Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How To Fake A Political Issue (And Act "Outraged")...


One of the things that makes me so annoyed with both the political left and right in this country is how they so regularly and transparently try to manipulate our perceptions by either manufacturing outrage over non-issues, or exhibit thin-skinned sensitivity to imagined slights. In the past couple of weeks, issues near-and-dear to both conservatives and liberals—and their political and/or ideologically-based “reactions” to them—illustrate my point.
Last Tuesday the Associated Press (AP), the largest news-gathering outlet in the world, issued a directive amongst all of its journalists that they no longer use the terms “illegal-” or “undocumented-immigrant” when writing a story about the current discourse related to immigration debate. The AP joins many of the major news-related programs on the major networks (ABC, CBS, CNN), as well as many of the nation’s top college newspapers from using those terms, which many defend as “avoiding negative labels.” To this effect, other “non-negative” terms have been likewise designated to avoid labeling other groups and/or individuals; the AP no longer uses the term “schizophrenic” to describe someone with the affliction. They instead now use the term “diagnosed with schizophrenia" ("Associated Press Drops 'Illegal Immigrant' From Stylebook").
Such an uncalled-for move is what fuels the antagonism the political right has in this country toward the idea of political correctness. Now I’m not one to embrace the notion of a vast liberal news media, but such a weak move on the issue of immigration does make it hard to persuade even moderate Republicans that there isn’t some plan afoot to define the political argument of immigration. To be logical about the issue, most of these “undocumented immigrants” (or fill-in-the-blank with your own euphemism since the AP hasn’t provided us with an acceptable term to use to describe these individuals) are illegal; they are in the country illegally, they don’t have legal papers proving they are here legally, and they did immigrate here…”negative labeling” notwithstanding. Trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings with recognition of one’s status is just overkill on the PC bandwagon. That’s like saying we’re going to no longer call someone convicted of a crime—especially repeat offenders—“criminals.” We’re instead going to refer to them as “those having experienced freedom impairment by virtue of negative choices.” Labels, as long as they aren’t a lame and transparent attempt to obscure the language of a particular political and/or social issue, are as necessary to communication as words themselves. The Left often gets so bogged down in maintaining the notion of political correctness that doing so distorts reality.  Calling an automobile anything else (but a car) doesn’t change what it is or what its function is. People who come to this country without going through the proper and established procedures are illegal immigrants. Furthermore, I have witnessed firsthand the impact their presence has on the employment prospects of Americans who have jobs—unskilled though they are—if not for their being in the country illegally. 
Additionally, we cannot ignore that with the ongoing and nearly unchecked drug-related violence on America's doorstep in Mexico, the issues crime, drug smuggling, and border security are also in the shadow of the conversation.  But these peripheral issues--related to security--on the whole are being ignored as both Democrats and Republicans try gain a foothold within the Latino voting bloc.
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And no, I am not slamming foreign-born illegal immigrants. I actually have a great deal of respect for them (especially after having grown up working side-by-side with them in the fruit and vegetable fields in Michigan). Most unskilled immigrants have a work ethic that most Americans should have. But their propensity to work physically-labor-intensive jobs for only a portion of the amount that native-born Americans (not to be confused with Native-Americans) could work creates an incentive for employers not to consider American workers (at the risk of sounding anecdotal, I have witnessed this firsthand more times than I care to relate).

But the political Left aren’t alone in manufacturing discontent for political theater. Earlier this week, entertainers Beyonce and Jay-Z made a controversial trip to the island of Cuba, one of the few remaining communist countries in the world. For the last half century, Cuba has been has been-almost unilaterally—on the U.S.’s crap-list based on an outdated policy of isolation. This isolation encompasses a total economic, commercial, and financial embargo by the U.S. on the Caribbean island nation. That means no trading, no vacationing by American citizens, no diplomatic relations (or recognition), and no business with any Cuban entity by American companies and their subsidiaries “so long as the Cuban government continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights.’” This policy of U.S. isolation of Cuba was enacted after the government, headed by then revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, nationalized properties of American citizens and corporations who had holdings or were doing business on the island nation prior to Castro’s seizure of power. However, this policy of continually to isolate the communist country when 99% of other nations do not is a stubborn holdover of U.S. government policy based on the now non-existent Cold War. This perception was, in turn, based on the now irrelevant reality that Cuba was an ally of America’s Cold War enemy, the non-existent Soviet Union. America’s foreign policy toward Cuba has been rejected by the rest of the world. This is demonstrated every year when the vote on the U.S. embargo comes up in the UN General Assembly. With the exception of Israel and maybe 1 or 2 other countries symbolically, the UN votes to rejects our nation’s policy. We are alone. And when officials on our government are called to justify this outdated adherence to an outdated tradition of isolation, they respond with the ambiguous call for “human rights reforms.” But Cuba is no longer an ally of the Soviet Union. And America has routinely and regularly tolerated human rights violations in some of its own allies and trading partners while conveniently turning a blind eye to this reality of fact. However, when entertainers Beyonce and Jay-Z traveled to the island nation over the weekend in celebration of their 5th wedding anniversary, there were calls from multiple quarters on the political Right for an investigation (“Beyond And Jay-Z’s Trip To Cuba”).

The reality is that  Republicans calling for an "investigation" of Bey and Jay's trip to Cuba are just placating their reactionary (and gullible) constituents.  The fact of the matter is that criticism wouldn't be as vocal if most knew that the Obama Administration had already loosened American travel restrictions to the island nation via it's "people-to-people" initiative.  Under this federal rule--created to open relations with the Cuban people--"Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba." Guidelines dictated by the Treasury Department limits any potential leisure activities by requiring that "tours" (which such trips to Cuba are recognized as) operate under a planned itinerary, with every every moment of the trip, and it's "people-to-people" travel, documented. Sure, those given this request are bound to take vacation-like liberties with such a trip, but who wouldn't given that Cuba is comparatively exotic? And no one called such "investigations when other high-profile celebrities traveled to Cuba.  It's only the connection of support that these two celebrities have with Obama that critics ignore the fact that Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson and a host of other high-profile Americans have visited Cuba--some even given an audience with 'ol Fidel himself.
Given the realistic and logical weaknesses inherent in blindly adhering to (and supporting) such an equally blind and outdated policy toward Cuba—just because “it’s always been that way”—is nothing more than a way to manufacture outrage over a policy that has very little bearing on the country’s political and/or economic interests. Fidel Castro is no longer the president of Cuba (yes, his brother is now the de facto head-of-state, but still…). The country is no longer the ally of Soviet Russia. It is no longer exporting revolution and/or communist ideology in the name of overthrowing other governments across the globe. It has diplomatic relations with most other countries in the world, including many of our own allies. And Cuba has been swept up in the tide of globalization within a (more) market-based economy. The world has changed since our government began isolating Cuba. The only two things that remain frozen in time are our government’s policy toward Cuba, and our elected leaders’ propensity to manipulate public policy for personal and political gain. The bottom line is that everything our leaders claim to be an “issue” is not always so.

See also: "Here We Go Again - Ozzie Guillen, Free Speech, & American Foreign Policy"

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