What if?
By John D. Turner
13 May 2010

“What if our first American ancestor came to the shores of this great country and found the border was closed?” -- comment seen recently on an article about the new Arizona law requiring Arizona police to enforce immigration laws.

I was reading an article concerning the new Arizona immigrant law, and skimming through the comments when I came across the one above. My first thought was “well, I guess they wouldn’t be able to get in then, would they?” Then I got a bit irate. The intent of the above was obviously an attempt to make me feel hypocritical for not instantly welcoming anyone who decided they wanted to come here with open arms. After all, most of us are immigrants, or descendants of immigrants to the United States of America. How can I be such an utter cad as to slam the door in the face of those whose only crime is in wanting a better life, when my ancestors came here for much the same reason?

Only in America could a major news network run a banner stating “Arizona law makes it a crime to be in the state illegally” and not see the inherent stupidity of the text. What part of the word “illegal” are Americans on the left somehow unable to understand? How can they continue to fail to comprehend that the majority of Americans have no problem with immigration. What we have a problem with is illegal immigration and our continuing apparent inability to police our own borders.

We understand that the immigration system is broken. We understand that it is unwieldy, difficult to negotiate, and incomprehensible to most normal people. We know it takes a long time for someone to enter the United States legally. We get that. But come on, Congress! You guys wrote the rules, or some governmental agency did. Fix it! Don’t just ignore the laws. That’s what drives us insane out here in the great unwashed.

And you guys think you can fix health care?

But let’s not get sidetracked here. What I really wanted to talk about is this concept of “what if?”

“What if?” What if, indeed. “What if” is an argument I frequently see used as a rebuttal to any number of proposals. It is an argument typically used by the left, and one which is normally designed to generate a tear-jerker response or to make you feel like an utter cad for even suggesting whatever it was that you proposed.

So while we are on the topic of “what if”, how about if I present a “what if” scenario of my own, concerning immigration?

What if the United States started enforcing its borders and immigration policies, like other countries in the world do? What if Pedro couldn’t come over here illegally to pick our lettuce for us? What if Juan couldn’t come here illegally to do our gardening? What if Jose had to get a visa to come here and fix our roof? What if Americans had to do these things ourselves? Would our country collapse? Would we be treated to the spectacle of Americans starving in the streets because they were unwilling to pick their own food? Would lawns suddenly go unmowed because Americans couldn’t be bothered to do that for themselves? Would houses not be built; would roofs collapse; would Americans be living in tent cities made of cardboard and old sheets because they would be unwilling to lift a hammer or a saw or to turn a screw if it meant they had to do it themselves?

What if the illegal’s name were John, or Barbara, or Alexis, or George? Would it be ok for them to stay? Aren’t you just hatefully picking on people whose names are different, like Pedro, or Juan, or Jose?

What if we just ignore our borders and welcome everyone in who wants to come, without requirement or precondition. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants, aren’t we? Give us your tired masses, yearning to breathe free and all that stuff. No need to assimilate and become an American. Keep your culture! Who’s to say yours isn’t better anyway? No need to register. No need to leave. Mi casa, su casa! Take what you like, stay as long as you like. Vote in our elections if you desire! What if we just give it a try…

What if, instead, we try this on a smaller scale first, just to see if it works? You can try this yourself at home if you like! What if you take all the doors and windows out of your home and put up a sign that says “open house.” “Mi casa, su casa!” Just let whoever wants to, come wandering in, stay as long as they like, do whatever they want, etc. Let them sleep on your couch. Let them sleep in your bed if they want! Eat whatever is in your pantry or refrigerator. If they don’t show enough gratitude to you to do the dishes, or refrain from dropping trash on your floor, that’s ok. It’s probably a “cultural thing”; nothing wrong with that! And if the smell of urine starts to permeate the air, or there is the odd pile of dung in the corner, well, not everyone in the world is privileged to have flush toilets; it’s a small price to pay for giving those huddled masses the chance to breathe free.

As your private possessions become fewer and fewer, as the graffiti art begins to build up on your walls and replaces those family photos you used to think were so important, and your property values plummet, perhaps this would be a good time to consider moving out of your house. After all, it isn’t really your house any longer is it? And if you don’t, you never know. You might end up like some of the folks living along the border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California; beat up, shot, raped, or murdered. But don’t expect anyone to do anything about it if it happens. That might be bigoted, you know.

But, what if I am wrong? What if that doesn’t happen? What if you are correct, and everyone just gets together and sings kum-bye-ya every evening and life is sweet? Well golly Molly, that’d be real cool, no?

But if I am right? Hmmm. That would suck, wouldn’t it?

What if, what if, what if…

What if, on the way to work tomorrow, I pass a car parked on the side of the road and it explodes and kills me? What if a bomb blows up in the HEB while we are shopping and kills or maims every member of my family right before my eyes?

What if my next door neighbor, Ali Baba, (who happens to be Muslim) puts anti-American signs around his house, buys books on making bombs, has a big sign on the back of his car that says “Allahu Akbar” and talks about blowing up the state capitol? What if he has guns? Should I be concerned? Should I report it? Should I do anything at all?

What if my next door neighbor, Ollie Bubba, (who happens to be a devout born-again Christian) puts anti-administration signs around his house, attends Tea-Party rallies, has a big sign on the back of his car that says “drill baby drill” and talks about picketing the state capitol? What if he is a member of the NRA and a big supporter of second amendment rights (and might have guns)? Should I be concerned? Should I report it? Should I do anything at all?

What if the left is right? What if we simply bring our troops home, dump Israel, and give every Muslim we see a big wet sloppy kiss? If we leave them alone, surely they will leave us alone, right? They say they hate us for our support of Israel, and for being in the Middle East, so if we do what they want and mind our own business, then everything will be OK, and we can all sit around and sing kum-bye-ya every evening and life will be sweet.

But what if it doesn’t work out that way. What if they come after us anyway? What if the really do hate us? What if all that “death to America” stuff isn’t just words? What if they really mean it?

What if they start making demands? What if they jack up the price of oil to $200/barrel – just on the United States, of course? What if Mexico decides that the southwestern United States really does still belong to them? What if they get the backing of the United Nations, and Venezuelan, Iranian, and Cuban “peacekeepers” are stationed on US soil to enforce the new borders?

What if, what if, what if…

We can play the “what if” game forever. Sometimes it is useful to sit back and contemplate what might occur if certain scenarios are played out. Sometimes it can be a catalyst for future action. But what it is not is a logical, rational argument for or against a proposal in a serious debate. It is, rather, a tactic often designed to evoke an emotional response and used to stifle or cut off serious debate.

One can always come up with a “what if” argument to most any proposal. I find that I am less interested in the “what if” scenarios than I am the “what is”. I don’t care so much about things that lie in the past that I nor anyone else have any control over. I care more about the problems we have today and finding solutions that work; not pie in the sky utopian ideas that would be great if true, but which will be disastrous if not.

And since I haven’t noticed the mantle of perfection settling on humanity here recently, I tend to err on the side of not in such scenarios.

Questions like “What if our first American ancestor came to the shores of this great country and found the border was closed” leave me cold. It isn’t a rational question. It didn’t happen in the first place, and even if it did, in which case I guess I wouldn’t be here, it has no bearing on the situation today. I might not be here, but assuming the situation we have today still existed, the problem still would. The question has no meaning.

How do you even go about responding to a question like that? It’s kind of like asking “what if Napoleon had a B-52 at the Battle of Waterloo?”

I’ve got a real good “what if” for you. Federal Government; what if, instead of talking about writing new legislation to “solve” a problem that you don’t intend to fix anyway, we here in the several states simply enforce the rules we already have on the books? Why not start out small?

That’s what the good state of Arizona is attempting to do. Why not apply a little federalism here? Let’s see how it works in Arizona. If it works well there, perhaps other states will give it a try. If they have problems, maybe we can see where things went wrong and apply corrections, say in Texas, or New Mexico. Then, when we find what works, we can all adopt it. Or not as we see fit.

Maybe a one-size-fits-all law for the entire country really doesn’t work. Maybe each state needs to tailor things to their own situations. Maine, Alaska, Florida, and Arizona are all very different places after all.

And that’s really what our founders had in mind. What if we go back to the basics, and give that a go?