Conservatism has a always prided itself, among other things, as an ideology of ideas. Any socio-political apparatus that seeks to remain relevant behooves itself to maintain an air of dynamism as it comes time to confront issues as they arise, and as a result of this, different groups within the movement, having different proclivities, are bound to butt heads with each other as they air out points of contention. Such debate is healthy, as it allows otherwise kindred spirits to fully consider at times significant nuances that belie areas of public policy.
I could, however, derive a corollary: Such debate is healthy, up to a point. And that point is crossed where heated criticism dissolves into a brand of vitriol that fails to productively advance a narrative. Impassioned people like to debate. Vigorously. There ought be a reason for it.
Enter immigration, a hot topic again. The recent influx of illegal immigrants from Central America has again revealed a southern border with more holes than a chain-link fence and an immigration infrastructure taxed beyond function. As a result, immigrants who lack basic living necessities are being shuffled and “housed” mainly across border-state communities that are less than enthused about their arrival.
In simpleton terms, the situation is dire, and the issues manifold: frustrated communities almost desperate for intervention who are without adequate recourse to address people with less than nothing, and people with less than nothing who have real humanitarian needs.
For the time being, the immediate issue is that policy hasn’t caught up to the problems yet. The border clearly is not secure–although Texas Governor Rick Perry made in-roads today–mass deportation of those already here isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and long-term reform is over the horizon. It’s obviously not something that folks in the south want to hear, but there is an inescapable reality: these folks are here. Illegally to be sure, but here all the same. They will be for the foreseeable future. While the DC brain trust deliberates the policy, what do we do about one of the problems?
Enter Glenn Beck. Beck, along with conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Louie Gohmert, among others, spent last weekend in McAllen, Texas as part of Beck’s Mercury One border relief effort to deliver humanitarian aid to those immigrants being kept there:
“We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.”
Beck et al. saw a need and chose to address it on their own, outside of any government influence or initiative. In conservative circles, such an effort ought to have been wholly uncontroversial.
I mentioned previously that honest criticism serves a purpose only up to the point that a narrative can be advanced without slipping into vitriol or histrionics.
Which is why it was unfortunate that before any narrative regarding immigration could be established, Ms. Evans cast the tone up front, by means of a blunt hatchet, that any such debate is an “us against them” formulation: Evans and “we the people” as grunts on the front line fighting the good fight, and Beck, Loesch, etc. as hoity-toity financiers disinterested in the “well-being of our country”:
“While we regular, cash-strapped taxpayers concerned about the well-being of our country stood on the overpasses Saturday protesting the total breakdown of our borders, where were a few of our stalwart conservative spokespeople and politicians? Were they holding anti-illegal immigration signs with ‘we the people’ on the National Day of Protesting Against Immigration Reform Amnesty and Border Surge?
No. Senator Ted Cruz, Rep Louie Gohmert, Glenn Beck, and Dana Loesch, among others, were in McAllen, Texas meeting with Rio Grande Catholic Charities Director Sr. Norma Pimentel just weeks after her very public visit with Nancy Pelosi. Not to be outdone by the Democrats, photos on The Blaze showed the media stars and politicians preparing food, handing out soccer balls and assisting church groups.”
So they aided church groups who prepared food for those lacking. Perish the thought.
I’m concerned less by such a seemingly grotesque gesture and more by the note of almost derision in Ms. Evans tone that the group would consider such a thing. In any case, I sincerely doubt that Glenn Beck would organize a significant venture to the southern border just to one-up Nancy Pelosi. Hosting a popular talk show, he can lambast her for hours without leaving his studio.
After noting that Loesch supported Beck’s initiative despite being firmly anti-amnesty, Ms Evans derided her “elitist rhetoric” and stated that, as one of the beneficiaries of the support of “the people” who patronize their creative outputs, they ought to cease their “pandering”.
But pandering to whom, and for what purpose? Evans suggests as a push for “votes and money”. Not sure how kicking a new soccer ball around with an immigrant kid will push a new book, or how clothing a family will reveal a hitherto unknown conservative voting bloc among an ethnicity that doesn’t really vote conservative. Maybe just once, Ms. Evans, charity is just charity?
Ms Evans is of course entitled to her criticism. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why she would, especially with such force. Charity for charity’s sake is it’s own worthy endeavor, but this effort and those like it speak to a deeper philosophical point about the nature of conservatism; one that Ms. Evans should fall in line with.
We may argue among ourselves how conservatism is the theoretically preferred ideology or about the interplay between government involvement and private efforts until we’ve sucked all the oxygen from the room, but theory must spread its wings eventually: we must prove it can actually do something.
And in the little corner of the world that McAllen, Texas inhabits, this group has demonstrated that private machinations can be mobilized to address a societal ill without making an appeal to the sclerotic bureaucracy that is the federal government. Such charitable organizations are affecting that area of the situation they can control, and proving they can do it to the exclusion of government and taxpayer-funded resources. Every dollar they spent was one dollar John Q. Taxpayer didn’t have to. That is to be commended.
Ms. Evans asserts that Beck et al. “play both sides” of the issue: stating they are opposed to illegal immigration while simultaneously aiding and abetting in it. She suggests that the two comprise opposing sides of the same coin. I disagree. Immigration and ancillary topics like amnesty are questions of federal policy. Humanitarian efforts such as these are quite removed from immigration policy itself, but are merely a response to its failure. Policy necessarily contains an agenda. Charity has none, being an end unto itself. Indeed, such efforts wouldn’t even need to exist if the policies themselves worked.
Which is why Dana and Co. feel comfortable seeking to “serve as good stewards of our fellow man”, but saying immediately after that eventually they must go home. If there is a more appropriate course of action to be had while larger questions of policy get fleshed out, what does Ms Evans believe that to be? And why wouldn’t she espouse it?
Certainly that’s more productive than casting aspersions on feeding the “least of these” a hot meal?