Opinion: Latinos have become conservatives’ newest generation of scapegoats

My latest post on NBCLatino.

Poor people are like animals.  If you feed them, they will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves. And if you believe that, you are either dumb or a conservative, likely both.

This nugget of wisdom came from the Facebook page of a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona’s 3rd District, Gabriela Saucedo Mercer.  She must have found this comparison to be of the quality one might describe as epiphanous.

Also this week Jay Nordlinger, of conservative magazine National Review, wrote that conservatives once lamented Ronald Reagan’s growth while in office, which included such things as supporting taxes and welcoming “wetbacks” into the country. Nordlinger was discussing the unfortunate contemporary embrace of Ronald Reagan by modern conservatives as a misplaced icon of true conservatism.

Modern conservatism is what stupid people mistake for deep philosophical thought.  It’s thinking without the thinking, and today mostly consists of moral self-stroking through witty denigration of the poor.

In this circular world of conservative wittiness, the beauty in this way of thinking is that poor people deserve to be poor, which conveniently absolves us of our public obligation to them.

Whether it is health care, welfare or immigration, the conservative mantra is that pain is the pathway to righteousness. What incentive will sick people who failed to foresee their pre-existing condition have to get their own insurance if they don’t suffer? How will welfare recipients learn about the dignity of employment if they don’t first appreciate what true hunger is?

Mitt Romney has said as much in his approach to immigration.  We need to “turn off the magnets” that attract immigrants to the country. Magnets like jobs, opportunity and hope for a better future. To conservatives, this translates to welfare, a free education and undeserved employment that steal jobs away from Americans.

Latinos have become conservatives’ newest generation of scapegoats to explain the shifting culture of the country, and even those not wrapped in anxiety over the largest demographic shift by Latinos are largely complicit, by accepting words like “wetbacks” to describe Latinos without much complaint.

The rise of Latinos’ youth and energy is the backbone of our economy, and those retiring baby boomers like Nordlinger will soon be dependent on the vitality of this demographic to provide the services and benefits our government has promised them.  Yet, instead of investment by a Republican Party who gains 90% of its votes by whites, Latinos are largely seen as a pariah.

Insults easily roll off the tongue of today’s conservatives because if we saw the humanity in our poor and wretched, we’d also feel compelled to treat them as we would ourselves: with compassion.

But soon it will be Latinos, and minorities in general, who will be asked to treat our retiring American neighbors with compassion. Witty animal comparisons won’t be so funny then.

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