These are perilous times. A few months ago, in Charlottesville, Va., we witnessed an ominous scene in which Americans were afraid to leave their place of worship because of gun-toting Nazis loitering outside.
This was after a rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee erupted in terror and chaos, causing the death of three people and injuries to 34.
The President of the United States commented later that there were “very nice people” on both sides of the conflict! Does the president have no awareness of World War II?
By professional accounts, Donald Trump is a person with severe narcissism, combined with a profound unawareness of the world and a diminished capacity to think coherently. Given he’s president, he has the potential to inflict more damage than any other man in world history.
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How did such a person get elected? Tribalism is one of the answers.
Tribalism is predisposition — probably genetic — in which group loyalty leads us to overlook flaws among members of our own tribe, while exaggerating defects among others.
Numerous people, due to habit and tribalism, would vote for Joseph Stalin rather than one of the allegedly flesh-eating members of an opposing tribe (political party).
Other people voted for Trump hoping for a stronger economy. Some votes came from folks who don’t like our changing racial composition.
Many people cast their vote solely on a wedge issue, such as abortion, guns or religion.
Yet, there is a remaining issue in which it might be possible for conservatives and liberals to find reconciliation: immigration. International immigration is a topic that people from both sides of the political aisle could perhaps invest fresh thinking.
Net immigration from Mexico to the U.S. (including illegal immigration) is now roughly zero.
Hence, as many (if not more) people are now returning to Mexico than are coming. This hardly seems like the appropriate time to be disparaging Mexico over immigration.
It’s also the case that new immigrants, with their frequent entrepreneurial spirit, are helping to revitalize our downtown areas. And there are other benefits to having new arrivals, not to mention the better life provided to the immigrating people themselves.
Having said this, many of the world’s countries are “nations of immigrants,” as is often mentioned in support of record immigration numbers here. Yet these countries don’t allow immigration levels as high as America.
Just because immigration has been one of the common themes to our nation doesn’t mean we have to allow it in huge numbers forever.
Each year approximately 1 million people migrate to America through legal means, and another 500,000 people come unauthorized. Whether in Africa, Asia or Latin America, local citizens don’t want foreign people moving into their area in such high numbers. This sentiment relates to the issue of tribalism discussed previously.
To compound this problem, there are both environmental and social problems with sustaining our high levels of immigration. With 1.5 million new arrivals annually, the American population will eventually balloon from the current 325 million to 400 million, then 500 million, etc.
Americans produce huge amounts of waste and consume vast resources each year.
An ever growing American population is not sound ecology for the world. And, of course, millions of more people will change the very nature of our country by populating the great open spaces that contribute to America being beautiful and free.
Nearly every American city is experiencing overcrowding, which increases peoples’ anxiety level, runs up rents, and makes it more difficult to provide needed water and other resources. We are most likely moving into a period of environmental crises, and having more population will only make life more difficult.
Additional people also increase the supply of workers and hence suppress wages. Finally, large diverse populations in societies decrease cultural cohesion and thereby exacerbate social problems, such as crime and conflict.
We need to significantly curtail immigration, say to about 400,000 total annually. This would bring immigration levels more in line with values that many conservatives and liberals hold dear.
Democrats gain almost nothing in electoral races by advocating more immigration, but what they lose, and what the nation loses, is immense. Implementing a policy of more restricted immigration would be better for America in numerous ways.
Mark Mansperger is an associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at WSU-Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, societal development and political economy.