Burma Shave and a Haircut

This is different. Vice President Mike Pence braced Myanmar’s leader about the nation’s treatment of Muslim refugees coming in from Bangladesh and the jailing of two Rueters journalists.

“The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” Pence said.

Her response:

“We understand our country better than any other country does. I’m sure you will say the same of yours.”

Every news outlet has the story. I culled this passage from the Associated Press:

“Myanmar’s government and most of the nation’s Buddhist majority say the members of the Muslim minority are ‘Bengalis’ who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, and do not acknowledge the Rohingya as a local ethnic group even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations.”

Sound familiar? Even though they have lived there for generations. It’s the birthright citizenship argument. ‘Migrated illegally’ is code for ‘we don’t want them here.’

That should sound familiar. Every immigrant group in American history has tried to close the door behind it. Irish, Italian and German immigrants were treated like we treat Muslims and Hispanics now, back in the 19th century.

That might be the crux of the immigration debate right there. Half the world thinks we are all part of the same race, allowed to move freely and mingle. The other half thinks there are distinct races, and thinks they ‘own’ the borders of their nation.

I suppose both are equally valid in a political arena, but even Vice President Pence is telling you that national borders are not sacrosanct.

The Burmese leader doesn’t agree — it’s MY border! MY CHEESY POOFS!!! — and that’s part of the understanding. It’s a lot easier to see how immigration is supposed to work from a distance. It’s not so easy when it’s your cheesy poofs that some outsider is reaching for.

How can we get a little bit better here? What can we learn?

I think we should simply take Pence at his word. The GOP’s #2 man just said, in front of the world’s press, that a national push to refuse, reject and remove immigrants based on religion or previous nationality is (his words) “without excuse.”

This won’t change anything, at least not in a hurry. But I will step a little lighter today, knowing that there is at least one member of the GOP leadership who isn’t a rabid nationalist.

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