L. Neil Smith's
Number 364, April 23, 2006

We have a winner!

The Hidden Threat America Faces That Not Even Securing Our Borders Can Solve
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to TLE

We've all seen the Dateline specials. We all know there are child molesters living amongst us.

We've all watched Fox News or CNN during an Amber Alert. And we all know there are kidnappers living amongst us, too.

Any of us who have ever watched the news know there are rapists and murderers living amongst us. And drug addicts. And crack dealers.

And immigrants.

And terrorists.

Crooked businessmen not only live but work amongst us. As do crooked officials, lawyers, accountants, and even Kansas City Royals fans.

The list of threats Americans face nowadays is quite long—and growing. You will see this if you watch the news, but you don't need the news to know this. You can feel the many threats we're facing. You can sense them. They're in our hearts and in our minds, and in the discussions we have with coworkers and friends.

You would be forgiven, in this day and age, for investing in a burglar alarm for your home, or a Club for your car, or even a leash for your kid. This is the era of metal detectors in schools and sports stadiums—the era of being "on the safe side" and doing things "just to be safe." You would be forgiven for shielding yourself, or even for staying home altogether, in this era. But none of this would protect you from the greatest threat America is facing. And nor should any of us be forgiven for closing our eyes to the fact that this threat exists.

It's a threat not from without or within, but from another realm entirely.

I am talking, of course, about ghosts.

I realize this statement will probably come as a surprise to most Americans. And for various reasons, most Americans will likely reject it. Some because they're devoted to the urgency of the other threats I've listed. Others because they don't believe in ghosts or can't imagine the ghost threat being much worse than Ghost with Patrick Swayze.

The rejection of my threat assessment is certainly understandable. And believe me, even a Patrick Swayze contained by Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and ten years of career futility remains a potent, credible threat. But the kinds of ghosts you're probably thinking of—the kind that conjure up images of Charlie Brown and Linus in bed sheets—aren't the kind I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about the kind we all acknowledge—the kind we believe in, by second nature. Figments of our brains' creation. Ideas. Invisible infidels.

Things that don't really exist.

No issue gets to the point of what I am saying better than illegal immigration. Not because illegal immigrants are ghosts (though perhaps in a legal sense they may be), but because ghosts are what the illegal immigration debate is ultimately about. You see, it's not about national security, job security, or even Social Security. It's not about racism. And it's not even about the rule of law.

In truth, it's about all of these things. And yet it's about none of them all at once.

Because when you get right down to it, any border that requires a massive, publicly subsidized fence isn't really a border. It's a long, thin ghost in the desert. An imaginary line.

Which is fine, in and of itself, of course. Geographical regions are abstract concepts. Every town I've ever lived in was defined with all the rigidity of a six-year-old saying, "Anything past that dead bird in the grass is a homerun." But many Americans would like to militarize our ghost of a border right now. And just think about what that would mean. We would essentially be creating our own prison here. Just like that Creed song. America would be like one giant ghost of a prison with Creed music blaring through the speakers all day, just to keep Mexicans from coming here and mowing our lawns on two dollars, a pat on the back, and a pocket of string an hour.

This is the kind of country in which we want to live?

If, as many point out, illegal immigrants are a strain on our public services, what does that say about our public services? It says they're involuntary. It says anyone within the confines of our borders is subjected to them. You can't opt-in. And you can't opt-out. And this speaks volumes for our entire political system. In a sensible world, illegal immigrants could come here, and we wouldn't have to give them a single, solitary thing. But, unfortunately, that's not the world we're living in. This is ghost world now. Things are all-or-nothing here.

This is what really ought to be haunting us in modern America. Not the relative insecurity of some fake, phantom border, but the freedom to move and do business within it. I don't think many Americans realize how much this freedom is perpetually at risk. But it is, and it always will be.

Jonathan David Morris writes from Philadelphia. He can be reached at jdm@readjdm.com.


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