Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two Cheers for Discrimination

Not too long ago President Obama assured us that it was unlikely someone with Ebola would make it to our shores, but not unlike other of his assurances what he gave us to believe would not happen has happened, and the fact that it has happened prods me to ask a couple of questions about immigration.

We've been told that it's selfish of us to close our borders, that we're a nation of immigrants and should welcome anyone into the country who can make it in. We're told that it's discriminatory to exclude people from the blessings the United States has to offer and that those of us who have enjoyed those blessings should be willing to share them with the poor of the world who have not.

In reply to these asseverations it's appropriate to raise two questions:
  1. Do the people who make them lock their doors when they leave their homes and their cars? And,
  2. What's wrong with discrimination?
If someone who locks their home or car tells us that we should admit anyone into our national home who wants to come in I think we're entitled to ask them why they lock their own homes? Why don't they welcome into their home anyone who can get there and make available to them whatever blessings they have in their refrigerators and wallets? The reason they don't, of course, is not because they're stingy or selfish, but because they wish whatever of their goods they share with others to be offered on their own terms. They don't want what they worked for and built to be subject to plunder by every passerby who decides to plop himself down in front of their tv and clean out their refrigerator. Precisely so, but then why is our national border any different than their front door? Why should we not lock our border and only let in those we can accommodate?

Indeed, why is there a fence around the White House and armed guards to prevent people from wandering in, at least theoretically? Why are we upset that someone breaches the White House door, but we're not supposed to be upset that tens of thousands are breaching our national door?

All of which leads to the second question. If someone locks the door to her home, she usually allows family and friends in when they call, but is nevertheless leery of strangers. Why? Because she discriminates. She discriminates against the stranger and in favor of her family members, and there's nothing at all wrong with that. Indeed, it's prudent. To accuse people of the sin of "discrimination" because they wish to close our national home until we've determined that applicants for admission will not be a threat to our safety or a drain on our resources is simply hypocrisy unless the persons making the charge do not themselves discriminate against strangers seeking admittance to their personal homes.

In our Politically Correct age when people are discouraged from actually thinking, and the mere recitation of a word is sufficient to put an end to a dialogue - like calling someone a racist puts an end to any discussion about race and confers the moral high ground on the person who makes the allegation - we're fearful of being thought discriminatory. But discrimination, like prejudice, is bad only in some contexts, and it's simplistic and simpleminded to think that one has delivered a telling moral judgment on another merely by accusing them of either.