Can Hope Replace Fear?

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, June 25, 2018

Once again I’m writing a political essay that few will read. I do this when I’m disturbed about events in the news that I’m powerless to control. We liberals are horrified by what fears over undocumented immigrants are doing to this country. Trump wants to bypass the rule of law, or apply existing laws like a cold war police state. It seems like an extreme right minority will tear the country apart to stop illegal immigration. That’s very scary. It’s even scarier that tens of millions support them. But liberals have fears that scare conservatives, so I think it’s vital we work to understand their fears if we want them to understand ours. What I realized this morning is unless we can empathize with each other’s fears, we will always have a politically polarized society.

We like to think love and hate are the two primary emotions, but I they aren’t. Hope and fear are more primal. Love grows out of hope, and hate grows out of fear. Think of people you love and hate. Love comes from the hopes you have, and hate comes from the fears. Liberals hate Trump because he causes us to fear, but conservatives love Trump because he gives them hope for their fears. What we need right now is politics of hope for everyone.

Conservatives fear illegal immigration in the same way liberals fear climate change. Each perspective destroys hope for the future. All of us want health, liberty, security, happiness, family, friends, and prosperity. Our fears arise when we feel those hopes are in jeopardy. We think Trump is destroying our future, while conservatives believe he’s protecting theirs.

Liberals fear climate change will devastate the planet. Conservatives fear illegal immigration will destroy our social order. What is the practical reality of these fears? Can we ever be united if everyone fears destruction from two different threats that split us into opposing sides? Can we collectively work to give each other hope?

I use the phrase “illegal immigration” for the want of a better term. Liberals prefer the term “undocumented immigrant.” But to a conservative, that probably feels like what liberals feel when we hear phrases of climate change denial. To use the phrase undocumented immigrant is to deny the reality that undocumented immigrants are doing something illegal.

The only way to find hope is to understand each other’s fears. The only way to heal the division is to cooperate in solving each other’s fears. Liberals need to find a rational way to deal with illegal immigration that will sooth conservative fears, and conservatives need to work on environmental security to reduce liberal fears.

For decades conservatives have told liberals they sound like Chicken Little running around screaming “The sky is falling” when discussing climate change. Well, conservatives are now overreacting to illegal immigration in the same way. We need to calm each other down, discuss the realities of each danger, and decide practical solutions we can implement together. Both problems are exceedingly complex, promise slow but huge changes to society, but can be solved if we work at it collectively. But zero tolerance of illegal immigration is like asking American to give up cars to save the Earth. Extreme solutions are too simple-minded to work.

Liberals need to understand the fears of conservatives, and conservatives need to understand the fears of liberals. It does no good to justify our fears by convincing others to fear them too. What we need to do find ways to spread hope. But I’m not sure if that’s possible if we live in panic mode.

We feel stories about immigrants causing excessive crime are unjustified, and there’s plenty of proof to disprove those stories. We believe you use crime hyperbole to justify circumventing laws. We believe conservatives have genuine fears over illegal immigration that come from three actual threats to your way of life. First, you don’t want to pay more taxes to support immigrants. Two, naturalized citizens tend to vote liberal, so it’s a threat to the Republican party. And three, you want to maintain a white America.

These are hard issues to address. Hard cold mathematics tell us our society is diversifying racially. This is your big fear: “The Next America” – a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. Here’s the graph that probably scares you most:

Changes in race in America from 1960 to 2060 - Pew Research Center

Zero tolerance for illegal immigration will not change those trends. Those numbers may be conservative if they don’t take into account climate change and economic collapse. If we don’t slow climate change migration numbers will explode. It’s like the physics of gases. If you have two containers, one with low pressure and one with high pressure and you allow a path between, the pressures in the two tanks will equalize. As long as there are good and bad places on this planet, populations will migrate. No wall you build will ever be high enough to stop it. Just remember, if you lived in a bad place, you’d head for a good one too. One solution is to rebuild collapsing countries.

If the Republican party wasn’t so exclusive and strived to serve the entire population they wouldn’t have to fear diversity. By becoming the party of the white holdouts, the Republicans are forced to find solutions that only serve a minority of voters. We need both political parties to offer hope to all citizens.

Finally, illegal immigrants do raise taxes, but to remove them would be even more expensive. And they contribute a giant chunk of change to the economy. We actually benefit economically from both legal and illegal immigration.

But this probably doesn’t alleviate your fears. If you could only let go of your hangups over skin-color your fears could be reduced. Maybe reading “Southern Baptists Call Off the Culture War” might help.

Conservatives need to accept that diversity is already here. Liberals will have to accept that immigration must have limits. Liberals need to accept that capitalism drives the economy. Conservatives must accept that the cost of preserving the environment is essential to healthy capitalism. Conservatives must accept that immigrants are key to future growth. Liberals must accept that too many immigrants can destabilize the economy.

Fear destroys our morals and ethics. Fear makes us do things we wouldn’t do if we were hopeful.

Climate change is going to drastically alter all societies on this planet. Mass movements of people around the world are going to alter all those societies too. In fact, there are many trends that are changing every society on Earth going on simultaneously right now. We can’t stop them. But to keep our hopes we must learn to adapt and control them.

When reading or watching the news, pay attention to its emotional impact. Does the story offer hope or fear? All too often stories provide an extreme example. Not only do we need to become savvy over the fake news, but wary of sensational news. If a story scares you, research it on Google. The more you know the less you’ll fear.


5 thoughts on “Can Hope Replace Fear?”

  1. There’s a lot of truth in your essay but one point is missing. There are at least two classes of conservatives, the wealthy and the poor less educated branch. Under normal circumstances that branch would be expected to vote with the democrats and a it of liberals seem mystified as to why the vote, apparently, against their own best interest.

    I live in a rural environment, northern NH, so, I encounter many from both sides. I recently built a home as my own contractor. I could have saved a lot of money by heading down to Home Depot and hiring some “cheap” help from Honduras or similar… Instead I hired American citizens that were on welfare because of the cheaper alternative. You see where I’m going?
    In 2008 the border patrol arrested 16,000 illegals, by 2016 They were arresting 72.000, about a 500% increase. The net result sent rural people to the polls, firmly in Trumps camp. And now they are see the conservatives as their best hope.
    Just another point of view…
    And I detest that illiterate sob…never trust a man with a comb over..

  2. George W. Bush tried to get Congress to work on immigration reform. They refused. Now, years later, we’re confronting the border crisis. Kicking the can down the road didn’t work. Ignoring the problem only made the problem grow and become harder to solve. There are no easy answers to these problems, but we better start working on them NOW!

  3. Nothing in James’ essay is wrong or errant in any way. Nothing in the first comments are either wrong, or completely right. Regarding the issue of migrant workers entering the USA, the history of this issue (problem?) is long, wide and deep. President Ronald Reagan approved the use of seasonal migrant workers because he lived in California, where the majority of cash crops would lay fallow if farm workers were turned back at the border. Since that time, those same competent workers have spread throughout the USA and found ways to work in many more areas of labor that our own families and children would never ever consider. I worked as a fry cook in a restaurant in North Hollywood CA, where the “bus boys” were capable of helping me put out quality food AND running the back end of the store while I was busy making pretty plates of decent food for the customers.

    That was an echo of my earlier years packing peaches in Littlerock, CA (don’t look for the orchards there anymore; they’re all gone now. They grow houses and neighborhoods instead of fruit there these days.) I can tell you that there are few jobs such as packing peaches that almost no one wants to do (did you know that the “peach fuzz” on those peaches is released by handling/packing and that it gets into your eyes, ears, skin and clothing – and itches like a mother f***er?) ? I got that job for a summer by being related to the grower, and I couldn’t wait to finish the damn job each day to get a long shower. I was lucky; my aunt lived less than a mile away, and I could shower as much as I wished after work.

    I was at best an average peach packer ( I think; nobody ever said I truly sucked at it, but nobody called me back when I went back to school) and I really, really didn’t want to do that again. That may have spurred my academic interest when I went to college. Hell, I’m damn sure it did, since I found a lot of easier and less discomforting jobs while in college. Such as working in the restaurant business. One thing I learned in the food prep biz – cooks are a mixed bag, but all of them know that if they want to, they can go somewhere else and get a job. None of the cooks I worked with were Anthony Bourdain’s “best French Chef’s” in America. But every single one of them I worked with taught me something.

    And the “bus boys” I worked with were the best folks I worked with in that biz. Hard working, dedicated, and appreciative of the opportunity, even if they were only working in the USA so they could afford a rancheria back in Mexico so they could marry their girl and raise kids in a town or area where there was no other work to be found.

    None of these anecdotes are proof of anything, other than that I have personal experience in this area of discussion. All of the personal issues and feelings are mine, and only mine.

    But I do believe something of what Bourdain said; that is the people who are interested, in need and who will strive to do better for themselves and their families are the best workers in this America.

      1. Thanks, JW. I really never thought of my life experiences as anything more than just that. Life. It’s what we learn from.

        I had the pleasure of working with many US Citizens (?) that could have been hauled off by Les Gendarmes because they spoke little or “tainted” English. I suspect that in most parts of our country that many people never really got to learn about folks from another country who were working their asses off to make a better life for themselves. None of them were fighting to keep American Citizens or their children from doing the work that they were willing to do. They were just taking advantage of the opportunities available to them (granted, not all of them were legal immigrants); but they were able to get those jobs NOT because they worked cheaper than Americans. They got those jobs because they were available, willing and able to do those jobs; and there were no crowds of American Citizen teens wishing to do that work.

        The laws of Supply and Demand (if they truly exist) say that when workers are in short supply, wages go up. What those laws don’t say is that when the local labor supply doesn’t WANT to do certain work, there will always be a shortage of labor. Ergo, we get people who REALLY want to do that work because it beats the **** out of what they can get in their homeland.
        I got no reason to make a new law of S&D; my degree is in History, not Economics*.

        But to finish from your comments, I’ve worked for dozens of different people (mostly US Citizens) in my life. But I have never had a single reason to distrust those folks I worked with whose “legal” status was unknown to me. I will state for the record that all of the employed people in my current life where I am the “responsible person” are both legal (aka green card) or US Citizens. And while I’d really like to hire local GC’s who hire local youths to do this kind of work, they really don’t exist.

        Anyone who can tell me where to find a GC who hires local youths to do skilled landscaping, gardening, tree-trimming, and other yard work and guarantee’s their work (and pays them a living wage) will open up a new vista for me.

        *Henry Ford is famous for a comment that “History is bunk”. That my be true. But without history, we are most likely to trod the same path, and suffer the same humility that our history could have taught us to do differently.

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