Human Tides and the Sherpas Among Us
These thoughts have little to do with the content of this issue, but they flow restlessly through my mind demanding expression. So be it.
Set aside for a moment, if you can, issues of Democratic and Republican politics, homeland security, official language and national identity—all the real but ephemeral concerns around which we organize our national debate on immigration reform—and think for a moment about tides.
Humans of every race, religion, skin color, language and political orientation have been migrating, like waves on the sea, across borders, mountains, deserts, oceans and mighty rivers since the beginning of recorded time.
The Roman Empire rearranged the world, Vandals and Goths rearranged the Romans, the Incas subdued most of western South America, the Spanish subdued the Incas, Mexicans kicked out the Spanish, and Americans—as Europeans came to be called—kicked out the Mexicans.
Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural waves rolled back and forth in the wake of military and political dominions, largely irrespective of formal borders. Thus we find California, once the domain of indigenous tribes, later controlled by Spain, then by Mexico, then by the United States, a perennially polyethnic place where culture and language have always commingled and where names and places richly combine Spanish, English, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Native American words.
Culture and language, like weather fronts, migrating birds and organic commerce, are tidal—they respond to external influences more powerful and permanent than political platforms. The flood of Latino immigration is such a tide. It can, to considerable extent, be guided, directed, restrained and overseen. But it can’t be stopped, not with any kind of physical wall (Do we want a Korean-style DMZ?) when there are some 430 million Spanish speakers below our southern border.
Many Americans view this tide with fear and anger. So be it. That won’t stop the tide. And sending 12 million Spanish-speaking people back to where they came from is not practically, politically, economically or morally possible.Legitimate terrorism concerns aside, neither Trumpian politics nor its antithesis hold solutions to what is largely a non-problem. We can best address immigration by embracing reality and recognizing not only its inherent benefits but its essential value to an economy that would stagnate without foreign bodies. The U.S. birthrate (1.84 births per woman) is below the replacement rate, which is generally pegged at 2.1. Without immigrants, therefore, our population declines, along with our economic health and the American Dream. We are already at full employment, with labor shortages in many sectors of the economy. Meanwhile the Trump regime has announced plans to rescind Temporary Protective Status for 9,000 Nepalese immigrants granted safe haven following the devastating 2015 earthquake that left vast swaths of their country in ruins, killed some 9,000 residents and injured 22,000 more. Damage estimates have hit $10 billion, more than half the country’s entire GDP.
If you’ve been to Nepal, you know how fragile its infrastructure was even before the earthquake, especially in rural Himalayan villages accessible only by foot or helicopter. Few homes were insured, and reconstruction is expected to take several more years.
And if you live in Sonoma, you know how hardworking, industrious, creative and indomitable Sherpa people are, natives of Nepal, some 100 of whom now live among us. They own restaurants, real estate and a taxi company. They are a vital part of the business and labor community. And they send money in a regular stream back to Nepal to aid family and friends still suffering the impacts of the earthquake.We don’t know if any local Sherpas are recipients of the Temporary Protective Status Trump wants to end, but we’re sure if there are they are having a positive impact on our community and that they are contributing to the flow of donations going back to Nepal. It could be argued that one of the best forms of earthquake relief is the presence of hardworking Nepalese in America contributing to the economies of both countries.
Full disclosure: I am an unqualified fan of Sherpas and count some of them among my dearest friends. And prejudices aside, I am convinced these Nepalese residents are an immeasurable asset to this community and this country. A small but mighty tide brought a few thousand refugees here following a devastating natural disaster. They should be allowed to stay.
Thanks for listening. Now please let us tell you, inside, about the future of straws and other unnecessary plastic.
David Bolling, Editor & Publisher, Valley of the Moon Magazine
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