I was listening to some radio debate the other day about “Obama’s shredding of the Constitution” with his “threats” to “do whatever is legally possible to” address the issues surrounding illegal immigration, the “dreamers” (children of those who are in the country without benefit of immigration papers), or border security and deportations.
I’ll cruise right over the disconnect between the President’s statement (legally possible) and all of the frothing about impeachment while the other side (they’re talking right past each other) gleefully points out the Executive Powers indiscretions of revered former presidents to get to the gist of my thought on this:
why aren’t we (or some of us anyway) reacting to illegal immigration in the same way we reacted to Captain James T. Kirk’s cheating during the Kobayashi Maru scenario?
He’s the only being to ever successfully complete a training exercise that is designed to be an “unwinable” scenario. In good old american (american!) frontier-justice style reasoning, Kirk hacks the computer running the scenario; he alters the conditions of the test so that he can win.
And he is lauded and rewarded and promoted and revered for doing so. Kirk isn’t labelled a “cheater”, he’s hailed as a hero – a guy who thinks out of the box and manages to “adapt, improvise and overcome”.
In America, our culture rewards winners and success – and we most often very carefully do NOT look under the carpet, so that we can ignore the bones and carnage that the successful hero is standing on. Here are just a few examples to illustrate what I mean:
Bill Gates used deception and a lack of full disclosure to obtain the operating system code that would eventually become Windows/Microsoft and make him one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Instead of being told “you need to give half of what you’ve earned to that poor slob you took advantage of”, we gush over every altruistic (soul-saving) act.
James Cameron lifted the plot for The Terminator right out of Harlan Ellison’s Outer Limits scripts; the film made him a Hollywood force to be reckoned with (and eventually led to making him very rich); Harlan Ellison gets a mention in later releases of the film and “something” in an undisclosed settlement. We didn’t shun the movie or the director; no one demanded that we erase Cameron’s writing credit (Harlan’s was added), and, aside for some mumbling by folks like me about seeing similar behavior with Titanic and Avatar, Cameron is lauded and feted and enjoys great influence.
The bankers on Wall Street invent cockamamie, quasi-legal investment products; when the shit hits the fan they put millions in the bank and are praised for their creativity; homeowners, playing by the rules, go under water.
Bonnie & Clyde, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid are HEROES out of history, not reviled as murderers, thieves and bad role models. Our country’s expansion into the west (when we routinely broke out own treaties with Native Americans) isn’t viewed as a calamity by mainstream culture, it’s honored as a particularly vibrant time that expresses the true nature of the American Spirit.
Our founding father’s were, at least on the other side of the Atlantic, considered to be treasonous terrorists. Look around – they’re on our money, our stamps, erected in statuary and monuments across the country. At the time that they rebelled, their actions were illegal. (Yeah, but it was for the greater good you say? Not for everyone.)
We have a well-established history, built into our genes, you could say, of respecting and standing in awe of those who broke the rules and got away with it. (D.B. Cooper, anyone?).
And yet people from other countries who have managed to do the exact same thing, break the rules and get away with it (some for decades!) are not accorded the same deference.
Maybe its because they aren’t native-born anti-heroes. But I’d argue that their success in applying the methods of the real American Dream makes them American by default.