State of the Union

Those of you who make it a practice to read these weekly columns know that the Spirited Reasoner is no fan of our current President’s propensity for seat-of-the-pants, rather than research-based, policymaking. As the phrase “spirited reasoner” suggests, we are more interested in sensible policy than political gamesmanship.

How, then, should we judge President Trump’s State of the Union message?

There were many warm and fuzzy moments to applaud, especially those involving human interest: a Holocaust survivor sitting beside a soldier who had served with American forces who liberated that very concentration camp; a beautiful young girl fighting cancer and (we all pray) emerging victorious; the first man released from prison under the First Step Act; a SWAT team officer who had survived seven gunshot wounds after responding to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. These people serve as inspirations to us all.

But then there were the moments of the speech during which we cringed. One involved the recognition of family members of murder victims killed by an illegal immigrant. These good people deserve our compassion and prayers. But the ostensible purpose of their recognition was to reinforce the President’s position that those entering the United States from Mexico are primarily “rapists and murderers and very bad people” rather than downtrodden “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In other words, we were supposed to believe that this poor family was victimized not by a violent criminal–the type of sadist who exists in small percentages among every ethnic group around the world. Instead, according to President Trump, they were victimized by illegal immigration.

Are there violent criminals among the huddled masses who are yearning to breathe free? Undoubtedly there are. And I suspect we could find records of violent criminals who have entered this nation legally. Are the violent elements coming in at a percentage rate higher than the percentage of violent criminals already here? I doubt it. In fact, recent research indicates that violent crime has been lower, in percentage terms, in those communities where illegal immigrants now reside in the greatest numbers.

During that portion of the speech, I wondered about the young man from Louisiana who allegedly killed five people in two Louisiana parishes, then fled to Virginia where he was arrested the next day. These events happened only a few days before the State of the Union address. The alleged perpetrator was not an illegal immigrant, but was apparently a while Caucasian male born and raised in the state of Louisiana. What if President Trump had presented the family members of the victims of this horrible tragedy as proof that all people born and raised in Louisiana should be deported?

Then there was the President’s fabricated statement about El Paso being full of crime before building a wall, then relatively crime-free after the wall was built. The Spirited Reasoner has learned, through research, the following facts about El Paso’s violent crime rate. Keep in mind that the wall constructed near El Paso was completed in 2009.

Violent crimes in 2006: 2,422

Violent crimes in 2007: 2,574

Violent crimes in 2008: 2,825

Violent crimes in 2009: 2,830

Violent crimes in 2010: 2,861

Violent crimes in 2011: 2,858

Violent crimes in 2012: 2,859

Violent crimes in 2013: 2,522

Source: Uniform Crime Report

Do you see the huge drop in violent crimes right around 2009, when the wall was completed? I don’t either.

So there we have it–a speech that was heart-warming and even inspiring in places, marred by moments of irrational bias and ethnocentrism.