December 07, 2016

Santorum, a DREAMER, and a Double Standard

Rick Santorum had an interesting exchange with a DREAMER on Van Jones' The Messy Truth. Elizabeth Vilchis, an engineer who was brought to this nation illegally when she was seven years old, had questions about whether she will face deportation under Trump's administration. Here's one of the comments that Santorum makes that really stuck out to me:

“As much as I’m sympathetic to you, you should recognize the gift that America has given you and that you can give to the world.”

I was struck by this quote because it reminded me of this one from 2012:

"If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that."

You may recognize that as a quote from President Obama that was heavily criticized at the time by his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Of course, seeing the quote in context, it's pretty clear that the President wasn't referring to businesses, but to the roads and bridges that businesses use, but hey, who cares about facts, right?

The outcry to President Obama's cherry-picked quote seemed to center around one idea: individualism. Individualism is a fundamental American value. It's one of the biggest obstacles we have to actually making progress as a society. It's the underlying thought behind the idea that the poor in America see themselves not as oppressed, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires (for more info on this disputed Steinbeck quote, check this Wikiquote out).

There's this idea that the force of the individual is unstoppable. The individual is to be credited for their successes (and also, often, for their failures--this is the flip side of personal accountability).

And yet, as we can see in Santorum's quote above, this just isn't always the case. This principle is applied disproportionately. It's not a stretch to assume that folks most likely saw the business owner "maligned" by Obama's quote as being a White American, born here. That person obviously made themselves.

But when we look at a DREAMER, like Vilchis, we see not someone who has made herself, but someone who has been made. It's not her own individual merits that have contributed to her success. It's not her intelligence or hard work or tenacity or perseverance or excellent time management or wonderful study skills. It's a gift that was given to her.

What Santorum is saying here is this: "You didn't make that. We made it for you." The concept of individualism isn't applied the same.

Why do you think that is?

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