The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 12, 2010

Mugwump on Arizona

By Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
Enid News and Eagle



How many of us one-time history scholars recall the term “mugwump?”  While once so rich in meaning that it was found as an item on our American history examinations, it is now so lightly regarded that the MS Word dictionary spell check highlights it in red, indicating that it is not in its vocabulary. 


For the unenlightened, or those with shorter memories, a “mugwump” was a fence sitter, unwilling to take a stand or a side on an issue.  Thus, sitting on the fence, his “mug” was on one side and his “wump” was on the other.  (Actually, Muggeowump was an Algonquin Indian word meaning “important person,” which became political in the election of 1884 when important Republicans bolted their party to support a Democrat for president.) 


This writer has been something of a “mugwump” on Arizona, not ready and willing to come down hard on one side or the other. 


In his pen role as the Militant Moderate, this writer has normally been unabashed in taking firm positions on the issues of the week.  Usually there has been little equivocation in positions taken in this column against extremist elements within our political spectrum.  But thus far this writer has not felt really comfortable in weighing in on the loud, clanging, noisy issue of immigration law in Arizona. 


No similar reluctance would be felt if the usual and customary extremists in the Oklahoma Legislature were to come up with a companion bill as Senator Terrill is talking of doing.  Of course, all of us remember Senator Terrill as the author of most or all of our protective legislation against Oklahoma’s vast, locust-like horde of illegal aliens who threaten to drown our schools, overwhelm our hospitals, and run amok amidst our law enforcement with their hosts of criminals. 


Sometimes it worries us that Senator Terrill seems to take such wide-eyed pleasure in persecuting those folk.  He becomes so excited that he can scarcely talk, but nevertheless frequently finds a TV camera and does so. 


Sometimes it may be necessary to enact laws and rules which are hurtful to certain segments of our society, but such should always be made with restraint and compassion.  There is something basically wrong in taking pleasure from hurtful rule-making or law-making.  Such people are troubling. 


So, it is very troubling to see and hear the legislative sponsors of the Arizona bill as they vigorously defend what is obviously a harsh and hurtful bill.  This bill appears to be not only harsh and hurtful, it appears to be mean-spirited.  It is the latter that is more troubling.  Mean-spirited people tend to offend and drive moderates away. 


Unlike Oklahoma, Arizona is indeed a state with its government and its social services, as well as law enforcement, severely taxed by inbound undocumented immigrants and by the drug wars on the border, sometimes connected but not necessarily.  For this factual condition, many of us want to give the citizens there and their leaders some slack.  If they push the envelope or redefine the line some, we are prone not to rush to judgment.  On the other hand, Oklahoma really has no valid excuse for harshness. 


There are some very bothersome features of the Arizona enactments.  First, listening to the conflicting views, there seems to be mean-spiritedness among those sponsoring and supporting the bill.  These people seem angry, full of hate, and vindictive in their motives.  They act callously and talk mean.  Usually that is enough to put a moderate on the opposite side. 


Secondly, there appears to be a lack of candidness and honesty on the part of those, like the governor, who approved the bill.  It is difficult to understand how any logical person can look at the legislation and not see that racial profiling is required.  One may sincerely disagree with lawmakers and the courts, and one may believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with racial profiling on the basis of empirical statistical data.  However, one loses credibility when one tries to deny the obvious. 


Like some it is difficult for this writer to believe that we must tolerate a sieve-like border.  It is difficult to think that we cannot put armed personnel there to do what is necessary to prevent an unfettered flow of people, drugs, guns, and cash across that line. 


Once that is said and done, it seems also that we should surely be able to devise humanitarian means of dealing with the undocumented alien workers already here.  Obviously, this calls for some intense study, maybe some toughness, and a cooperative, bipartisan policy approach to the situation.  Negativism of one party makes that seem beyond us on any big issue. 


For an immediate reduction of tensions in Arizona, would these tea party conservatives there consider broadening the manner of the new law’s application to include themselves?  The demand for “papers please” could be made universally – of ALL people, not just those who might look like illegal immigrants.  That approach may meet constitutional muster, as with other laws.  No selective enforcement.  Apply the law to everyone.     


We wonder what would then become the position of the radical tea party folk.  One might expect a hue and cry about infringement of freedom, and all kinds of new conspiracy theories, if their law were applied to them.  That could be a good lesson for all. 


We might then conclude that if the law is not suitable for all of us to follow, then it is probably neither humanitarian nor constitutional to apply only to Hispanics. 


Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate