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Last night in Alabama, undocumented former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas spoke at an Immigration Town Hall entitled “Do I Look ‘Illegal’?” and discussed Alabama’s HB 56 anti-immigrant state law as well as anti-immigrant sentiments like it around the nation. One of HB 56’s sponsors, state Sen. Scott Beason (R), was invited to attend and speak, but declined. We’re guessing that was because he didn’t want to comment on this report about how HB 56 could end up costing Alabama as much as $11 million, or this article finding that Alabama now has the single worst economy in the American Southeast.
As Pulitzer Prize winner Joey Kennedy of the Birmingham News reports from last night’s event, it seems that most of the haters who agree with Beason also stayed away. It seems that even they know their “arguments” just don’t hold up under scrutiny:
They talk a good game — when they don’t actually have to defend their words — but they don’t want to be exposed to any other position or viewpoint. That might challenge their thinking, and we can’t have that in Alabama. Challenge, that is. Many gave up on thinking long ago. It’s the kind of stubborn intransigence that put our state and nation in the sad place they are in today.
Truth is, the supporters of HB 56 don’t really want a discussion. They want to stand around talking to each other, telling each other what each other wants to hear, then slap each other on each other’s backs and call it a day. Then they’ll lob their angry-grenades, using anonymity as a best friend so they can utter the most cruel insults behind a coward’s mask.
Even today, as they comment on the coverage of last night’s Immigration Town Hall, they misrepresent what was actually said, what actually occurred. They just make it up as they go along, I suppose, and then just blab it to each other, over and over again, as they build themselves to a boil in their single-idea cloisters.
Here are the facts — scary, scary things to some of these folks: HB 56 supporters had a chance to be heard. They had an opportunity to ask their questions, if they really had any. They could have engaged Vargas before the event, one-on-one, or after the event, one-on-one. They could have been part of the discussion. They could have contributed and could have been constructive. They could have gotten some answers. Maybe not perfect answers, because Vargas will quickly say there are few perfect answers, but they could have learned something and shared their perspective.
But they didn’t.
Instead, they stayed away, decided not to play, then insulted Vargas and me and The News and al.com and anybody else who dare to threaten their closed thinking. That says more about who some of these people are than anything. Afraid to be confronted, but not to throw bombs and then run. It sounds eerily like our history. Let us pray it’s not our future, too.
The problem with their refusal to have these kinds of honest discussions is that it leads to laws like HB 56, which affect people’s families and people’s lives…