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AMPLIFICATIONS: Absence of kindness

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By Saturday, Jul 21, 2018 Viewpoints 18

Everything changes. It is a basic fact of life and fighting that constantly moving tide gives one nothing but stress and grief. Still, it comes as a shock when one realizes how much a situation, or a person, can change over time.

I met with an old friend recently. This is a woman I have known for most of my life and someone who was extraordinarily kind to me during a time when I really needed that kindness. I always thought of her as family. Time and distance have done their damage, but she and her kids have always held a special place in my heart.

And then the earth shifted. I had always assumed we were of a similar political bent, but she recently told me, quite proudly, that she voted for Trump. She also informed me that our country should revamp our immigration laws. I could not argue that point. I do think we need to revamp our policies, especially since we no longer allow people to seek asylum if they are fleeing from gang violence or domestic abuse. I knew she meant something different, but said nothing.

And then my friend stated, in front of my adopted Ethiopian immigrant daughter, that only “the right people” should be allowed into our country. She believes that criminals are coming into the country and that the government really isn’t snatching kids from parents and putting them into cages. That whole story, she said, was overblown.

I picked my jaw up off the floor and hit the road with my kid. We left on good terms, but I don’t know how to process this information. This is not my friend from back in the day, but a new version that appears to get her information from Fox News and believes the president, a proven liar and bigot, is doing right by our country.

My daughter, who is only 14 and does not know that when most people talk about only letting “the right people” into our country, they mean “the white people.” However, she is savvy enough to have waited until we were in our car before turning to me and asking, “I wonder how she feels about little black girls coming here?”

I had no answer. I was so overwhelmed with sadness that I could only shake my head. The president has easily tolerated Nazis with tiki torches. He has banned Muslims, though not those from any of the countries that took down the Twin Towers and attacked the Pentagon. He has people convinced that Mexicans will rape our daughters and black athletes taking a knee will undermine democracy. And let’s not forget about all those brown kids in cages.

To me it is fundamentally obvious that racism is at the heart of those most loyal to Trump. I once thought that people liked Trump because of the tax write-offs he promised to the wealthy and do believe a lot of people voted for him precisely for that reason. I know some people wanted a more conservative Supreme Court. But as our nation becomes more isolationist and more aligned with countries known for totalitarian practices and human rights abuses, why are some of them still sticking with him? In my opinion it is because the underlying meaning of “Make America Great” again is really “Make America White Again.”




According to the nonprofit public policy organization, the Brookings Institute:

New census population projections confirm the importance of racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth, countering an aging, slow-growing and soon to be declining white population. The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.9 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.8 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations.”

It would not surprise me if a lot of white centrist folks were terrified of those numbers. Years ago, I told my mother-in-law, who was basically Archie Bunker in a dress, that the country was turning browner and whites would be in the minority. She told me she was glad she’d be dead by then so she’d never have to see it happen.

I always understood my mother-in-law to be a product of both her generation and her family, but I never expected such ugliness from my funny and kind friend. In fact, I bet if I asked her she would never even consider herself a racist. After all, she has had African-American friends. After all, she loves my daughter. But none of those people hail from Mexico or Honduras of Guatemala.

I think that what shocked me most about this encounter was the lack of kindness. That may seem naïve, but if you aren’t kind toward your fellow human beings, you can’t get past being afraid of them. If you approach the exhausted and raggedy guy at the border with understanding and empathy, you are less likely to see a terrorist or a rapist. You are less likely to judge him for his poverty. You are more likely to see someone who needs help, a commodity we once doled out in this country with equal dashes of egalitarianism and tolerance. Unless you are native born, chances are someone was once kind to your ancestors. After all, there are only a few ways you can become an American. If you weren’t native born, then you emigrated here, or arrived as a refugee seeking asylum, or were dragged here as a slave. That’s it.

So when my friend told me she had been at church that morning, I had a hard time putting it all together. I am a survivor of Catholic school and the one thing that stuck with me was that we should treat people the way we would want them to treat us. She seems to be failing on that point. And say we take the ethical and moral standings out of the equation and look at racism (and immigration) from a completely Machiavellian viewpoint – we are screwing ourselves on a national level.

According to the New York Times, refugees bring in more revenue than they cost us. Just ask the farmers whose crops are rotting or the owners of meat packing plants who can’t find help. Anglos don’t want those jobs; immigrants are happy to take them.

Looking back at this era, our treatment of immigrants will be lumped into a sorry and mean-spirited episode that can never be whitewashed (pun intended) by history because of our digitized social media and a gaggle of news sources. We will have damaged our economy and hurt our standing on the world platform. We will be shown as intolerant, ignorant, and unkind. I hate to think of my friend as part of the problem, but because she is I can never again see her the same way.

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18 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Richard M Allen says:

    O’Gorman leaps to the conclusion that anyone who supports Trump is a racist because – she believes – Trump is a racist. Many of us who support Trump’s policies don’t think much of Trump the man, but we’re hardly racist.
    In my experience, those who keep looking for racism behind every viewpoint they don’t like are more likely to be subconsciously racist themselves but can’t or won’t admit it. It is classic transference to blame others for an unrecognized personal defect, even with little evidence that the others have the same defect.

  2. Jane says:

    This essay calls for kindness and empathy in a time when it can be hard to find.
    I do not see how people can separate the actions from the individual. Personally I could not support someone if I did not “think much of the man.” The administration’s racist views are nothing new.
    Calling out racism when you see it is not something racists do; instead, they generally deny it exists.

    1. Richard M Allen says:

      Jane, I think you’ve proven my point.

  3. Donagh says:

    Thank you Ms. O’Gorman for a thoughtfully written opinion piece. I find it ironic that an opinion column written about the absence of kindness, would then be trolled so unkindly. A classic narcissistic personality disorder trait is to be personally insulted when they read or hear an opinion that is differing from theirs and to then insult/troll that person. Sad.
    Rather than engage in a back-and-forth exchange on trollness, I will instead be kind and wish for them well and hope they find some healing and peace.
    I will not be responding to any remarks made to “troll” me for my opinion, but thanks for the interest and have a nice day. 🙂

  4. Steve Farina says:

    Just curious:
    “Just ask the farmers whose crops are rotting or the owners of meat packing plants who can’t find help. Anglos don’t want those jobs; immigrants are happy to take them.”

    I’m not sure just any immigrant would take the jobs, it seems those here illegally do, though…it would seem they are willing to put up with poor pay and poor working constions due to the fear of being deported. When that fear is removed, and we have open borders, won’t that require those farmers and meat packing companies to actually treat them like human beings and offer a fair wage and better working conditions? Or will they just look for someone else to exploit, in the name of keeping costs down for us consumers?
    There is a reason “Anglos”, as the writer calls those other than immigrants, don’t take those jobs.
    …..is “Anglos” meant to be a racist slur?

    1. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

      Steve, according to Merriam Webster, an “Anglo” is “a white inhabitant of the U.S. of non-Hispanic descent.” As far as I know it is not a racial slur and was never intended as such.

      I think in a perfect world farm hands, and teachers, and security guards, would all be paid a decent wage. Everyone deserves such and no one should be exploited, ever. We just don’t live in a perfect world and I think it is becoming less perfect as we shut out a labor force that wants work and is much needed. We are going to have to let people back in and then tackle the fair distribution of wealth. And, I am sad to say, I have known people who were successful and educated in their country and happy to take more menial work here just to have a safe place in which to live. Many of those people no longer have that option.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        So to be clear, by your definition, you are saying only Hispanic immigrants take farm and meat packing jobs? Who is being racist now?
        And it is OK to exploit them? Or that thought just never enters the mind of a non-racist?

    2. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

      Steve, I never said that only HIspanics take meat packing jobs. It is interesting how you think I did. And I clearly do not believe anyone should be exploited, as I said in my first reply to you. I am sorry you are having such difficulty understanding me.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        So Anglo immigrants do take those jobs? Do immigrants who entered the country legally take those jobs? Or those who entered illegally? I suspect it is those who entered illegally (even as opposed to those who stay illegally – the vast majority of which were here on work visas and took better quality, better paying jobs).
        So it is the illegal immigrant who is being exploited by filling those farm and meat packing jobs you mention.
        You may not want anyone to be exploited – nor do I- however, using those job fulfillments as an argument to support illegal immigration by default supports the exploitation.

  5. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

    Steve, again, you are reading your own subtext into what I wrote. I never said I support illegal immigration. I was speaking of legal immigration when I said that we have been reducing our labor force and denying jobs to people who want them. This is the last I shall speak on this subject as you are clearly looking for an argument where none exists.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Right, your subtext of “knowing” what your friend meant thus leading to an article in which you label her a racist – a conclusion it seems you may have reached when she said she voted for Trump…but I don’t want to read into that too much.
      The point that I was alluding to is that some may consider that position of exploitation of immigrants to be racist…it is easy to jump to conclusions and not talk through issues, especially if the person you are talking to has a different opinion. I suspect that neither you nor your friend are truly racists…but hey, don’t let me find subtext where it doesn’t exist.

      1. Rochelle O'Gorman says:

        Please try to read more carefully, Steve. I never said she was a racist because she voted for Trump.

      2. Steve Farina says:

        Why bring up that she voted for Trump, then. It is the first thing you mention about her, followed immediately by her comment about needing to revamp immigration laws. You then assume you know what she meant (apparently because she voted for Trump) and were unwilling to discuss it.
        Rather than take the time to understand her point of view you stayed silent, walked away.
        You assume “the right people” means “the white people”, though according to your account, she did not say that. She did, apparently state that she believes criminals are coming into the country. Yet, you take your self derived thought and turn it into an anti-white tirade (which also happens to be racist).
        Then throw in a little Catholic bashing for good measure, while talking about how we treat each other – skipping teachings about judging others.
        You end with berating your “friend”:
        “I hate to think of my friend as part of the problem, but because she is I can never again see her the same way”
        All based upon something you made an assumption about due to your unwillingness to actually discuss it nor understand her viewpoint.
        I think I have read it pretty clearly, and it isn’t pretty.

  6. Mary says:

    This is an extraordinarily well-written piece and it echoes many of the same feelings I have. I’m horrified at the blatant examples of bigotry and racism that seem to be more and more commonplace now. Some feel free to openly harass those from other cultures, almost as if they’ve now got a free pass to express the hatred that they’ve harbored for years. And no, this is not an “unrecognized personal defect” that I’m calling out. I’m simply stating what we see and hear in the news on a regular basis.

    I grew up in a melting pot. I went to school in the 60s and 70s with Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Italians, African-Americans, Jews, and many other nationalities. We all got along. If there were fights – and kids do fight! — they were not racially motivated or charged. It was just kids being kids. So when I see this hatred toward others who “aren’t like” the nationality you were born into, I am floored.

    This is America? This is the country that my father, a member of the “Greatest Generation”, fought for? This is the country that my grandmother, an immigrant from Italy, was so incredibly proud of? I can only imagine what they would say today.

    1. Claudia d'Alessandro says:

      Mary, you took the words wight out of my keyboard . . . . Agreed.

  7. J.W. Clark says:

    The whole essay is flawed left wing logic again. If you don’t like it or can’t explain it must be racist. Resist the liberal left!

  8. C. d'Alessandro says:

    An important discussion has happened here. And I applaud both Rochelle and Steve for their discourse. Assumptions are dangerous. And increasingly, in our dismay at world events, too many of us (and I reluctantly include myself) tend to “bash” opposing viewpoints without taking the time to discuss them. Connecting along lines of what we SHARE, instead of diverging along lines of disagreement, is the key to meaningful progress. Personally, I would rather be persuaded by a sensible discussion than by shouted soundbites, threats, insulting tweets or slurs. America is very upset. And while most would agree that we are LEAST likely to be able to either effectively consider or persuade while in an agitated state, our culture has become inflammatory, to say the least.

    The only hope for progress is through understanding: understanding what opinions are held and why. Once there is understanding there is a path to change. Personally, I tend to close my ears as soon as propaganda slogans appear. To make America great AT ALL we must first get a grip on our emotions and THINK!

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