…and I Live on Maple Street Immigration Scapegoating

Given the remarks today by Stephen Miller today at the White House press briefing where he spoke about Trump administrations support of the RAISE Act sponsored by Tom Cotton and David Perdue, I thought once more about the Monsters on Maple Street.  I do not see such a difference in temporary workers such as the doubling of the H2-B visa applicant maximums if indeed legal immigrants posed such a threat to US workers with similar skills.  The US Department of Labor website currently has advertisements for H2-B workers for the “Southern White House,” Mar-a-Lago.

https://lcr-pjr.doleta.gov/index.cfm?event=ehLCJRExternal.dspJobOrderView&frm=lcjr&task=view_job_order&view=external&lcjr_id=116833

Is the White House suggesting that Americans do not have the skills to work in restaurants as servers and cooks or to do basic housekeeping?  Mr. Miller tried the seasonal argument, and yes these positions are seasonal but how do people get on the job training to move from part-time or seasonal to full-time?  If legal immigrants are the problem, why is it OK for President Trump to further the problem by his own discrimination of American workers.

It isn’t a problem.  Miller is correct that immigration has changed throughout our history with ebbs and flows.  He’s correct about the timing for the inclusion of the words penned so beautifully by Emma Lazarus.  Using Miller’s reasoning in his fury with Jim Acosta, the Bill of Rights would also be meaningless because they became part of the Constitution 2 years following ratification.  It doesn’t make sense.

The numbers do not bother me.  For good or bad we have had immigration quotas. Having criteria doesn’t bother me, but I will always be concerned as to who decides the criteria. For example, we all know that the old literacy tests were not to gauge literacy but as an excuse to disenfranchise.

To prevent any misunderstanding, my maternal heritage would not have been allowed into this country if the RAISE Act had been in place.  I would not be an American.  The Hungarians from Livingston Parish who built that community would not have become Americans.  They would not have served in the 2nd World War.  Even as a historian, I don’t know the actual number of American and Allied lives old Mr. John was credited for saving.  He didn’t boast about his stars and battlefield decorations.  When I was a kid he only talked of war as “Hell on Earth” that sometimes one must enter.  No, Mr. John would not meet the standards of an acceptable immigrant because of his lack of education and skills before coming to the US.  His son would not have served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.  His grandson, a few years my senior, would not be an oral surgeon today who does a lot of volunteer work using his skills to assist the elderly.  I would not have earned graduate degrees.

Yes, it’s personal but what really matters is that RAISE does zero to address actual problems.  Businesses hire cheap labor to increase profits.  They ship jobs overseas for the same reasons.  Sure the law allows them to, and Donald Trump does what most others in his position have done to maximize his profits.  Still, just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.

The problem isn’t caused by immigrant workers but because we no longer educate and train people with the necessary skill sets for careers today.  Some people will not work in the occupations that immigrants will.  Some demand a better salary because that paid for these types of jobs is not enough.

It’s another topic, but we need to work on education and job training and match those to opportunities.  We need to create opportunities.  The idea is quite simple although the implementation is not in that it is multi-faceted without an easy one size fits all application.

Blaming immigrants; blaming non-English speakers; is just throwing gasoline onto a fire that shouldn’t be burning in the first place.  It’s just to appease those who want the monsters to destroy Maple Street.

The Original Version: 

Maple Street, any town, any state, USA — a non-descript residential community, working class families, homes, America.  The time was 4 March 1960, 19 February 2003, but it also today, the present, and perhaps tomorrow, the future.  The types of cars have changed on Maple Street.  Music with its distinct rhythms and melodies plays from different devices.  Clothing styles have evolved or devolved depending upon who is commenting.  Houses have more modern conveniences.  The people today – their faces, types of work, interests, and leisure time are more diverse in the present, yet that core, essence of being, is consistent with those who lived before on Maple Street.

The Sun rises, sets, and casts shadows.  Passages of time are marked. We rely upon electrical power to the degree that only its absence is noticed.  That has not changed.  Technology for the sake of enjoyment increasingly becomes more prominent in our lives.  Despite the “necessity” to be “connected 24/7,” in many ways today is a rerun of days’ past, but within this loop resides the last moment of calm reflection for everything and everyone on Maple Street before the monsters return.

In 1960, the monsters were supposedly aliens from outer space.  In 2003, those monsters were thought to be terrorists.  Today?  Well today, the monsters take diverse forms.  Terrorists still exist as do aliens even though that term today often invokes visions of illegals from other countries instead of visitors from other planets.  But our monsters?

Our monsters are surprisingly more mundane.  Their appearance is just like that of you or me or if distinguishable to us not so easily to others.  All that we know is that our monsters are just dissimilar from you, me, or whomever has either floor or soapbox and their voice transcends through the air in a manner that causes us to want to listen.  We see and hear what we want, and why not?  We are independent and free.  Past generations who lived on Maple Street defeated great enemies and overcame tremendous obstacles so that we maintain rights that seem natural or bestowed upon us by the Creator, God.

Still…

The monsters aren’t just returning to Maple Street.  The monsters never left.

They reside on Maple Street inside the very homes we seek to protect from invasion, from takeover.

We, the residents of Maple Street, harbor these monsters, but we allow those who do not live on Maple Street opportunity to rattle cages, break down doors, and crash through windows to antagonize these ogres to wreck additional fear, chaos, and destruction.  Why?

Some say that it’s only a theory, make believe, a fantasy.  It must be because nobody is a stranger on Maple Street.  There are no outsiders, no monsters, here unless they invaded.

We’ve lived, worked, played, and reared children side by side on Maple Street.  No need to fear those we know. Nothing can sever the bonds of trust that have been strung and joined with the strength and intricacy of dovetails. Internally the wood has been honed and glue has cured within the tracings of each interlocking joint.

Security except — all it takes is a single seed.

A seed might take the form of a seemingly innocuous thought, word, or gesture.  It’s miniscule in any derivative to what it can produce.

But how can a solitary seed?  The idea with monsters seems outlandish. To grow a watermelon perhaps, but from which a monster can spring?

Often, we don’t see, hear, and fail to realize that a pebble has fallen into the water, and the slight ripple that rolls out consumes energy until a wake of solitude becomes a tsunami.  It’s the flapping wings of a butterfly creating a gentle breeze somewhere that develops into a hurricane that batters another hemisphere.  It’s a snowball rolling downhill, building into what becomes an avalanche.  In our isolation, we are neither immune nor protected. We cannot run and hide from doubt.

Sure, we live in a Democratic Republic.  Maple Street is no different from Main or First or even Second Street.  We elect men and women to represent our interests.  We have a foundation for government in our constitution.

Our forefathers declared and won independence to live as they pleased.  These were exceptional individuals, but they were not infallible and learned that with government too much slack and reliance upon promises instead of establishing obligations would not be sustaining.  There had to be some sort of balance of power with checks to maintain that equalizing.

The Declaration of Independence listed natural rights.  It justified a revolution by enumerating the reasons to make this military conflict distinct from being just another rebellion against authority.  It proposed ideas for a new type of government.

The Articles of Confederation became this government and that government managed to obtain the surrender from Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.  With this government, we gained from others the undeniable recognition as being independent with the signings of the Treaty at Paris.  We had personal responsibilities but limited duties to one another.  We were free to govern and live as we pleased.  We only needed to prove it to others and more importantly to ourselves.

The promises of the Declaration, however, did not translate seamlessly into practice.  How could it?  For example, In plain sight yet hidden as the Purloined Letter the document told of monsters near, “the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  All men were not created equal.

Yet as John Adams penned to Hezekiah Niles years later and with the power of hindsight on 13 February 1813:

“The Colonies had grown up under Constitutions of Government, So different, there was so great a Variety of Religions, they were composed of So many different Nations, their Customs, Manners and Habits had So little resemblance, and their Intercourse had been so rare and their Knowledge of each other So imperfect, that to unite them in the Same Principles in Theory and the Same System of Action was certainly a very difficult Enterprize. The compleat Accomplishment of it, in So Short a time and by Such Simple means, was perhaps a Singular Example in the History of Mankind. Thirteen Clocks were made to Strike together; a perfection of Mechanism which no Artist had ever before effected.”

That Singular Example in the History of Mankind, however, almost imploded under the same generation who accomplished the “perfection of Mechanism which no Artist had ever before effected” before a Miracle at Philadelphia occurred.  That miracle was the Constitution, but it was not ratified by the existing state governments but specially called conventions.

  • See Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May – September 1787.
  • Paperback: 346 page
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st edition (September 30, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1299961029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316103985

The Constitution was another revolution whose success depended upon acceptance, not battling a foreign power to gain independence, and obviously neither tradition nor force which were the traditional roots for other governments.  To perpetuate, the Constitution had to work and become recognized as legitimate.  That was a long road full of unseen, unknown, and untold obstacles.

It was a road that nobody had traveled successfully prior, but one upon which we on Maple Street have trekked for now for 228 years.

Yet with 140 characters at a time, that road leading to Maple Street crumbles.  It’s akin to 140 jackhammers concentrated upon a single square inch of pavement.

It isn’t just the tweets.  Backhoes in the form of pundits on radio, television, and in print take swipes.  Social media has given most of us access to sticks of dynamite to use for our own satisfaction and sometimes our usage is absent of consideration for others.

It would be hypocritical to suggest that this is the first time someone has attempted to sow seeds on Maple Street.  Others have:

“And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:”

  • Matthew 13: 4-7, KJV

Hence, the reason for jackhammers trying to create fertile ground within a square inch in the middle of Maple Street.  The seeds cast, however, are to bear dissension, discord, and hate instead of fruit.  For the sower is powered by and recognized for amassing personal wealth of which these seeds bring hefty prices upon the open market.  Being loud and flamboyant draw more recognition than skill.

Again, these techniques are not new.  In Southern US History there is a phrase “revolt of the rednecks” that characterizes the rise of the flamboyant Southern politicians such as Theodore Bilbo and James Vardaman in Mississippi, Pitchfork Ben Tillman in South Carolina, and the Kingfish Huey P. Long in Louisiana among others.  Presentation in a carnival like atmosphere attracted crowds who feasted on messages tailored to their emotional hunger.

Even the Bible told of such days:

“Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:”

  • Psalm 49: 5-7 KJV

Some people inquire, why do you have this fixation, this interpretation today as opposed to administrations past?

Despite what some may think, this fixation is not new.  History is littered with examples.  Many became far more horrific and destructive than is likely or even has a statistical possibility beyond that extreme outlying data point of occurring.

One worry is our growing ignorance of history.  That’s a criticism of us as a people, but it’s also an understandable product of feeling overwhelmed and human limitations.  When learning ceases, we cease to exist.  Another is that some exaggerate history.  Both scholars and those with only a cursory knowledge embark upon that route.  Monsters do not need to be created from windmills for the windmills themselves have problems that because of neglect present their own dangers.

Why today?  Today is the present.  We may learn from the past, but we do not live there.

We may prepare for the future, but that future is not the present.  The future does, however, come faster than we often anticipate because it is only the next line of text and doesn’t even require a flipping of page.  We live in the present, so it matters.  It affects us directly and will mold our future.  That is why today.

The man elected as leader per the procedures established in the Constitution implies scandals or weakness at every turn.

It escapes some, but to become “great again” means that failure occurred.  The question is when and the fingers are pointed elsewhere,  but weren’t we on Maple Street around for that failure?

He campaigned that the election would be fixed, rigged against him. In fact, he would not commit to accepting the results prior to but only after the Electoral votes showed in his favor.  That was unprecedented.

Even with victory, he is not accepting and moving past for the loss of the popular vote count is considered an obvious sign of fraud.  He made that charge, not opponents.  Opponents made excuses and lamented their loss, but it was the victor who originally alleged fraud.

Many will say false, and chant Russia, Russia, Russia.

Russia is still an unknown.  We don’t have all the facts, yet the President and supporters deem even the premise that Russia could have influenced our election as a witch hunt.

The other night a pundit who went to great lengths to demean and to discredit everyone else (although he did acknowledge Politico positively before blaming them of stopping what they started to report) whined about the past.  Why didn’t the media cover Hillary Clinton and Ukraine?  Why didn’t the media cover Barack Obama and Israel?  Why the outrage about this email chain and no outrage about Clinton’s server or “lost” emails?

If there was no coverage, how or why did the preceding Congresses engage in so many hearings and conduct so many investigations?  I can only assume about specifics, but some investigations are continual and ongoing.

Why didn’t this pundit’s television network and the platforms that host many of his commentators and experts flood the American public with these stories?  Did they really believe that propagating birtherism was more important?  Did they really believe that repeated detailed accounts of Barack Obama on the golf course should take precedence to potential election interference?

If CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times, and others are free to investigate, why isn’t FOX?  If “mainstream” silences opposing views, why can I tune into the Blaze and similar on television?  Why do I watch Sinclair push these recorded spots on local news that might be an affiliate of any network?

At Metro stations, there are print newspaper boxes for WAPO right next to a box containing print copies of the Washington Times.  Alternative platforms and outlets exist, and one does not need to search for them.  It’s impossible to avoid them just as one finds it impossible to avoid mainstream media.  Either side rains down enough talk and print to flood entire communities and states.  Together that amount of flooding is unprecedented in all of history, not just here in the United States.

When anyone clamors “no coverage,” I think that person must have been marooned on Gilligan’s Island and even then, had zero clue as to what that little white radio was, let alone how to turn it on and tune it to a station.  Seriously this pundit may only be a commentator, except for the times when it’s convenient to refer to himself as an investigative journalist or reporter, but he appears on a major network that is widely distributed.  FOX News cannot be confused with my high school class news report that at best could reach an audience of about 50 of my classmates all of whom knew each other because our hometown didn’t even have a large enough population to be classified as a town.

Instead this pundit like the President, and the White Communications staff continually informs us that any disagreement in the media from what they say is “Fake News.”  The topic doesn’t matter.  For example, it was the largest inauguration crowd in history, the photos are false, doctored.  Apparently, size must matter more than the people or their feelings.

Cries of why wasn’t this person or that person investigated are continual.  Everyone before failed as President.  America stopped being great, but he alone is great.

Opposing voices are demeaned with the objective to discredit.  Cable news personalities are “crazy,” and “dumb as a rock.”  They are bullies to the leader of the free world.

It doesn’t make sense that the most powerful with the most resources are not just threatened but bullied by others who are so small that they can be knocked out by that small seed cast.

Many readers are of age to remember first-hand, and those of my age and younger should have been taught McCarthyism in their US History courses.  Admittedly Edward R. Murrow might be disappointed in the overall state of journalism today, but would the current administration and its pundits be forever in hiding if they faced probing less than even 10 percent of what Murrow did less than four score ago?

What if Joseph Welch posed the questions in the hearings of today?  I’m scared to think the reaction because hollering, denigrating, and attempting to intimidate Mr. Welch by any means didn’t seem to work effectively.  Partisanship existed at that time.  Regionalism had a greater influence in Congress than political party as the Solid South still existed.  Racism and other such ideas that imbued society were out in the open.  Yet the people of the generation recognized the monsters and managed to distinguish monster from man and survived this critical period.

Today, however,  in non “Fake News” we have accusations such as:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

 When is enough finally enough?

Here on Maple Street the reality is that our elected leaders are not calming fears and promoting cooperation and humanity.  It’s suspicion and division to open chasms for those seeds to germinate.  Everyone else is blamed or denigrated.  The example from the top is everything should be about me.  Everyone else receives breaks, gets rewarded, is given free passes, but what about me?  Remember, I’m President and you are not.

Opposing views of this description retort that Barack Obama did the same or worse.  He was the divider in chief.  Crooked Hillary Clinton committed more crimes and atrocities but never faced the same level of scrutiny.  Bill Clinton lied.  Loretta Lynch, James Comey, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and others have gotten away with everything and nobody noticed, complained, or cared.

Here’s a shock.  I feel no need to argue those points.

Let’s just agree that everything you want to say about the previous administration is true.  Everything you want to say about the Clinton organizations is true.  Everyone is unfairly attacking our elected leader today.  I’ll accept that with no argument.

Say that it’s true, but how does that justify doing the same bad things?

Just because others did it, isn’t a valid reason.  If I had a nickel for every time one of my schoolmates from K through 12 listened to their Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, or our teachers answer us with some version of “just because ______ is doing it doesn’t mean you get to do it,” I could probably pay a mortgage payment at least.

Continuing that type of lame excuse only slides us closer to falling off the slippery slope.  How is that making us great again?  Progress needs to start someplace, and progress doesn’t mean pulling those with opposing views down or blaming everyone else for not asking immediately “how high” when you say “jump.”

Regardless of personal political ideology, as an American, doesn’t it seem strange that some profess disgust at the public perception of a President and First Lady who have celebrated many anniversaries and are rearing two daughters together.  How many scandals appeared in opposition media with promises to that the information would “cause liberal heads agony,” “make the left furious,” “incriminate all Democrats?”  [I purposely chose to downplay the wording of these “news reports and sources”].

That was common practice with Barack and Michelle Obama.

Honestly, we don’t know about fights and stuff behind closed doors just as they don’t know about your family or my family squabbles.  Here on Maple Street we see everything that happens outside, but not under another family’s roof.  We see the public image and hear what they say about themselves.

Likewise, we don’t know everything about Donald and Melania Trump and their young son behind closed doors.

We do know that the President had been married twice previously.  Sadly good people get divorced, I’m not making judgments.  I’m pointing out that as recent as the 1950s with Adlai Stevenson, a president who had been divorced was unthinkable for many Americans.  That changed obviously with Ronald Reagan.

This reordering of the importance of various traits and characteristics by candidates and electorate are not new nor relegated to a single party or ideology.  In the 1980s, Gary Hart’s political career and hope for the presidency ended because of sex scandals.  By the 1990s Bill Clinton won consecutive terms despite sex scandals.  Clinton defeated a man with a distinguished military service record in George H.W. Bush even though Clinton dodged the draft.

Today our Commander in Chief is regarded by supporters as a military advocate even though he also dodged the draft.  Supporters excuse him for criticizing a Veteran like John McCain and apparently accept the President’s reason that he doesn’t like individuals who were captured by the enemy.  He only respects those who were not captured is considered “reasonable” for the President to say about an American POW.

It doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps in a cult it makes sense, but has partisanship and our own level of discourse really disintegrated to that level?

We can all talk about “locker room banter,” but would you accept your son saying that he would walk up to a woman and grab her by the #%$$*?  What if someone said that to your daughter, wife, or Mom?

Does it matter?  Perhaps not, but isn’t it traditional to hold Presidents and leaders to at least the same standards as we hold ourselves and our children?   Inside a classroom, I expect more from myself than I do any of my students.  As a student, I gauged my success by how well I performed, not what my classmates did.  As a child those with authority over me practiced the “do as I do” philosophy.  The concept of “do as I say, not as I do” was inconceivable.  I know I’m not the only one reared in that manner.

As far as we know, Barack Obama has never admitted to having extramarital affairs.  Donald Trump in his own books has bragged about past affairs that played roles in his divorces.  Who are we to judge, but how can Obama be described as surely not Christian while Trump is a true Christian?  Perhaps both, perhaps neither, but would you rather your child set a goal for multiple marriages and affairs or for in sickness and in health until death do us part?

We seem to accept and sadly justify standards of a public figure who many only know as the character he played on the Celebrity Apprentice.  Most people I know would be appalled or offended if someone they actually knew behaved in the same manner.  Tweeting insults is not hitting back hard.  Dodging the draft does not make one understanding, sympathetic, and supportive of the military.  Excessive boasting, bragging, whining, complaining, and making everything about me are not attributes that we equate to success and leadership.

Here on Maple Street our views are obscured.  We used to be a group.  We used to care about one another.  Now it’s suspicion, jealousy, and animosity.  Things aren’t going as we think they should so it’s Don’s fault, and we run to stop him.  He fights back and yells that Charley is the bad person, and the crowd moves toward Charley.  Charley becomes frightened and points his finger at Steve.  You’re the one; you started this and as Steve backs away he cries out that it’s Tommy, it’s the kid, remember he knew.  Everyone is a danger, but the one taken down first is the one with the least resources or skill to fight back.  One by one, we succumb.  It’s a mob scene, a riot on Maple Street.

Martin Niemöller wrote:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Caught within the chaos we cannot see the big picture, but on the top of a hill overlooking the brutality, bloodshed, and destruction, everything becomes clear…

“Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines and radios and telephones and lawn mowers …. Throw them into darkness for a few hours, and then just sit back and watch the pattern.

“And this pattern is always the same?”

“With few variations. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find … and it’s themselves. And all we need do is sit back … and watch.”

“Then I take it this place … this Maple Street … is not unique.”

“By no means. Their world is full of Maple Streets. And we’ll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other … one to the other … one to the other –”

Lastly:

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices-to be found only in the minds of men.

For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children …

and the children yet unborn, (a pause) and the pity of it is …

that these things cannot be confined to … The Twilight Zone!”

And I live on Maple Street, and so do the monsters, for those monsters are part of me.

The title and thought of this essay came from The Twilight Zone, Season 1, Episode 22, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” that aired originally on 4 March 1960.

Readers can most likely catch the episode being rerun in local television or networks.  It is also available on many streaming sites.  I’m linking an episode guide entry from The Twilight Zone Wiki for additional information.

In the year 2002, a remake of the Twilight Zone debuted on the UPN Network with Forrest Whittaker assuming the Rod Serling role as narrator.  This remake should not be confused with the remake that aired for two seasons on CBS beginning in the year 1985 with a third season produced for syndication.

In the second remake (2002), an episode titled “The Monsters Are on Maple Street,” Season 1, Episode 32 made its debut on 19 February 2003.  It offered a contemporary take of the original.  I’m linking the IMDb entry for more information.

Episodes from this series remake are not as prevalent on our airwaves today as the original Twilight Zone.  Still, one can find this episode many streaming sites.  Myself, I find comparing these episodes quite interesting, but I would rate the original as the superior version.

A Non-related aside:

I have never sought or accepted any payment or donations for this blog.  My position hasn’t changed, but I wanted share some good news.

After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I are in the final stages of adopting a son from an international orphanage.  We would most appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our son and us as soon-to-be parents to more than fur babies.  I hope that people read and follow because you either gather some information or at least see something that causes you to think.

We’re not conducting any fundraising with crowd sourcing sites or other means.

Nobody goes into the education field to become wealthy, but it’s a valuable reward when former students remain in communication or drop in unexpectedly to say that you made them think, believe, or made a difference.  Students, colleagues, peers, readers, and others have inquired so if anyone would like to make a monetary donation to help us with airfare primarily or other expenses associated with adoption, below is a link to a PayPal donation account that I have set up.  It would be appreciated, but it is certainly not necessary to continue whatever connection we share.

https://www.paypal.me/LABLouisianaBoy

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