The bizarre part with all the anti-immigrant hype is that while everyone is busy bashing the federal government for not doing anything about illegal immigration, the data show that the Obama administration has done more in less than 2 years than Bush did in 8 to slow the flow. Part of it is the economy, of course, but another big chunk is increased enforcement: more raids on large employers, more deportations, an increased Border Patrol presence. A lot of the enforcement makes me pretty queasy -- the assembly line token hearings, the well-documented abuses and mistakes by ICE (a fair number of US-born citizens, in some cases persons who didn't even have a Latino appearance, accent, or name, have found themselves swept up by ICE and stuck on a plane or bus to Mexico) -- but nonetheless the numbers don't lie. There are fewer "illegals" in the U.S. now than there were two years ago.
Of course, the whole anti-immigrant hysteria is loaded with contradictions. Undocumented immigrants are simultaneously stealing jobs and sucking off the welfare teat; coming here and staying for years and years and years and just dashing across the border just long enough to drop an anchor baby that will return many years later as a terrorist; and so on. When it comes to immigration, way too many people seem totally capable of believing two directly contradictory things at the same time without ever seeing the contradictions. I'm moderately surprised we don't see more people's heads literally exploding.
On the other hand, I have to wonder just how many people still bother to actually think. There have been a number of articles recently about the general stupidity of the American populace -- the dumb things people believe, the apparent inability to look at anything logically, the demands for instant answers and magical solutions, and so on. I got accused of elitism recently (and unfriended on FaceBook) when a long-time acquaintance, someone I'd know since elementary school, got all worked up about the mosque mess in New York City. I asked a simple question: why do you care? He couldn't answer it, and accused me of calling him stupid. As far as I could tell, the only thing I'd done was ask him to think. We've all gotten so used to thinking in sound bites that when someone asks a person to justify whatever line it is they're parroting, most people can't do it. (And when they realize they can't do it, they get really, really pissed off at the person who asked them to try.)
I've seen a few discussions on the topic of American gullibility and willingness to swallow sound bites as gospel that place the blame on the current sad state of the educational system. But that's an example of a contradiction in itself: if the public school system used to be good but sucks now, how do you explain the geriatric Glenn Beck cheerleaders, the folks who can remember Franklin Roosevelt but are now chanting "no socialism!" while cashing their Social Security checks and using Medicare?
No, I'm coming to the conclusion that the answer to our collective stupidity lies in our collective history: the generations of immigrants who came to the United States looking to get rich quick, seeking fast, easy answers to their problems, going back all the way to Jamestown (colonists wanting to make a fast buck by
The sad truth is that we Americans have never been noted for our ability to think clearly about much of anything -- "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people" (H. L. Mencken) -- and we're not likely to change any time soon.