Last week, “Joe the plumber” came to Carlsbad to speak at a “tea party” event. Video shows him saying that he would shoot anyone coming across the border. Now, this may be hyperbole, akin to saying “I would kill anyone who insults my mother.” However, Carlsbad is a community with a large Hispanic population, some of whom are undocumented immigrants. Those people came here to seek a better life. They are not a threat to Plumber Joe. While asserting the need to keep “illegals” out is a popular thing to say, and some may say it is in fact patriotic, it is not. Immigrants, even if they snuck across the border, do not pose a threat to our national or personal security. Some would say they come here and take welfare, but I know a lot more white Americans who are taking welfare than “undocumented” immigrants. So, why the hatred, resentment and fear?
Simply because the poor are always an easy target. The tea partiers claim that they are angry at our leaders for wasteful spending, but then the anger quickly seem to turn to those of “lesser” status, especially the poor and minorities for “leeching” the system, stealing jobs, and other imagined atrocities. Why? The appropriate target is those “up” the ladder from us—those we voted for or gave power to through our consumer dollars. We could depose those people and replace them. Why don’t they do it, then? Why do they instead lash out at those at the bottom levels of society? I guess it’s like the video I heard about of boys stomping on kittens. There seems to be some kind of power rush from hurting and destroying the weak.
At first, I was shocked that Joe W. said he would kill someone coming across the border. It struck me as an ignorant thing to say, and something that he says primarily to get a rise out of people. “Hooray for the guy who says things that are politically incorrect” seems to be part of people’s appreciation for him. Indeed, Joe brags in a newspaper article about being admired for speaking his mind. Well, speaking your mind is one thing, but advocating violence and intolerance in a racially-divided community is dangerous. Coming into my city and trying to instigate a lynch mob is unacceptable.
The problem, here is not just the animosity toward “illegals.” The problem is that the resentment spreads to encompass the whole immigrant community, and especially toward Hispanics in this part of the country. This perceived superiority is troubling, because the stereotypes and the threats, followed by violence, is the pattern of “ethnic cleansing” that has lead to genocide around the world. It is also the pattern of quietly ignored lynchings in the South. Whenever we label someone as different from us, it allows us to focus on their “bad” traits and demonize them. How easily we forget that we are more than 99 percent the same as everyone else.
Now, comes the problem. While I am appalled and disgusted by what Joe W. said, I respect Joe W.’s right to free speech. He has the right to his opinion, even if I disagree. But does he have the right to advocate violence and killing? We do not have the right to threaten to kill our neighbors. There is good reason for that. So, should Joe be allowed to whip up lynch mob sentiment, and more importantly, should the “tea partiers” and city officials quietly condone it?