Be Careful How You Use the Word – Immigrant
“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,’’ he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
At first all I’d heard, read, and saw was the ridicule, the disgust, the mockery, and the judgements. I figured it must be really bad. Dr. Ben Carson, a man I respect because I think he’s just a good decent human-being was being crucified all over the media and social media. This must be it, I thought. His foray into the cesspool of politics has finally come around to bite him and he’s done something really horrible.
Then I read the quote.
I immediately saw what everyone was hysterical about. He used the word “immigrants” where he shouldn’t have used that word. Not in today’s social/political climate, anyway. But I didn’t immediately interpret it as a slight toward the slaves who were brought over here or Black History in America. Some will say, “that’s because you’re white.” OK, but I still know the history and I can still read and understand words put in phrases and this one didn’t strike me as more egregious than Obama’s gaffe when he said he’d visited all 57 states. The Right took that into Islamic conspiracy world but the major media was quick to dispel it and help calm the waters. Not so this time.
It’s noteworthy, I believe, to show that nowhere can I find a definition of the word immigrant or immigration or migrate that specifies volunteerism. In other words, according to the dictionary, that volume which defines our use of words, an immigrant is simply someone “who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” It doesn’t specify whether they came by choice or not. But that can be termed splitting hairs. OK, fine.
A decade or more ago, maybe 20 years now, his comment wouldn’t have garnered much attention if any. The word – immigrant – didn’t hold the same political meaning or have the same emotion attached to it in the common lexicon like it does today.
In my observation, however, there seems to be a double standard when it comes to gaffes by public figures, especially politicians. Everyone makes dumbass comments now and then, but some seem to be immune from the kind of public scrutiny, mockery, or humiliation or the magnitude being extended in this case.
Does the Right mock the Left when they make similar gaffes in public? Yes, certainly, but the Right doesn’t have CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, The New York Times, or Saturday Night Live to ingrain it into our psyche for all time over a week-long news cycle.
So this past week, armed with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, led by celebrities and politicians alike, and with the help of the mainstream media, an avalanche of criticism, denigration, and even outright hate, has rained down on Dr. Carson. I don’t have a problem with fair-minded criticism, but the majority of what I’ve read and heard can’t be defined as such. It’s just gleeful contempt for a man most of them dislike for mainly one reason, I believe…
He’s black and he’s not a Democrat.
So, point your finger if you must. Claim that Dr. Carson doesn’t know the history of his own people if that gives you a superior tingle. Call him the most horrible person on earth because he dared compare slaves to immigrants, but consider how silly, petty, and insignificant it really is. No one ends up better for it. No one.
I’m certain Dr. Carson knows his history well. The intent of his comment was to commend those who came before him and to suggest even they, in their horrible and dire circumstance must have hoped for a better future for their posterity. His poor choice of words to describe their circumstance, the context of his speech, and the turbulent political atmosphere in which he spoke them, led to this ridiculous firestorm of anger and righteous indignation. We’ve got to get better than this.
The Left has long held claim to a monopoly on compassion and tolerance. Where is the application of this claim? Hint: It can’t be selectively applied.
So we add another word to the “words to use cautiously in public if at all” list.
Or what if we discussed why the word choice was poor, allowed the offender a mea culpa, forgave and moved on?