Beyond Stupidity

The fence on the border separating the United States and Mexico

The fence on the border separating the United States and Mexico

Recently, I was watching the evening news on the television and saw a segment devoted to the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border. One of the clips shown on the program was of Republican Representative from the First Congressional District in Texas, Louis Buller Gohmert, who asserted that the crisis of women and children refugees seeking asylum in the United States was so serious that it puts “our continued existence at risk.” Gohmert said these words during a speech on the House floor as he renewed his call for Border States to invoke their rights under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, and to declare war against a “mass invasion” of refugees. In case you are not up on such matters, the 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Gohmert explained, “Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border.” He went on to say that the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security was complicit because it had “actually assisted the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by not enforcing the law.

Really, Congressman? Our “continued existence” is at risk? From whom? Oh, I see, refugee women and children. Now, let me get this straight. All that it is going to take to bring this country to its proverbial knees is fifty-two hundred CHILDREN? It has been a pretty good run since 1776, but wait, here comes little Maria or Juan with a piece of paper in his or her pocket that has an address or a phone number on it, and there goes America! WOW! That’s incredible. Slow your roll, Louie. They’re children. They’re not a bunch of diseased invaders looking to rape white women. They’re children, for God’s sake.

And it’s not just that, mind you. This whole border crisis is a plot by the Obama administration, of course, to bring America down. Everyone knows that. You thought it was going to be some secret Muslimism taking over, or some secret born-in-Kenya and not even Hawaii ploy. But no. No one was prepared for the real plot, the one in which a bunch of children show up at our border and – well, you can guess the rest. We’re finished! We can’t possibly handle this crisis without a flotilla of naval warships, without calling up the Texas National Guard, without a moat with alligators in it, and/or without a fence stretching across the entire border between Mexico and the United States. Without those things, we’re done as a country. They’re persona non grata. If we can’t keep these little diseased-ridden interlopers out of here, we’ll have to give them blankets and milk and graham crackers and what have you – and that’s money that should be going to some gigantic fat cat’s twenty-third consecutive tax cut. So, board up the house, Lucy and cancel the cable guy, Charlie, America is toast!

Are people who think like this. . .just plain stupid? And it would be bad enough if people like Representative Gohmert were alone, but this is the common theme of protests not only in Texas, but also in California, Arizona, Maryland, and in Pennsylvania. It is this notion that if we allow these children to not die at the border or if we do not somehow just beam these children back into Mexico and call it Mexico’s problem, then we are all doomed.

The new racist viciousness directed at these children is not only remarkable, but also frightening.

Protesters at Murrieta, Californis

Protesters at Murrieta, Californis

For instance, there is the charge that these children are diseased. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has begun raising fears of importing disease-ridden children in a recent interview. Corbett opined that before any children are sent to Pennsylvania, the federal government should “make sure … that they’ve had all their immunizations and so forth because we have a strong concern about that.” Corbett added, “Measles is one [disease] that comes to mind very quickly” as a concern.

Where does one begin on this one? First, the World Health Organization reports that in most Central and South American countries, immunization rates against measles and other childhood communicable diseases are actually on a par with, or even better than immunization rates in the United States. Mexico and Nicaragua, for example, have immunization rates of 99 percent – well above the 92 percent rate in the United States. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Colombia, Peru – all do at least as well as the United States at inoculating their children against measles. In fact, Texas does a worse job of inoculating children than does Guatemala.

And the funny part about measles – the one disease Governor Corbett mentioned by name – is that among those diseases that we probably need to worry, measles is the one about which we need to worry the least. “There hasn’t been an endemic infection of measles anywhere in the Americas since 2002,” says Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, who also works on biosecurity and emerging infectious disease problems. Measles and other communicable childhood diseases are problems in some parts of the world – namely in portions of Africa and Asia. When measles has cropped up in Western Hemisphere during the past decade-plus, it has come from those places, rather than south of the border.

And then recently, Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a dire warning: “Some of the child refugees streaming across the southern border into the United States might carry deadly diseases. Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey wrote. “Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles.”

It is no wonder, with rhetoric like this, that bigots are gathering in their thousands to tell refugee children that they are not welcome in their neighborhood. After all, they are nothing but a bunch of little terrorists, future rapists, drug users, and thieves.

The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios says that these children carry diseases and should be treated like lepers (never mind that we don’t even treat lepers like lepers anymore): “I think of biblical times, the lepers were separated — right or wrong — they were separated. It was understood that leprosy was so contagious. So there’s nothing wrong with wanting to separate your children. We used to quarantine people when they had diseases.We’re such a healthy people that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be diseased and die from those diseases in huge numbers,” she said, “but we’re going to learn, I think, again.”

Yes, there have been a handful of reports that children have swine flu, tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox. But while Central American children are at higher risk for tuberculosis, mainly an upper respiratory disease, it is not only treatable and curable, but the Department of Health and Human Services screens and quarantines the children who test positive for TB. In fact, the first step once children are intercepted by border agents is to perform health screenings on each individual.

The general population is likely safe from swine flu because the vaccine for it is part of the trivalent influenza vaccine that is administrated annually. Measles and chickenpox vaccines are available and already required, although the recent uptick in measles outbreaks can be partially blamed on parents who forgo their children’s MMR (measles, mump, rubella) vaccine based on the belief that vaccines cause autism. Reports of Ebola virus (a West African disease), as Representative Gringrey suggested, seem to be downright doubtful since people with the virus develop dramatic symptoms within days, and are probably too busy hemorrhaging blood to make the treacherous journey into the United States.

And finally in Murrieta, California, busloads of babies in their mothers’ laps, teens, ‘tweens and toddlers were turned back from a detainee facility. They were met by screaming protesters, waving and wearing American flags and bearing signs that were imprinted with such slogans as “Return to Sender,” “Send them Home,” and, of course, “Honk if you want to impeach Obama.” Just look at the faces of those who stopped those buses and you will see what I mean. Overall, the level of hate-filled paranoia directed specifically toward the children has begun to resemble a Joe McCarthy tirade against people working in sensitive sectors of the U.S. government as being members of the communist party or of having communist sympathies.

This is a refugee crisis, not an immigration crisis. Even so, when the Statue of Liberty says…
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door
!”…she could have been looking directly at these children.

Whatever happened to those words? Do we still mean them? A recent survey discovered that a near-majority of Americans want the undocumented immigrant children currently being held at the border deported as soon as possible, even though only about one-third of adults think these children have someplace safe to which to return. Maybe we will have to change the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to. “Give me your educated, your credentialed, your cubicle jockeys yearning to cash checks, the fluent doctors abandoning your teeming shores. Send these, the smart, the trained, to me: I lift my lamp beside the door of privilege.”

The degree of heartlessness exhibited by some Americans defies belief. Many of these children are victims of the drug war that the United States is funding and refuses to end – a drug war that those same border protesters probably support. In reality, it is true that these children have contracted the most vicious disease on earth. It has a name. It is called bigotry.

This mania has gone beyond mere stupidity and has descended into an old-fashioned hate fest. It has become a campaign to convince Americans that refugee children are an enemy that must be dispatched without pity. If you don’t believe me, just ask Representative Louie Gohmert, for according to him, our “continued existence,” supposedly, depends on it.

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