A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 18, 2009

Media and Framing of Culture

This is a paper I authored analyzing an an ethnographic study performed concerning the media and cultural occlusion vis a vis The Vietnam War.

This paper is the intellectual property of the author and may not be utilized in any form without proper citations and/or permission of the author.

The Media as a Framer of Cultural Norms

 

            In society today, as well as in the past, there is a constant shifting of oppositional positions.  One of the major functions of the media is to inform the general public of the relevant issues which are parties to the constant stir in the social and political realm.  The media – whether in book, radio, television, daily publication, movies, and most recently in electronic weblogs (blogs) – serve a dual purpose in society as a reporter of the events, and also as a framer of the discussion regarding those events.  Media can by the sheer volume of their voice call attention to or occlude reality, and thereby frame a discussion or limit discussion by eliminating it from the public discourse.  A common perception is that the mass media is a vital player in the framer of societal norms, values within a culture which supersedes the framing role of the educational system, family system, and the political system.

            How the media frames a cultural curriculum was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War, and whether the history represented by the media formed a “collective memory”.  The study posed to answer the question how media and popular culture frame historical knowledge and how it is transmitted across generations. 

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era.  One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam.  Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era.  Each of these photographs had become iconic of the Vietnam War Era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers.  Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “A war without a reason”.

Using well documented photos, produced by the mass media, both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?”  Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. 

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall.  Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture.  All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial.  Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do.  For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past.  However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all.  The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam.  Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults.  Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon.  The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace.  Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”.  For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture.  Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might.  The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters.  One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. 

Interestingly, for the adults, while the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront.  One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement; while another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”.  Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”.  The young man is clean cut and wearing clean clothing with an overall appearance which does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s. 

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation.  The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies.  One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”.  This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. 

The majority of students were unable to interpret the photo.  One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served.  One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.  Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War.  More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality, as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.  However, the media through a repeated message – that the Vietnam War was without support and baseless – had constructed a framework of history apart from the reality of fact.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed by images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, such as Forrest Gump, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, which were frequently cited as sources of history.  Despite various ethnic and cultural variances, a consistent perception about the war had been formed in these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably more similar than those of their parents, who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point.  The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War.   In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters.  In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct and the largest framer of that occlusion has been the media.

The findings of this study have vast implications for the transmission of knowledge to a society by the media.  The demonstrated ability of mass media to control the flow of information, through a mode of entertainment, gives it the ability to form a cultural curriculum, and a view of historic events which may be anything but a view which is based upon the truth. 

The challenge facing educators is one of coalescence.   In many areas, in particular to this study, The Vietnam War, a common belief about the war has become imprinted upon the framework of the nation.  Any idea which challenges this view reached by occlusion, must take on a cognitive dissonance, which precludes any view other than the one which is currently held.  The common belief of a culture, particularly when spurious, must be challenged by other sources to allow students to use inductive reasoning to frame a true understanding of historical consciousness.  The real danger resides when educators themselves have bought into the common belief of history, which is often formed by ideology rather than reality, and are no longer capable of presenting historical information apart from the vantage point of merely spewing out what other sources have programmed them to say.

 

References

Wineburg, Sam; Mosborg, Susan; Porat, Dan; Duncan, Ariel; (2007). Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Conciousness. American Education Research Journal, Vol. 44, No 1. pp. 40-76.

November 9, 2008

Quote of the Day

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell

Opinion: Why President Elect Obama Won

Here is my analysis of a few key factors that elected our new President.  First just a few points.  This was not a landslide, not even close.  While Mr. Obama has in my view a clear mandate, he still has 46% plus who remain unsold.  However, gathering 52% is a good sign for his administration.  Secondly, statistically speaking he did NOT inspire people to vote more than in past elections.  The percentage of the voters relevant to total population was statistically insignificant in 2008 than 2004 and 2000. 

1) Ability to stay on message.  This is called by Jim Collins “The Hedgehog Principle”.  Hedgehogs in the business and political world have the ability to stay focused and on message.  They know what they do well and they make that their selling point.  The Obama campaign was highly disciplined.  Other than the occassional gaffe that he made against certain radio show commentators, which hurt him in all probability, the campaign, also helped by media which did not press the stories, would not allow themselves to be taken off their message, which was simple.  The message was, things are bad, we can bring about change.  The changes sought were tied to the current dissatisfaction the country has with the Bush Administration, but was generally short on details.  This was picked up by many as being vapid.  However, give credit to the Obama Campaign handlers.  They made a choice to keep him away from town hall venues and press interviews where he could be hurt.  I believe his relatively poor performance at Saddleback showed their wisdom in this and solidified their resolve not to let events they couldn’t control, such as the economy alter their message of change.  If anything they took the events handed to them and used the events to be an echo of a broad theme.

2) The financial debacle.  One of the things that in contrast to Sen. McCain’s reaction of “I must do something” was that the Obama handlers used the event to broadcast their theme.  This was in disregard to many of the inconvenient facts – the much of the problems of the banking mess were caused by policies created under President Carter and greatly expanded under President Clinton.  The correlation picked up by some in the media – mostly print – of ties to Fannie and Freddie and high ranking Democrats never was picked up.  Obama stayed out of the fray but framed the fray to buoy his premise that “change is needed”.  It worked.  While the crisis was not cooked by campaign, the decision to stay outside the mess initially showed him being detached, and that is not always a bad thing as it is more objective.  Many polls showed that McCain was gaining traction and had a slight lead up to this point.  This was caused in part by some slips by the Obama campaign, the momentum of the GOP Convention – which was effective, and the initial excitement of Sarah Palin into the foray. 

3) Ability to appear credible.  Sen. Obama’s largest hurdle was to keep the excitement of his base, youth and left to left of center Americans and expand his credibility to John and Mary Q. Public who are Center to Center Right.  America was seen, and most identified themselves as “Conservative”.  There is one bit of news that shows this to be true, at least socially.  California’s repudiation by the voters of same sex marriage – in a year where the left and center left continued to show their appeal over right and center right candidates by a 15% point margin – indicates that even among “blue states” there is a cultural position of maintaining the status quo.  Although he fared badly at Saddleback, and any objective reporting of the event along with the shift of pubilc sentiment alludes to that, the fact that Sen. Obama was visibly comfortable with the Evangelical community is important.  There is a reason.  Although politically many ” ‘Black’ Evangelicals” are left and left of center, culturally many of them are right of center – to include school reform (vouchers, NCLB) and most notably views on homosexuality  This allowed those Evangelicals who are more Centrist and whose interpretation of their Christitanity leads them to value social activism and bread and butter issues highly – such as The Soujourners – to ally with Mr. Obama.  Obama also showed a shift – and it was a major one – during the debates.  Stating that “conditions on the ground” would dictate American policy in Iraq was startling and far more hawkish than anything he or any other Democrat had said during the primary season.  This combined with his statements of expanding the war in Afghanistan and putting pressure on Pakistan took away the “wimp factor” in many.  Mr. Obama’s shifting to the center from the hard left of the Democratic base is as old as politics.  Run to your base in the primary, tack to the mainstream in general election.  It will be interesting to see how he governs.

4.  Weariness of the Bush Administration.  This is the real reason why Sen. Obama won the election.  I will not offer conjecture if Sen. Clinton would have fared better, but I think it would have been about the same.  By all counts this was the nation speaking with their ballots of their dissatisfaction with Iraq policies and the numerous failures of the Bush Administration – and there are many to bring to light.  The Bush Administration started losing this election with their victory in 2000.  Fifty percent of the nation was not happy with that result.  President Bush did enjoy many political and policy victories.  NCLB will remain with the nation in some form for many years.  Efforts to change the political and social framework in Africa will also remain.  Also, it is likely that US policies in the Middle East will remain in some form and that the “War on Terror” will be funded with many of the policies once opposed by the Dem base suddenly accepted.  The NYT reported about GITMO on Wednesday and it was amazing how suddenly GITMO was no longer the first level of Dante’s Hell.  
However, the many debacles of the Bush Administration including the handling of the Iraq War after the initial objectives had been achieved, the perception and reality of the “out of touchness” that the President had whether it was by not listening to then NSA Rice message to “Get back to DC NOW” or the realities and perceptions of the sluggishness of federal response to Katrina.  Throw in the perceptions of ABU and you get the picture.  Most reasonable people understand that the POTUS does not have a big say in economic trends.  They either benefit or take blame from the markets, but what Presidents can do is frame perspective.  Whether or not the latter is Mr. Bush’s fault – although many have viewed him as a “lame duck” since ’06, the people’s loss of confidence in the outgoing administration was in many ways deserved.  Sen. McCain had to fight against a skilled opponent and his own Party’s brand label.  Even Sen. Obama wouldn’t have been able to overcome those factors.

Summary:  All of this is prologue.  The interesting part to watch will be to see how Mr. Obama governs as President Obama.  If a President Obama is able to do as well as he did with the first three points in his administration it will likely enjoy success and populrity.  However, he won’t have George Bush to kick around after the first few months.  The onus will be on him and Congress to truly bring about policies that unite America.

I also believe he will shift back towards the left from the smaller moves he had made to the Center.  In many ways he should if you believe as I do he had a mandate.  The media and the Dems were correctly criticial of the Bush Administration – particularly from ’00 to 06 in not being inclusive.  I have a feeling the same will happen, and in some ways that troubles me as I am more Centrist than either the Bush or forthcoming Administration will be.

While I don’t believe he will make the US a “Socialist” country, I would be shocked if policies that favor Big Government a la New Deal and Great Society are not reintroduced.  There are other concerns that are shared.  Mr. Obama’s declaration of a “Civilian Defense and Security Force” equal in footing and funding to the US military is as vague as it is troubling.   I also think that this administration will be as partisan as President Bush’s was partisan, as President Clinton’s was partisan.  

Some things won’t change.  That is something you truly can believe in.

November 7, 2008

Studs Terkel – A Belated Farewell

Filed under: Corporatism,Culture,Democrat,History,Liberals,PoliticalScience,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 8:24 pm

A belated farewell to a person whom I have read extensively and often disagreed with as I read extensively, but for whom I always held in admiration. Farewell to author/historian Studs Terkel . 

Terkel is an important historian for the method he used.  Rather than allow his own narration to become the focal point of the narrative, he chose to allow the voices of the participants ring loud.  At times Terkel’s left of center (and he was certainly that) came to the surface in his analysis and evaluation, however, his body of work is impressive, particularly concerning The Great Depression, The Second World War (which he called “The Good War) and American Workers and the work they do.

Terkel had an edge to him and while I did not agree with his position regarding post 9-11 security measures, I do hold in respect any person who can give a heartfelt and rationale argument towards a position.  This to my mind was the most frustrating aspect of the current election campaign – the utter mindlessness of many drones rekindling memories with a mantra of “Change, change, change” and “Yes, we can”, who inability to clearly articulate a coherent arguement about why their beliefs were valid to a rational mind.  The vapidity of the masses reminds one of Orwell’s sheep bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad”.  Blind obedience and the ability to speak slogans without the benefit of an ability to coherently defend a position is dangerous to democracy whether the sheep are of conservative or liberal cloth.

Studs Terkel was no a pushover, and his interviews, writings, essays and certainly his anthology of oral histories are worthy of respect –  from whatever side of the political spectrum one finds themselves upon.  I for one will miss his voice – raspy from far too many cheap cigars – and his passion for his beliefs.   I am able to understand his perspective and find some common ground with it, even though I often rejected his conclusions. 

There is a reason why I wll miss his voice, more for the content than its tone and tenor.  As Studs wrote, “I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.”  Isn’t that concept an important fixture of self government?

November 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
-Aristotle

I enjoy reflecting about these random thoughts. I am constantly trying to give this type of sentiment to those I work with, the student I interact with and of course to myself. I have demanded of myself anew, a commitment to excellence in my work, in my interactions, and in my areas of personal life. Join me.

June 9, 2007

The Formation of Cultural Icons: A Critical Analysis Pt. II

Filed under: blogging,children,Culture,Education,History,PoliticalScience,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 2:17 am

Second in a series.  This is from a paper I presented.  This segment deals with an analysis of a study of the formation of a cultural identity in the text book covers found in the US in the 18th and 19th century.

The second article analyzed wished to examine the use of visual metaphor in the front covers in popular textbooks published in the United States in the late 18th and early to mid 19th century.  In this study (Provenzo, 1984) the argument posed is that by use of traditional and symbolic metaphors a distinct patriotic iconography emerged in the United States.  In declaring independence from England, it was important for the United States had also declared a rejection of England’s social traditions and the need was to find a replacement for the new republic.

Typically found on the textbooks from this era are symbols from the ancient world, typically found in the ancient Roman Republic.  Ultimately, these symbols would become identifiable with the new republic being formed. The author’s asserts, a patriotic iconography or symbolism emerged, drawing upon the collective history of the nation. 

In early editions of textbooks used in the United States images of the Founding Fathers are seen.  However, by the end of the 18th century the figure of Minerva or Athena is seen acting as a guide for young children.  It was a common practice in England to put the ruling monarch on the cover of children’s texts, yet after only a short period publishers had rejected this practice in America.

The use of these characters from antiquity is not unusual, and emerged consistently.  As time progressed, the image of Minerva went through slight changes.  Light is seen as coming from her head, she holds a staff, and other symbols from antiquity appear.  Interestingly, Minerva is the Roman equivalent of Athena, the safeguard of Athens, so long as her image remained within the walls of the city.  The symbolic parallel is clear, and was over a period of time was brought to the focus of the new nation’s children daily. 

In later editions of texts the Roman Goddess of Liberty is represented.  She also goes through minor transformations through the year, each having symbolic value.  By the year 1841 she is seen wearing a Phrygian cap – which in ancient Rome would be given to slaves who had been emancipated.  In another widely used series of texts, Minerva and Liberty appear together, with Minerva ascending into the heavens, while Liberty remains on the earth – which the author insinuates as the coming to maturity of the ideals of the new nation.  By the middle of the century the figure of Liberty is seen atop the national capitol and by 1886 The Statue of Liberty arguably becomes the most recognizable icon for the values and principals of the American Republic. 

The suggestion of the study is that educational materials reflect an emergence and are part of the evolution of a culture.  It is clear that development of a cultural identification with ancient Rome was paramount in the formation of a national identity for the United States, and the educational system was at the front and center of this formation of a collective sense of historical identity.

June 8, 2007

The Formation of Cultural Icons: A Critical Analysis Pt. I

This is a paper I am presenting and thought it might generate some interest here.

Icons are a part of any culture. However, they often serve a role which detracts from a role which would be more fitting. In the sense of this report, an icon is an object which takes upon mythical meaning beyond the symbolism which it attempts to represent. Three areas of society which could easily be identified as icons are elaborated upon in this analysis of three historical studies.

How common beliefs become part of a cultural curriculum – or in a sense an icon – was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War. The study posed to answer the question how historical knowledge is transmitted across generations. Over a thirty month period the authors interviewed fifteen families, drawn from three different communities. The author’s purpose was to ascertain how two generations defined moments of history, and whether the history represented by the generations formed a “collective memory” with regard to a historical event.

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era. The sample families represented Evangelical Christians, lapsed Roman Catholics, Buddhists, and Jews. Four of the families consisted of members who had been born outside of the United States; twelve families were Caucasian and one each as African American, Native American and Asian American. One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam. Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era, which could easily be identified as icons of the era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers. Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “a war without a reason”.

During the interview process both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?” Both participants would then be asked to respond to the photo and their corresponding interpretation, with the child. This was done in order to protect against parental input having an impact upon the child’s answer.

Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. Various combinations of grouping students with other students, students and parents from one subset being compared to other students and parents from other subsets, and then groupings based on conceptual agreement were formed.

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall. Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture. All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial. Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do – search for a name on the wall and then etch it into a piece of paper he held in his right hand. For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past. However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all. The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam. Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults. Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon. The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace. Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”. For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture. Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might. The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters. One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. Interestingly, for the adults, the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront. One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement towards each other; another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”. Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”. His appearance does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s.

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation. The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies. One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”. This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. On the other hand, the majority of students were unable to interpret the photo. One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served. One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.

Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War. More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, and that despite various ethnic and cultural variance, a consistent perception about the war had been formed by these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably similar than their parents who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point. The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War. In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters. In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct.

May 18, 2007

The Immigration Bill – What Would Reagan Say?

In the hubub for the GOP to take on the mantle of Ronald Reagan, one has to wonder what would The Great Communicator say about the bill being proposed about illegal aliens. I think he would have supported it.

This is from Otis Graham’s Reagan’s Big Mistake.

While I disagree with the title, I do agree with the facts.

Reagan did have a place in his mind and a rhetoric on the matter of immigration. His was the sentimentalist, Statue of Liberty conception so widely shared among assimilated Americans of his day who could not remember when immigration had been a problem. In one of the few references to immigration in his published state papers covering his eight years in the White House, Reagan displayed in 1984 the then-dominant language of diversity celebration when he told an audience of naturalizing immigrants that immigrants “enlivened the national life with new ideas and new blood,” and “enrich us” with “a delightful diversity.”

I guess The Gipper wouldn’t have minded some of the positive aspects of multiculturalism.

In May 1981, Alan Simpson (R., Wyo.), chairman the Senate subcommittee on immigration, sought to confer with the president prior to Reagan’s scheduled meeting with Mexican President Lopez Portillo in order to urge the administration to keep American options open on immigration. But the meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Reagan listened to Simpson’s views and limited himself to a broad promise of co-operation. Congress therefore assumed the lead in immigration reform, though Simpson, in, the words of a White House staff memo to Reagan, had “indicated his willingness to ‘carry the administration’s water’ on this issue.” They carried different water, as it turned out.

Simpson sensed from his early contacts with White House aides that cooperation with Reagan was shaky. To start with, the president’s newly appointed Immigration Task Force was leaning toward an expansion of legal immigration. One important bias appeared to shape the Task Force’s deliberations from the start. In the words of one White House staffer, “The President is himself a firm believer in a high degree of freedom in immnigration”.

This means that he wanted to “liberalize” immigration policy. If observers had expected a conservative government to shift the policy options toward firmer law enforcement while condemning liberal laxity, they were surprised.

Reagan’s own short message announcing these proposals could have been written by Ted Kennedy. He began with the ritual incantation that “Our nation is a nation of immigrants” which would always welcome more to our shores. But the “Cuban influx to Florida” required more effective policies that will “preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion … consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.”

Hmm… Ted Kennedy and Reagan. Ted Kennedy and Bush. Coincidence, I think not. Reagan and Bush were in many ways true progressives in that they understood that America stands for uplifting the human condition. Despite some of his views, which I disagree with profoundly, I would submit that in many instances, this view is more consistently found in Sen. Kennedy, and his staff, than in many of those current Republicans who think they model Reagan.

Ronald Reagan called himself a conservative, but on immigration, he was not. On this issue, conservative Ronald Reagan, in a moment of critical import, lined up with the liberals, and his historical reputation should reflect this.

As Reagan did, so does President Bush, and for the most part, on this issue, I agree. But maybe that bastion of liberalism the Cato Institute sums it up best.

“Like President George W. Bush today, Reagan had the good sense and compassion to see illegal immigrants not as criminals but as human beings striving to build better lives through honest work. In a radio address in 1977, he noted that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. “It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Reagan asked. “One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

Compare Reagan’s hopeful, expansive, and inclusive view of America with the dour, crabbed, and exclusive view that characterizes certain conservatives who would claim his mantle. Their view of the world could not be more alien to the spirit of Ronald Reagan.

Amen and Amen.

Quote of the Day

With special deference to today’s headlines:

Latinos are Republicans.  They just don’t know it yet.

Ronald Reagan

The Immigration Bill – The Good the Bad and The Ugly

Well after looking over this bill over I think that my initial reaction is pretty well stated, there is a great amount of moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over this bill and the “amnesty” that it offers.  However, as I first thought when reading about this last night, there is plenty in this bill for both sides of the immigration fence, full pun intended, to be upset about, and in a rather devil’s advocate way, since I am not hard core on either side, I have to confess a bit of concern over the hysteria, on the GOP side, and a good deal of humor about the threats of never voting GOP again.  For those who hold that position, fine, do it, and enjoy an even larger DNC run of the Senate, House, and President.  You can kiss your “strict constructionist” goodbye, because if you think that “President Hillary or Barack or Johnny Boy will have the types of judges you prefer, you know the ones that keep Roe v Wade among other ideas valued by the base, but hey, you’ll have made your point known.

In actuality the “best” chance for this bill to not be passed is by the Pelosi led House, which finds it a step in the right – and I know she didn’t mean ideologically – direction.  That’s codespeak for softening what is actually very good in this bill, increasing what is bad, changing the order of operations in this bill’s equation, and then ramming down immigration reform DNC style after the GOP has lost the 08 elections with the aforementioned unholy trinity of candidates waiting in the wings.  Those on the hard right side of the GOP should take notice of that, because if this bill is allowed to fragment the GOP into three or four camps don’t think that the parts of this bill which are good will be kept, and rest assured that the parts of the bill that are unacceptable are going to be greatly enhanced and there will be lots of pork to go around.

The part of this bill which is good is that it offers decent proposals with regard to border security.  The fence is a nice idea, but unless you have lots of patrols, those fences are pretty easy to go over through or under – I’ve seen it done.  The doubling of the border agents is better, and hopefully the NG will be called in for more of a supprting role as had been proposed earlier.  The best part of the bill is the ID system, and if this is enforced it will greatly help ease concerns about terrorism and about illegals entering amok as they do now.  The most important part is it also allows, if enforced, to make sure those here legally don’t overstay their welcome, which is a huge cause of the current 12 million who call the US their illegal home away from home.

The bad would be the enforcement of this bill, and someone prematurely shooting the trigger.  If that happens, this will be 1986 all over again, and worse.  Enforcement will be the key, but the rub is that the current laws aren’t very well enforced.  Maybe the country has awoken, but I’m not holding my breath.

With regard to the “amnesty”, the plan is not unacceptable.  It does offer a path to citizenship but that is 13 years down the road.  What it does provide is that those here, and unless someone wants to cut out all aid and totally rewrite the laws concerning the way these people get aid, or deport the 12 million, and none of those are going to happen, it is likely the best plan that could be cobbled together and make a compromise.

The problem with the GOP base – or certain elements – since I am a lifelong Republican and am not ready to spit upon this bill, nor tear up my GOP Member card – is that they forgot that governance require compromise.  Perhaps if the last Congress had been a bit better at that uniquely democratic feature of our Republic they would be in the majority in at least the Senate.  However, ideologues are forever tied to the Four legs good, Two legs bad mantra.  So, the threats of leaving the Party en masse, and the way off the farm comments about some states trying to secede, I thought that was settled as treason, some love of America there!

The Good: Provides for some reasonable security measures and border control.  Also, sets out a reasonable path to normalization without being an amnesty, look up the word.  It will take 13 years to become a citizen, and will hopefully encourage many to enter legally where they can be monitored, pay taxes and all that good stuff.  The ID program is a strong part of this plan, and is laudable.

The Bad: The path to citizenship or the Z Visa is in effect a Green Card, this doesn’t bother me so much, but that is a bit of an odd inclusion to make one level of Visa which leads to a Green Card just like the card.  Enforcement of this will be tough, and I am not sold that the fence will work overly efficiently.

The Ugly: If enforcement doesn’t work well, and the performance of the last comprehensive immigration reform makes me leary, the situation will be much worse, and again I have little confidence in the ability or the will of this nation to enforce immigration policy laws.

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