ShareThis Page
News Columnists

When indignation trumps information

| Sunday, May 2, 2010

WASHINGTON

"Physician, heal yourself," said the founder of the church in which Roger Mahony is a cardinal. He is the Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles and he should heed the Founder's admonition before accusing Arizonans of intemperateness.

The Rev. Mahony says Arizona's new law pertaining to illegal immigration involves "reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation."

"Our highest priority today," he says, "is to bring calm and reasoning to discussions about our immigrant brothers and sisters." His idea of calm reasoning is to call Arizona's new law for coping with illegal immigration "the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law."

Mahony also says it is "dreadful," "abhorrent" and a "tragedy," and its assumption is that "immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder and consume public resources."

The problem of illegal immigration is inflaming Mahony, who strongly implies, as advocates for illegal immigrants often do, that any law intended to reduce such illegality is "anti-immigrant." The implication is that because most Americans believe such illegality should be reduced, most Americans are against immigrants. This slur is slain by abundant facts -- polling data that show Americans simultaneously committed to controlling the nation's southern border and to welcoming legal immigration.

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, said, "And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Mahony uncharitably judges Arizona legislators and the constituents they represent to be "mean-spirited." His evident assumption, one quite common today, is that certain ideas cannot be held by any intelligent person of good will.

But what does -- what can -- Mahony mean by asserting that Arizona's law is "useless"• He must believe either it will have no effect on illegal immigration or that any effect must be without social value. He can know neither to be true.

Late night comedians, recalling World War II movies in which Gestapo officers demand "show me your papers," find echoes of fascism in Arizona's belief that there are occasions when police officers can reasonably ask for someone's documentation. On Tuesday, Barack Obama, showing contempt for the professionalism and character of police officers, said: "Now suddenly if you don't have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you're going to be harassed."

Time was, presidents were held to higher standards than comedians. Today's liberals favor indignation over information but lawyer Obama must know that since 1952, federal law has said that "Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him."

In today's debate, the threshold question is: Should the nation have immigration laws• Until 1875, there were none. There are strict libertarians who believe there should be none. But the vast majority who do not favor completely open borders believe there should be some laws restricting who can become residents. And presumably, they believe such laws should be enforced.

Meanwhile, hysteria about domestic fascism is unhelpful, even though it is a liberal tradition.

In his 1944 State of the Union address, FDR identified opponents of his domestic agenda as fascists.

Declaring that his "one supreme objective" was "security," including "economic security, social security, moral security," he issued a dire warning:

Woodrow Wilson's progressive policies had been frustrated by "rightist reaction" and "if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called 'normalcy' of the 1920s -- then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home."

Today's hysterics are unoriginal. But they learned their bad manners from a master.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me