Confusing Borders, Boundaries, and the American Comfort Level

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Bryan is an artist, father, husband, and son (not really in that order). He works for the Department of Vetern's Affairs and writes and administers The Fireside Post with his father, Ohg Rea Tone. His writings have not been published, though they have been printed a lot.

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Confusing Borders, Boundaries, and the American Comfort Level

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From Ohg Rea Tone:

People sometimes drift into my personal space.  I generally enjoy people so my personal space does not extend as far as the reach of my arm.  When I shake hands I am likely to pull the other person close, look them in the eye, and measure their sincerity.  The enigma of my shallow personal space presents itself when I have no escape – like on a public elevator.  When confined I want people to keep their distance.  All of us have a primal need to feel in control of our personal space.   Sometimes we feel the need to build fences, dig moats, train guard dogs, and pack a taser on our hip.  I know some women who just use offensive perfume.  We are saying:  “Keep out of my space!”  Different people have different comfort levels with their personal space.   Comfortable boundaries are quirky – sometimes defined physically, sometimes philosophically, sometimes economically, and sometimes emotionally.  Hispanic immigration to the United States stirs the quirky comfort levels and brings out the guard dogs of a uncomfortable populace.  Sometimes the need for space is legitimate – and sometimes unreasonable.  Confusing psychological boundaries with legal borders is not legitimate.

(Allow me to apologize before we go on.  I don’t  usually use words like dumb and stupid.  Calling names generally is not an accepted practice in debate.  In the case of the immigration debate in America – some of the arguments can only be qualified as plain old stupid.  Even Forest Gump could remember ‘Stupid is as Stupid Does.’)

Boundaries are not just about physical space.  People in the helping industry often point to violated boundaries as the cause of relationship problems.  Some boundaries are self-evident:  A Catholic Priest should keep their hands off young alter boys.  Therapists should not have any sexual physical relationship with a client.  There is an old saying in capitalist America:  Never mix business with pleasure – a simple means of defining monetary/friendship boundaries.  Some people continue to hold culture-based-boundaries.  No interracial marriage.  No marriage outside of a given faith system.  Class boundaries are not spoken- just practiced:  Poor people should shop at Wal Mart and the middle class should shop at HyVee.  Rich people have someone else shop at HyVee on their behalf.   People should know their place and stay in that place.

Boundaries are often defined by culture – borders are defined by law.  Borders are important to everyone.  Some borders are clear, property owners often know the exact border of their property – right down to the centimeter.  Homeowners Associations are formed to protect visual boundaries.  There are many border rules that are generally accepted by society.  For instance, when in the local bank I know to stay out of the vault.  I don’t park my car in my neighbor’s drive.  My neighbor does not want the branches of my trees to extend into his air space.  Some people want to codify their personal boundaries as law, with a clear delineation of borders.  Once established, the borders must be protected.

All of this makes sense in some quirky way.  Quirky is an acceptable personality trait  in America – if not, most of us would either be deported, sent to work in pig slaughter houses, or sent to pick grapes for rich wine makers in Napa Valley.  But quirky is not an excuse for  racism, or any discrimination based on sex, color, religion, or creed  – or even gender preference.  Quirky does not include being a bitter, angry, demented, frustrated, stupid extreme right wing conservative.  Did I make that clear enough?  Quirky does not include deranged logic – like in the following video by Ray Stevens – he is cute and clever – and smart enough to make a fortune from the dumb embittered people in the previous sentence.  Check out Ray singing about racism and his preference for the government style of China, Iran, and North Korea:

Ray is not the first to sing the praises of China, North Korea, and Iran – while pretending to be good Americans.  We read these things in local letters to the editor (I live in rural NW Missouri where Ray Stevens is heralded as the next Rene DesCarte).  The stunning stupidness of the argument is essentially this – Ray Stevens prefers the North Korean, Chinese, and Iranian government actions to that of America.  And some yokel from Virginia sent this video to me because he thought this was a sound argument and would finally convince me that my position on immigration is wrong.  It is worse than that – this video hypes all of the erroneous arguments made by Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.  Over a million people have viewed the Ray Stevens video on youtube.  These guys know how to make money from racist Pseudo-Christians.

The arguments go like this:  All Hispanics are illegal, all Hispanics are on welfare, all Hispanics receive better health care than Federal Government Employees, all Hispanics are drug dealers, all Hispanics are criminals, all Hispanics are here to undermine the one true ideal of the American way of life. (The one true ideal in this case is simple enough:  White people are superior to all other races).  Much like the Southern arguments for Jim Crow Laws over a hundred years ago – the Hispanics are relegated to something less than human.

If only we lived in Iran or North Korea we would not have these problems.  They know how to run a government.  They understand borders.  They are not like that Totalitarian Dictator Communist Socialist President Obama.  I would bet a nickle that Iran and North Korea have fewer problems with burglary and vandalism.  Perhaps we should adopt some of their ‘constant state of Martial Law’ mentality.

This brings to mind titles of future posts:

“An American Christian – Screw The Good Samaritan”

“The Bible is For White People”

“Stop Immigration – Send Jobs to Mexico”

“Fight Communism – Buy Chinese”

“More Curfews – Less Vandalism”

“Stop Immigration – No More Catholics”

Ray Stevens is a racist. Rush Limbaugh is a Racist.  Glen Beck is a Racist.  And the Federal Government employee who recommended the Ray Stevens video to me is an anti-American racist.  Ray Stevens is careful not to say “Hispanic Immigrant.”  But do you think he is applying his great powers of reason to French Canadians who immigrate to America?  Does he think Albert Einstein should have been denied entry into our country?  NO!  He is hiding his racism behind the unsettling fear Americans feel about life in general.  Ray Stevens and the people who buy his reasoning want North Korean style government as long as those rules only apply to short dark skinned people with greasy hair.  And then they call Obama a totalitarian dictator – did they learn this sort of logic in their fundamentalist Sunday School Class?

People are confusing threats to personal boundaries as being somehow related to illegal immigration.  Our personal boundaries are the psychological barriers we establish to create a comfort zone.  When uncomfortable and unable to identify the culprit – we tend to place blame.  When uncomfortable we tend to overreact.

When the middle eastern terrorists hijacked those airplanes and blew up American buildings we became acutely aware of the need to monitor others coming to our country.  The racist right wing of American politics has managed to somehow equate that horrid day in September of 2001 with illegal immigration.  Drug abuse is pandemic in America – blame it on the Mexicans.  Urban crime is the leading cause of death among those sixteen to twenty-four years old – blame it on the Mexicans.  Unemployment skyrocketed on the backs of Bush administration economic policies – blame the Mexicans.  There are reports that Saddam Husein was actually an illegal Mexican immigrant to Iraq (thus the conflict with Iran).

Most of the people in America who complain about Hispanic immigrants have probably never actually seen a Hispanic immigrant.  Most people have had no direct contact with an illegal immigrant.  Where does this hysteria come from?  My notion is that people feel their future threatened by economic and political uncertainties – their personal safety boundaries are threatened – and building a tangible fence around the Garden of Eden will keep the serpents out.  People who are afraid like tangible borders.

The folks who buy the Ray Stevens logic should probably go out back and relax in the swimming pool – and leave the thinking to someone who actually learned something while in school.

Ohg Rea Tone

An addendum from Bryan:

Self Help is a big industry in this country.  We work ourselves to death and invest millions in personal time management to figure out how to do it better.  We spend more money on fast food than most countries spend on medication, and the diet industry is a multi billion dollar affair.  All of these dichotomies are a direct result of the ways in which we police some of our personal boundaries with ferocity, and we essentially ignore the others.

Self help books are all about the boundaries, and they tell us things that we already know in a way that is supposed to motivate us to change our behavior.  We are proud of our personal liberties in these United States, and we cherish our right to make our own decisions.  These great marks of freedom allow us to define our own comfort level, and live within it.  So we each get to define our own boundaries.  Some are close in, where we allow people to get right up close with us, others are distant, where we can barely see our boundaries from our back porch.  Either way, these are personal choices.  Therefore, boundaries are personal comfort zones.  Borders, on the other hand, are political in nature and physical in their application.  We do not get to use our own personal comfort as a basis for our political policies on borders and the movement if peoples.

There Are 10 Responses So Far. »

  1. Well Ohg, I think you are pretty far reaching on this one. But I’m just about numb to your comments on the racist right.

    I remember an article where you wrote about how the ignorant right wing just spout profanities. Well, this sir, sounds no different.

    What sets apart the Thinking Conservative or Liberal from the fanatics are reason and logic. And I would say a majority of rants and raves about immigrants, the right or left wing, religion etc, are all just rebuttals toward the opposition. And if we still don’t get our way, we’ll just sue.

    There are plenty of us right wing conservatives who are not out to crucify all illegal immigrants. I still believe the legal proccess to citizenship should be followed. Sure our ancestors didn’t have to go through as much red tape but we don’t ride horses as a means of travel anymore either. This is a different time.

    It does fire me up when illegal immigrants prefer their flag to ours, or their language to ours. It’s not a bad thing to be proud of your heritage but we have a national ensign, the stars and stripes. However, what enrages me more are what I call America’s walking dead. These are natural born citizens who don’t vote, don’t care one way or another about legislature, don’t work if able bodied, or in just don’t take a stand in general for anything.

    Like the saying goes, you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

    I tell ya what, I enjoyed this one, makes me want to start writing again. I’ve wanted to shout about the walking dead for a while now.

  2. Well Cole, are you saying you disagree – that we should have laws more in line with Iran or North Korea?

    Did you understand the concept of personal boundaries being confused with legal borders?

    I like your description of those who choose not to participate as “The Walking Dead.” Our form of government works best when people voluntarily participate. (It also helps if people try to be informed participants).

    I wonder why people do not participate – that might be a good post.

  3. Cole – the immigration debate is legitimate. Is there a viable solution on which all can agree? Maybe we should explore compromises – you and I are on opposite ends of this debate – so it might be fun to have a post that is almost entirely comments – between you and I and anyone else who wants to participate.

    Just a thought.

  4. The only thing I would slightly agree with these other countries is their dealings with criminals. But, I am not willing to sacrifice my freedoms for that. But our justice system consistanly releases 3rd and 4th time offenders. And that could be a post in itself. However, I strongly oppose communistic, totalitarian rule.

    What the average hillbilly sees are these dang Messicans everywhere, taken jobs and such. But the problem with immigration has gone far beyond those wanting a better life. We are talking drug and firearm trafficking both ways. Those 1200 troops and 500 million Obama has sent are there for that reason only.

    The Mexican President Calderon is doing good things to stop corruption. Majority of the illegals in my town are just looking for a better life, but the majority of them in border states as of lately are traffiking guns, drugs and people and the only way to control that is by acting as Gov Brewer did.

    I can’t comment on her personal feelings toward illegal immigration but I believe she sign that law to force Washington to look at the current problem not expired visas.

  5. Our System of Justice is the model for every civilized country. The system is overburdened by laws criminalizing the possession and use of drugs – well, that is what it feels like to me – but I have no ready statistics to support my claim.

    Should we have national immigration laws that apply equally to all states – or should the border states take specific action on their own?

    There are no easy answers or we would have fixed the problem years ago. I don’ think the average hillbilly ever sees an illegal immigrant – except what they witness on FOX News. Solving this problem requires accurate and honest information – we have to clearly understand the problem before we can reasonably expect to fix it.

    And to totalitarian rule – that is the point of the Ray Steven commentary – I’ll take our immigration problems any day over the type of government he advocates. I’ll take our system of justice any day over that of Iran or North Korea. To Ray Stevens I would say: be careful what you wish for – you might get it.

  6. Cole – the immigration debate is legitimate. Is there a viable solution on which all can agree? Maybe we should explore compromises – you and I are on opposite ends of this debate – so it might be fun to have a post that is almost entirely comments – between you and I and anyone else who wants to participate.

    Just a thought.

  7. I have made a number of comments on this subject. I live in AZ and I continue to follow the immigration issue very closely as I am a “white American” but my family are all “brown Americans”. I’m continually shocked by how low on on a wide variety of scales some of the citizens of this state will go to push thier racist agenda. Last night on the news I witnessed the second lowest state of the affairs I have seen so far. In the name of “protecting our borders” a militant group with neo-nazi ties (it was reported) has planted themselves near the border. They have a truckload of automatic weapons and are in full camouflage dress, everything from desert fatigues to dressing like dessert scrub brush. Their stated purpose is shoot anyone crossing the border illegally. This is appauling to someone like me, from CA…but I’m not in CA anymore, I left civilization behind to carve out a piece of the American dream in the “Wild West” as they like to call themselves. What I didn’t know was how uncivilized the wild west really is. It’s not surprising since Az ranks quite low on education when compared to the rest of the country, or that it’s legal to carry a loaded weapon into a bar, the crime rate is 5th in the country, its a republican state, or that AZ is probably number two in the country in population of racist hate mongers…Anyway, the sherrif knows about these men laying in wait to pick off tresspassers with the cross-hairs of their high powered scopes and night vision goggles; but all he says is, they are not gaining any supporters for the SB1070 law. Which they claim has given them a right to lay in wait like cold blooded murderous snipers. Aparently it’s not illegal to murder humans and leave their unclaimed dead rotting bodies laying in the hot desert for the vultures to pick flesh off their bones and the coyotes (canine type) to scatter their bones over miles to cover up their racist crimes. I feel like I am living in an alternate universe, there is no shame, no compassion, no accounting for these evil acts. When a murder is commited on the I-8 as was the case a couple weeks ago and the victims are Hispanic the killers are not even searched out, the officials take the easy way out and blame it on human trfficking or drug related.

    Nevada wants to impliment a similar law to SB1070 now, regardless of what is written in the law it allows for all kinds of atrosities to be committed against Mexicans and for those committing these offenses to be protected while committing them (I have personally experienced it and seen it over and over again). It will be a more dangerous place if something isn’t done to protect human life from these cold blooded killers and hate mongers that are proliferating amongst us unchecked. The legal line has to be drawn between what one believes and ones actions. To incite a riot is illegal, to call out fire in a crowded theater is illegal, why is racist retorict that leads to violence nolt illegal. How do we know these men aren’t just cold blooded killers no longer needing to hide their evil acts because they have the blessing of SB1070. Are we not just calling these fanatics out into the open and giving them a right to act this way. As for their victims what ever happened to due process of the law, the American court system are these men now judge and jury too? What ever happened to punishment that fits the crime. A man fleeing the poverty of his country to provide for his family can now be executed without a trial for tresspassing? We are turning into sick people in this country where violence solves everything.

  8. CVJ I can understand how you are emotionally charged and understand your anger towards those taking the law into their own hands. However to group it all together and blame all Republicans makes you sound fanatical and will only discredit your efforts to those who may be open to your commentary.

    Furthermore you speak of due process. Due Process was put in place to protect the rights of citizens of their native country dating back to early England. Those who seek refuge across Americas boarders are called illegal immigrants. The term illegal does not impose that those folks are bad, but that they are breaking United States law.

    However you say it is ok to live in the U.S. illegally for the prospect of a better life. So does that make it ok for the single mom, working two jobs to steal food, diapers or other needs from the local grocery store? Of course not and the reason that law can be enforced in that type of a survival situation is because there are services that provide housing, food, daycare and other assistance’s. Just as there are legal means for obtaining citizenship.

    Sure there are those with alternative and even racists agendas hoisting their pitchforks, but to lump all the GOP together is foolish. I’m a conservative with a heart, I wish good fortune on all folks, but what you don’t realize when charged with emotion, is that illegal immigrants do drain our social and public services.

    California has just engaged in a great debate on mandating state workers take a pay cut to minimum wage to regain some footing on their surmounting debt partly due to service provided to illegals. Does that seem fair to the state worker who has labored his way up the economic ladder only to be put into a situation to where he cannot pay his bills or feed his family?

  9. Cole – Your comment was well presented – you addressed the specific issue, gave examples – analogies that are relevant to the issue. Coherent arguments are more important in modern America than at any time in the past – thanks for your input.

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