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Clippings: Don’t buy what politicians are selling

Some politicians want you to think that immigrants and refugees are to blame for America’s problems. Don’t believe them. The presence of immigrants and refugees are only symptoms of larger social ills, not problems themselves.
I learned this lesson in my youth. When I was younger, my father, Brad Hartley, worked for landscaping companies in Florida and Tennessee. Though these jobs he grew to know and to respect people who didn’t look like us or talk like us.
In Tennessee his Mexican coworkers usually spoke Spanish, and in Florida he came into contact with Guatemalan immigrants who still spoke a regional Mayan language. They even taught him to speak it at a basic level; I can still remember the notebook he used to phonetically transcribe what they told him, filled with long lists of Mayan words matched with their English definitions.
All these people were hard-working people who simply wanted to make a living for themselves.
The Guatemalans he met were typically Maya people who were fleeing from civil war in their homeland, a civil war that was triggered by a U.S.-backed coup d’état and then fueled by U.S. military aid. The Guatemalans that my father met were the lucky ones — 200,000 civilians were black bagged or killed during the war.
Sadly, many of my fellow Americans wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between Guatemala and Mexico, let alone understand how the foreign policy of our government forced thousands upon thousands of refugees to flee Guatemala.
The same story is true in many other parts of the world. In Central and South America the “War on Drugs” has, contrary to its nominal aims, created an enormous black market that funds cartels and drug lords, fueling the violence that ruins communities and forces people to flee for their lives.
We see this in the economic sphere as well. According to Laura Carlson, director of the Americas program at the Center for International Policy, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) destroyed the jobs of approximately 2 million Mexican farmers who were unable to compete with the government-subsidized food products coming from the United States. Unsurprisingly, many of those farmers came to the U.S., looking to replace the jobs they had lost.
In the Middle East and Central Asia, similar patterns repeat themselves. The Iraq War destabilized the region, creating the conditions for terrorism to flourish. Not only did the number of terrorist bombings in the region dramatically increase in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we also created the spaces for fundamentalist terrorism to grow. Did you know, for instance, that the top leadership of ISIS first became acquainted with each other in Camp Bucca, a U.S. military detention facility?
When the Soviet Union was fighting its war in Afghanistan, the U.S. funneled arms and money through Pakistan’s intelligence service to Mujahideen jihadis in order to entangle and drain the Soviets. These same fighters would go on to form Al-Qaeda a decade later, using our weapons and money for their terrorist activities. You will recall that Al-Qaeda is the group that carried out the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
My point is this: Opportunistic politicians will try to sell you on the idea of American victimhood. The idea that we are innocent babes on the world stage, benevolent in intention and unappreciated by the rest of the world. This is a myth and a dangerous one at that. We will not come one inch closer to solving the deep problems that afflict our society without a sober look at the role our own government plays in creating them.

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