McCain’s War

A video of a town hall meeting in Arizona led by Sen. John McCain has been making the rounds lately. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but in case you haven’t, here’s a link.

You may prefer to simply avoid all the arguing, especially since it’s over a bunch of lies. If so, allow me to share. The video is of some really angry guys in an argument with the Senator because, in spite of McCain’s pandering to white nationalism in ads that promise he’ll “complete the dang fence,” undocumented immigrants, at least according to said angry gentlemen, keep coming, and they’re coming to steal valuable benefits like welfare, social security, and medicaid.

The argument should serve as a demonstration of why Republicans should avoid inviting unwanted guests to their (Grand Old) party just because they’re short on the political equivalent of green bean casserole and artichoke dip. Once invited, it’s hard to get them to leave. In fact, since they’re not really there to make friends, they have nothing to lose in taking over the joint.

But while I found McCain’s frustrated reaction mildly amusing, I was much more interested in this town hall argument as a strong example of the irrationality of racism.

The angry guys attended the meeting to give Senator McCain a hard time. And why? First, they want a fence and tougher enforcement. Senator McCain, at least according to his own report, won $600 million in appropriations in order to build a section of fence (or maybe it’s a banana). But they want more because they believe a flood of immigrants is still coming over the border.

The reality, as I’m guessing you know, is that this isn’t true. Net immigration from Mexico is about zero at the moment mainly because of our bad economy. The lack of jobs in the U.S. is what’s keeping Mexican workers at home where, I’m guessing, it’s easier to be unemployed in a place where you’re not being demonized and persecuted.

The fact that workers are staying home in Mexico should tip us off to an obvious fact about Mexican undocumented immigration into the U.S. That is, that undocumented immigrants aren’t coming to get “stuff.” They’re coming to work.

But the angry white guys want a fence in order to keep people out who aren’t coming in the first place. They believe this phantom immigrant tide is coming to steal benefits for which they are mostly ineligible because they have no documents, and are angry because they believe those benefits cost tax payers money (that I suppose could be going for fences). And all of this while immigrants contribute nothing to the economy, a fact (not) that someone should notify Washington apple growers of so they’ll stop belly aching about how stepped up immigration control efforts ended up costing them a giant chunk of the 2011 apple harvest, even causing them to consider using prison labor to do jobs no one else wants before finding that alternative too expensive.

And this reasoning is coming from a crowd that generally leans very heavily Christian. But racism has apparently also blinded them to fundamental Christian principles, like that we are all made in God’s image, as in, all Gods children, as many in the Civil Rights Movement put it in order to shame advocates of Jim Crow. This inability to see Mexican migrants as human beings might explain why one of the angry guys at the meeting suggested enforcing immigration law at the end of a gun, essentially prescribing capital punishment as a remedy for undocumented border crossings. Imagine a similar proposal being promoted to stop undocumented Irish immigration and my point becomes all the clearer.

No one is illegal. Latinos aren’t coming to this country to take things. They’re coming to work and, importantly, the jobs are here because we took from them, while leaving them with too little, and not just through building dams to create desert metropolises like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas that ending up robbing large chunks of Mexico of adequate water for agriculture, or simply of the opportunity to compete fairly with the U.S. by passing lopsided trade laws like NAFTA, but of land, as in all or part of ten U.S. states won as the spoils of an unjust war, including Arizona.

Ignoring or distorting these truths for the sake of winning political points is costing Senator McCain and his GOP colleagues dearly. I call it Karma. The Senator might understand it better as proof of the biblical saw, “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

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By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.