.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians get upset because we don’t want prayer in schools or the Ten Commandments in courthouse. I get upset when I see Christians turning their back on people who want nothing more than freedom.

28 comments:

  1. 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'

    Leviticus 19:33-34

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  2. Fantastic post. I am very heartened to see that there are still some Christians out there who believe in loving thy neighbor and acting out of charity and love, not protection of self-interests or xenophobia.

    Wonderful ideas. Amen.

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  3. Can we please dispense with the charges of racism anytime someone holds a different position on some domestic or foreign policy issue? What is "Christian" about assuming that someone's motives are inherently racist just because they disagree with someone of a different race? Where in the Bible does it say that those who support standards for national citizenship are automatically "a bunch of arrogant, racist, white dicks who don’t want dirty Mexicans contaminating their land"?

    I lived in Arizona for nearly a decade, and I have friends who are police officers there, including one who was killed in the line of duty. To assume that sworn officers (in departments where a sizable percentage of the force is Hispanic) were just waiting for such a law so that they could jump in their squad cars and round up all the dirty Mexicans is itself a form of racism, and a slap in the face to all the Christians who live in a state where the official motto is "God Enriches."

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  4. Tim, this is a foreign policy issue--this is an issue that has been with the United States for dozens of years, and one that no one has ever properly addressed. It is a Federal issue, and one that they have put off dealing with, so Arizona decided to take radical measures. Does that make them racist? Any law that gives a police officer the right to search someone based on their race, does make them racisit. If you agree with that then you are a racist. This law is about the color of your skin, not what is right or wrong or best for the country.

    I am sorry for your friend, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this law is WRONG and solves nothing. I am horrified to hear that someone married to someone of a different race--someone whose ancestors were profiled themselves and put in Internment Camps during the war (which cost the government 400,000,000!)--would believe that a law that has profiling written all over it is right. For the sake of your son, I hope he's never pulled over when he is over on an innocent trip to Arizona, and questioned just because a cop think he is up to no good. I'm sure they aren't going to jump in their squat cars and round up anyone that looks Mexican, but the fact that they can makes them racist.

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  5. Wow. I'm a little embarrassed for Tim, here. Being a certain race shouldn't be illegal.

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  6. Scott said, "Any law that gives a police officer the right to search someone based on their race, does make them racist." If the law was focused on the color of your skin, I would agree with you. Fortunately, that's now what the law says. I just read the new law over at the Arizona legislature web site. The only mention of race (in the new additions to existing law) is a statement that "a law enforcement official [etc.] may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection...." If that's racist, then so is the Fourteenth Amendment.

    If we are really a nation of laws, then what the law says should be the focus. Unfortunately, for the protesters and news outlets in Arizona, the focus is not on the words of the law, but on their own perceptions of what the law means. Those perceptions have at their core a lie: that whites in general are racist and hate non-whites.

    The truth is that the vast majority of Americans, white and otherwise, put racism behind them decades ago. We had our bout with slavery; we blew it with internment camps and with laws that forbid Asians from owning land; we experienced the failings of Jim Crow. Those relics of the past are mostly gone. Sure, there are some in this country who can't let their prejudices go. But they are a tiny minority, no matter what Rev. Al Sharpton or Studs Turkel say. (Of course I read his book on race.)

    I don't worry about my minority son going to Arizona (which he does often to visit his grandmother). He's not going to be pulled over based on his skin color because there is no basis in Arizona law for such a practice. But don't get me started on the speed cameras that drench I-10 between Blythe and Phoenix!

    @Diana: I'm not sure what you are embarrassed about. Half of my family is minority. Of course being of a certain race shouldn't be illegal. But trespassing without permission, be it on private land or into a country's sovereign territory, is illegal. I'm all for expanded guest worker visas and new programs that make the path from illegal alien status to documented residency possible. What I'm not for is pretending that laws don't exist, or that ignoring them is the best way to show love to others.

    @Scott: Thanks for such a great provocative post. Debating is fun! Can't wait to see you again soon.

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  7. Tim, we can agree to disagree. I don't see coming to another country as illegal, I see it as an opportunity, being first generation, what my parents did to sacrifice for a better life for me. The majority of these families wanted a better life for their children and I see this bill taking away opportunity and the American Dream. Of course, if it was easier to become a citizen, this wouldn't be such a problem.

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  8. Tim, if this law was put into effect 20 years ago, then I would have never meant my wife because while she was a citizen, her mom was not (she became one later), and she would have been sent back to live in Mexico.

    There are plenty of tax paying illegals who are helping this country, and to put a law into effect that says they shouldn't be here is absolutely arrogant, and racist--you can put a mask on it and call it whatever you want if it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, but that doesn't change the fact that you are shamelessly agreeing with a bill that displaces families who have been here for over twenty years. A green card doesn't make you American--it's just a piece of paper.

    Here's the thing about that section about race: "a law enforcement official [etc.] may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection...." It's vague, and it is WAY to easy to abuse--and make no mistake, it will be, which will only lead to the court system having to deal with court cases that don't need to be tried.

    And that's not to mention what will happen to the economy without immigrants...economist have estimated Arizona could lose nearly 600 million in agriculture alone! And that's only one sector that you see immigrants. People say, but that just means more jobs for Americans--no, that means more companies moving elsewhere to do business.

    This bill solves absolutely nothing. What it does is it puts Americans against Americans and creates a further debate between the race divide--it will only encourage further prejudice and even violence.

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  9. Did anyone else read that Jeb Bush spoke out against the law? http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36427.html

    This can't be good! (Or is it?)

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  10. Scott, you should know that I am neither for nor against the Arizona law. I agree with you that, ultimately, it won't really have much impact on the larger immigration issues. As an author (like you), my frustration was with the misuse of words. A racist is someone who believes their race is inherently better than others, or that actions (generally negative ones) should be taken based on racial differences. Racism is not defined by how you feel about the specific wording of a specific law. If racism only has meaning in a political sense, then it has lost its true meaning as a word and is worthless to include in conversation. I'm always bothered by people who are called racists just because they disagree with the health care bill that was promoted by President Obama, a minority. The disagreements over a particular health bill would still exist even if Obama was white. It's not an issue of racism.

    Remember, there are citizens of England, France, Canada, Poland, and other white-dominated nations who are in the United States illegally right now. The law applies to them as well. Is the law racist against whites?

    Ultimately what bothers me is the assumption by some that, because I am white, I am racist. I'm married to a non-white, my son is non-white, I have very few white friends (present company excepted) since most of my acquaintances are Asian or Hispanic. I've spent months as the only white face in a non-white city (and loved it). Why am I still considered by some to be racist?

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  11. Tim, I'm white and I've never been called a racist! In fact I've never actually meant a white person who someone called a racist who wasn't a racist. So if people are calling you a racist on a regular bases because you are white...well I'm really not sure what to say to that, but it's probably not because your white...

    You're right...English live in the country illegally too, but I don't think they'll be the first ones to kick out if it comes to that! Do you really think anyone would bother reporting a illegal Englishmen? But there are plenty of people who would report a Mexican. And isn't it odd that the law passed in a state that's 75% white? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't pass in California if it ever came to that.

    Ultimately, nothing good can come of this. If you truly believe that there are no racist in Arizona, there will be once the protest start heating up, and someone gets hurt as a result of it. You'd be surprised how people feel about a particular race when the opportunity presents.

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  12. (1) I haven't been called a racist personally, just collectively. (2) I know a British citizen who was deported, so it does happen. (3) Arizona is not 75% white. In the 2000 Census, the population there was 63.82% white, with just over 25% Hispanic. 2008 estimates are 58.4% white, 30.1% Hispanic. Those trends will continue for the 2010 Census. (4) I never said there were no racists in Arizona. There are racists in every state. I just reject the assumption that a person's views on immigration automatically equate to views of race.

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  13. I would rather make the assumption that a persons views on immigrations has more to do with their arrogance, but arrogance is the forefront of the race in my opinion--slap a bunch of propaganda ads in front of a person that tells them their children are going to be killed by the Mexican mafia if they let the immigration problem continue, and they'll vote for that bill in a heartbeat, because most people vote with what they are fed by the media and not what they research--but once you start striking images like that in front of people they will eventually start believing that all immigrants belong to this group of people who are hurting this country. The reality is the drug cartel that propaganda is using to make them fear immigrants will stay in the state with or without the bill--but the average immigrant who breaks no law (except not being a citizen--but not for lack of effort) gets sent somewhere else. Most Arizona citizens probably voted for the bill because they fear what immigrants can do if they get too big--fear is the easiest way to win any election.

    But I think we will have to just agree to disagree.

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  14. Thanks anyway for the enjoyable debate. It's good to get the heart pumping once in a while.

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  15. @Diana: Please re-read the post. The enjoyable conversation with my friend Scott is what got my heart pumping. I don't mock poor people, having been one for much of my own life.

    Here's an even better verse from the same chapter:

    Proverbs 17:14: Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

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  16. Amen

    I understand all the points of view mentioned here and I appreciate Tim's use of facts in his debate rather then just emotional references. I also read the law and the subject of citizenship is only supposed to come up if a person has already committed a crime. The Police are not just being given free reign to come up to someone randomly and ask for there paper's that's ridiculous. But, If you still have such little faith in the police in Arizona why don't you Pray for Gods wisdom and discernment to be upon them. One should try to be reasonable and try to keep one's emotions from clouding their judgment when it comes to political matters such as this. I think boycotting and Hating on the whole state of Arizona is a terrible idea. Encouraging The People of Arizona and perhaps the whole country to vote in representatives or governing officials that can come up with better solutions to the issue then this Law would be better use of energy.

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  17. Aimee, God doesn't want us to be robots and not feel anything. I can guarantee you, Jesus himself wouldn't be sitting down for this. He was the most passionate person I know of. This isn't just an "emotional" issue, this is an issue of love and just.
    Nobody said we are hating on AZ, or the police, but their poor judgement on humanity is disgusting. I don't obey man's law, I obey God's law. We are not going to sit down and keep quiet on a topic that hurts us personally and is unbiblical.

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  18. Sorry if I made it sound like I wanted people to be robots but that's not what I meant. I agree with your comment. I wasn't trying to attack you personally. I think your a wonderful person. I am often misunderstood when I type stuff. :)I am not a big fan of this law but I understand the circumstances that led to it. I believe in compassion and love. I am also aware that people worry about public safety. It's a shame that the mistakes of a few make it hard on the rest of humanity man's laws are often a major buzzkill. I just think people should look at all sides besides there own and not resort to name calling, guilt trip's and assumptions about the topic and those who disagree with peoples conclusions. Again I am not accusing you of that I just saw that happening in the comments and it "disturbed" me. It is way to complicated.

    Moving on though There was a good point at the beginning of the article that didn't seem to become addressed in the comments. I don't think enough people know the process of becoming a citizen. Honestly I don't remember learning about the process or the ways the process changed and it makes me want to do some research. Perhaps we should find a way to change the system so its not so ambiguous and or find ways to help our friends become citizens. :)

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  19. I agree with one of the comments above about arrogance. There are certain older Italian family members in my life who have awful assumptions and arrogance about immigration that I can't understand. It's so lame that people believe the propaganda and stereotypes there fed on TV and movies. They assume because a few people are drug dealers and or gang-bangers that everyone who looks like them are like that. That is indeed a racist, dimwitted and an extreme right wing viewpoint that I am not comfortable with. makes me sick. Its dumb I want to say "ya know Spain is not that far away from Italy and why do you have a problem with with the mix of Spanish mestizo (Native American) maybe a lil dutch and or German." Geeeze people We are all related through Adam and Eve and Noah...so why can't we get along mix and just be the human race.

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  20. What say you to this rant I cut and pasted from a facebook group? Is it just dramatic sarcasm, exaggeration and arrogance? Sorry if I am upsetting you but it is interesting to see other points of view. Again I did not just type all this its a cut and paste so don't attack me I am only curious!


    "You can't enter any other country illegally why is it racism when you do it here!
    Let me see if I have this correct...
    -IF YOU CROSS THE MEXICAN BORDER YOU PAY A FINE AND ARE DEPORTED, THE SECOND TIME YOU ARE JAILED FOR UP TO 10 YEARS.
    -IF YOU CROSS THE FRENCH BORDER YOU ARE FINED,JAILED AND THEN DEPORTED.
    -IF YOU ENTER ENGLAND ILLEGALLY YOU ARE FINED 10,000 AND DEPORTED
    IF YOU ENTER ITALY ILLEGALLY YOU ARE FINED 13000 EURO AND DEPORTED
    - IF YOU CROSS THE NORTH KOREAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU GET 12 YEARS HARD LABOR.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE IRANIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU ARE DETAINED INDEFINITELY.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE AFGHAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, YOU GET SHOT.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE NORTH KOREAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU GET 12 YEARS HARD LABOR.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE IRANIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU ARE DETAINED INDEFINITELY.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE AFGHAN BORDER ILLEGALLY, YOU GET SHOT.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE SAUDI ARABIAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE JAILED.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE CHINESE BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU MAY NEVER BE HEARD FROM AGAIN.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE VENEZUELAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE BRANDED A SPY AND YOUR FATE WILL BE SEALED.
    - IF YOU CROSS THE CUBAN BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU WILL BE THROWN INTO POLITICAL PRISON TO ROT.


    - IF YOU CROSS THE U.S. BORDER ILLEGALLY YOU GET................................
    1 - A JOB,
    2 - A DRIVERS LICENSE,
    3 - SOCIAL SECURITY CARD,
    4 - WELFARE,
    5 - FOOD STAMPS,
    6 - CREDIT CARDS,
    7 - SUBSIDIZED RENT OR A LOAN TO BUY A HOUSE,
    8 - FREE EDUCATION,
    9 - FREE HEALTH CARE,
    10 - A LOBBYIST IN WASHINGTON,
    11 - BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS PRINTED IN YOUR LANGUAGE,
    12 - AND THE RIGHT TO CARRY YOUR COUNTRY'S FLAG WHILE YOU PROTEST THAT YOU DON'T GET ENOUGH RESPECT."

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  21. @AmimsterSkitzorz My POV on that? Read the blog! This kind of stuff creates hate. If you want to have a viewpoint, fine; there's a difference between having a viewpoint and trying create a sense of anger and rage about a group of people--that's what Hitler did! If this came from Christian friends, then all I can say is "Shame on them."

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  22. Our Government sure does need to grow a pair and find a better solution. If one of the worries about a mass influx of immigrants has to do with over population and environmental impact then I'd say I have seen plenty of wide open spaces in the Midwest as well as the south.....too bad many who seek the "American Dream" feel entitled to live near an ocean....lakes aren't that bad...ah well...hopefully we can leave some land for the animals.

    It's sad that the Mexican government let parts of their country become such a bummer that there citizens want to run away...I went there on a mission trip with http://www.corazon.org/ and am glad to say I was able to help build and paint a house for a family there...it was heartbreaking and very post apocalyptic looking in that area the images will stay with me forever.

    Proverbs 14:21 It is a sin to belittle one's neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor.

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  23. ya it boggles the mind how people consider themselves Christian yet have so much Hate :(

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  24. Then thank God they can come here for a better life.

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  25. Amen I would like to find out how to help them :)

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  26. First "racism" and now "creating hate a la Hitler." And all because someone has a difference of opinion on issues of immigration. Simply amazing.

    Here is the core issue, at least in the political realm: Does a sovereign nation have the right to establish regulations and standards for citizenship, immigration, border access, and visitor status? The answer is "yes." If "sovereignty" means anything, it certainly means that a country can define who can be physically present on its soil. Otherwise, there would be no basis for turning away a foreign army that wanted to set up residence.

    Although the cut-and-paste content that @AmimsterSkitzorz posted was written in an argumentative and somewhat sarcastic manner, it makes the same point, that the United States is not alone in having rules for territorial access. This isn't new with the United States. Most, and probably all, countries have penalties and deportation policies for foreigners who violate their laws. Even the colonies had rules for those who lived and owned land within their borders, including church-membership rules in some cases. Spurning those rules brought government retribution.

    Try this question: If someone believes that a nation has a right to maintain immigration standards, is that person by definition a racist and hateful? The answer is "no," although there are racists who include immigration issues in their arguments. Automatically equating a position on immigration with the most Hitleresque standards of racial hatred is unfair, unwarranted, and distracting to a Christian witness. Why would anyone darken the door of a church when believers are assigning racist motives to their non-religious understandings of world events?

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  27. Tim, I'm sure you have researched the issue enough to know that the so-called humorous message was full of exaggerations and lies (especially the last part about all this free stuff immigrants get). What does it do? It gets people who don't know the issue well to smile and say, "Damn straight!" It doesn't solve anything--it just makes people who don't agree with immigration reform even more angry about the issue. That's where the hate comes into play.

    Exaggerations and lies is exactly how Hitler got people to believe that Jews were evil and destroying their country. The truth is immigrants are not the ones destroying the country. So what does the Facebook entry do? It makes both sides angrier about the issue--it solves absolutely nothing.

    In answer to your question about racism...I believe by definition of racism, you could easily argue that slave owners weren't racist either--they weren't necessarily saying that they were better than blacks...they just believe it was their constitutional right to buy and own a slave.

    But seriously, there are really two kinds of people when it comes to this issue. Those who believe that this is God's land and we must help all people...not just Americans; and those who believe that this is American's land and we only are responsible for helping citizens.

    You keep repeating what you have already said, and so do I. Your a writer, you have a blog, and you have strong feelings about this issue. Instead of repeating what you believe and your feelings that you aren't a racist, why don't you write a blog yourself and defend your belief? It would probably come out much clearer than just replying to comments.

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  28. Scott, your "two kinds of people" statement is a false dichotomy; those are not the only two options. A third group may believe this is America's land, but that we still have a responsibility to help others. Other variations also exist.

    I think you're right about possibly writing more opinion-oriented content on my own. My current blog isn't really the right venue since it's a humor site (www.humorality.com if anyone is interested!). But perhaps some new endeavor.... Thanks for the advice.

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