Cultivating positive emotions about immigration

The majority of Americans agree immigration is good for the country. Yet, much debate remains on quotas, criteria and types of enforcement.

A hundred years ago, sure, quota debates were appropriate. Today, though, we live in a world where we’re no longer just American citizens, we’re global citizens in need of a much broader vision and understanding of our role. Approaching immigration with cautious, calculated baby steps is much too short-sighted and outdated for the world we live in today.

Immigration is about social engineering, about a country making choices on how it wants to build its population of the future. In the past, we thought in simplistic terms, of the world in three groups: us natives, immigrants, and people in other countries. And the crude yardstick for our immigration policy was whether it would improve the economic well-being of only us natives. In a nutshell, it was all about our GDP.

Even today in David Miller’s 2016 deep-thinking book, “Stranger in our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration,” his basic premise is citizens should be allowed to mold their own vision for their country and protect it by admitting only those who may adhere to it. Honestly, this is still an old-school view. Of course, we need a vision for our country — and more than ever a brand-new vision — but I disagree about the need to protect it, if only because “protect” is the wrong verb and the wrong mindset.

Currently, we’re facing serious threats to our planet. More than one half of all grasslands, rain forests, coral reefs and temperate forests have disappeared. And on our current course, the majority of all presently existing plant and animal species will become extinct by 2100. Due to overharvesting, pollution, habitat destruction, over-hunting and unsustainable population growth, the entire fabric of our environment will soon rip apart unless we radically change our behavior. And the western GDP model is the root cause of our eventual suicide.

So how is immigration our saving grace for saving the planet? It’s the perfect mirror unto ourselves. When we look deep enough into why we hoard our wealth, throw up walls and falsely believe borders will save us, we see it’s only fear driving those behaviors. Protectionism does nothing to save us. It only prevents us from feeling the painful emotions we don’t want to feel.

Granted, the environmental threats are alarming. But like mice scampering in a maze, we’re trapped in our GDP model, knowing we need a way out, but not finding one. Though much of the Western world might be waking up to the hard truth our voracious material consumption doesn’t bring happiness, like drug addicts we’re stuck. When we buy something we get a shot of dopamine which quickly disappears so we buy again. This addictive and environmentally destructive cycle only brings us enormous emotional poverty. And when we feel emotionally impoverished, we see only scarcity. From scarcity arises fear and from fear arises more hoarding, closed borders, immigration quotas and mistrust of people who are not like us. It’s a classic, negative feedback loop.

So how do we get out? Well, as Einstein said, you can’t solve the problem with the same kind of mindset that created it. Our way out is through cultivating positive emotions.

When we lean into empathy, compassion, courage and hope, we relax. We drop our defenses. We welcome differences. Now, having found the true source to our well-being, we embrace the uncertainties of a new way of living, easily giving up our painful consumption of material goods to become grateful stewards of our planet.

How do we start? Look around. Despite false thoughts of scarcity, we’re surrounded by enormous natural abundance like wildlife, land, clean water and air, arts, community, beauty, and knowledge. When we’re honest about what brings us happiness, we, without hesitation, will choose enriching the lives of others. And in doing so we’ll see that quickly and wildly opening up our borders is the only path down which the human race and planet will survive.

Kathy Walters works for Kirkwood Mountain Realty and lives in Gardnerville.


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