Immigration Reform: Who Would Jesus Shoot?
Last week, I took note of how Utah Republicans are acting like grown ups and working with faith leaders and the business community to chart a more prudent path toward immigration reform than their neighbors in Arizona. Not so much in Kansas, a state where evangelical Christians frequently set the tone and substance of political debates. The Lawrence Journal World reports:
A legislator said Monday it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled: with gunmen shooting from helicopters. Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, said he was just joking, but that his comment did reflect frustration with the problem of illegal immigration. Peck made his comment during a discussion by the House Appropriations Committee on state spending for controlling feral swine. After one of the committee members talked about a program that uses hunters in helicopters to shoot wild swine, Peck suggested that may be a way to control illegal immigration.
Rep. Peck’s comments are vile, cruel and unworthy of someone entrusted with the responsibilities of public service. Dehumanizing immigrants is not a conservative or Christian value. It’s contemptible hate speech. Peck’s remarks also reflect a frightening tenor that characterize many our most contentious debates over abortion, immigration and other polarizing issues. Sharron Angle famously mused about “Second Amendment remedies.” Tea Party activists frequently show up armed at rallies. A Catholic bishop in Kansas used militant rhetoric at a pro-life rally not long before late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in church. Right-wing extremists continually “otherize” President Obama by insisting he is a Muslim and not a citizen.
While it’s tempting to dismiss these examples as aberrations from the loony fringe, these days it seems the outliers drive even mainstream discourse. Politicians take to Twitter with rhetorical bombshells. “Citizen journalists” entrap ideological foes in gotcha moments. Our 24-hour news cycle – an insatiable beast in need of feeding – has no trouble finding talking heads ready to offer up red meat heavy on sizzle but light on substance. Democracy is messy. Spirited debate is healthy. But we’re inching closer to a cliff that none of us should want to fall off.