Many Americans fear immigrants. The opinions why, are as varied as the number of places, a person can be from. A hard look at what the idea means in today's discussions - and the cultural assumptions that underlie the meaning of the idea - evaluates what it means for a person to come to America and for a person to believe that they're from America. The most extreme viewpoints belie a fear that's great enough (with negative associations powerful enough) that the person unconsciously thinks, "Life's dangerous and uncertain and I'm terrified. What can I attach my fear to so that I won't be afraid? I'll blame foreigners for my terrible feelings, that way I'll know how to avoid my fears and stay safe."
[...] Despite many roads crossing back and forth with no sort of checkpoint, three side streets are labeled "U.S." and "Canada." This is the only concession to national security because the towns are so intermingled. Because of the new concerns, especially from the U.S. side, the U. S. Border patrol suddenly tried to enforce those painted white lines, chasing any motorists who crossed the border using any of the many other streets that had previously been allowed but that weren't expressly labeled with white paint. [...]
[...] In certain ways, Canada is threatened by the global cultural and financial dominance of the U.S. but, over centuries, Canada has learned to allow itself to be typified by its commonalities and not its differences. Canada is a "friendly neighbor" when, though the security issues at either border are near-identical because few actual Mexicans or actual Canadians are trying to sneak across for purposes of terrorism, Mexico seems to be called a "friendly neighbor" significantly less often. It is hard not to sense an underlying value judgment that is based on simplistic appearances and things like language and skin color. [...]
[...] At its worst, the general attitude of Americans toward Canadians could be oversimplified to be: "They look like us, but they sometimes talk funny and their money is weird." The underlying ideology appears less frightening than it is toward Mexicans, but the implicit belief that American values and culture are superior or more powerful matches up in both cases. The difference, one can surmise, lies in how Americans perceive Canadians and Mexicans, not in actual differences between potential security risks at the different borders. [...]
[...] Examining American thinking on the borders with Mexico and Canada shows similar cultural values that emerge in very different ways. Americans desire secure borders on each side, but the value judgments that underlie their perceptions of the two countries change how Americans view the borders themselves. The cultural similarities create a different attitude toward Canada and Canadians. The benefit (though, of course, the U.S. is too vast to be typified as having only one attitude toward Canada) is that society holds itself together by comparing itself to other countries and it allies itself with those most closely tied to its interests. [...]
[...] To look at a common (and defensive) question that hones in on some of the common concerns on the issue, it helps to look at the question "Why would Mexicans come to the United States of America when they know that it's illegal?" It's often asked and misleading. No one is sneaking into the US because they like breaking the law unless they're smugglers or criminals. The fact that it's illegal has nothing to do with fleeing a historically weak economy that has a wealthy ruling class and many natural resources but no middle class. [...]
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