US versus Them (uhh, that means all y’all who are not us and, no, I don’t find that at all confusing)

We’ve been watching “The Bridge” lately, a show on two police detectives trying to solve crime on the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez border. It’s highlighted the us v them mentality that seems to be everywhere in politics these days.

What is the difference that happens on the border of our country? The U.S.-Mexico border seems to be so much more controversial than the U.S.-Canada border. Why is that? What makes the difference in our perception? Do we see Canadians as more like us than Central and South Americans? I’m willing to bet the Canadians (especially the French-Canadians) don’t see themselves the same as us on the south side of that particular border. Are Canadian immigrants OK and Mexican immigrants not? Do we have different objectives in each of these cultures? Or does it just feel different on the inside of our culture?

US versus Them – What’s really the difference in these two groups of people, except their labels?

I live in a city where 2/3 of the population has Hispanic or Latino ancestry and 40% of the households speak a foreign language (likely Spanish) in the home. In many ways, this is a city where the residents are as at home in the U.S. as they are in Central or South America. Do we love these neighbors any less than those who have European ancestry? Many of them are U.S. born of immigrant parents. Do we love these first-generation people any more than someone who has just arrived from another country? I struggle with why many in our nation condemn people who are “other” (other than themselves, meaning of different backgrounds) when, at some point, our ancestors were also ‘other’ to the residents of our nation. Can we not accept each other as individuals, without judging stereotypes?

This belief that “we” are somehow superior to “them” is known as ethnocentrism. It lacks humility and requires broad assumptions about others. I think I can safely argue that the British had this same ethnocentrism about the American colonies, and look where that got them.

I’ll leave you with this quote, it seems appropriate for a time in which we’re debating immigration and our role on the world stage. It’s as appropriate now as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist and conductor (1873-1976)