Recently, I switched on C-SPAN just in time to catch Laura Bush's diversity-infused observance of World Refugee Day—a creation of the United Nations, naturally. The UN designated June 20 as the occasion "to celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world." The world's displaced persons are no longer regarded as burdensome charity cases, you understand, but as colorful additions to our drab Western Civilization—at least according to the people paid to resettle them among us.
The UN's brief movie about the day suggests that we are surrounded by refugees and should do more to make them feel at home. Some of us would be more inclined to be generous if the displaced were to remain in their home countries, where their upkeep is also less costly. But then professional do-gooders of the Refugee Industry would have to relocate away from their comfy homes to scruffier Third World accommodation.
Back at UN News Centre, the theme of 2008 festivities was "Protection". (You can't have a special day marketing human displacement without a theme, apparently.) There's an image of street urchins holding their hands like a little roof—protection, in other words. Here's a music video with the same theme: Give Refugees a Hand, with images of desperate people alternating with Westerners making little hand-roofs.
In addition, refugees provide Hollywood stars with opportunities for do-goodery, well-publicized of course. Public acts of diversity charity are practically required for the film community these days. It gives them a change of pace from shopping on Rodeo Drive.
Reigning queen of Hollyweird do-gooders: Angelina Jolie, who has the official title of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. One of her issues is the six thousand unaccompanied children who deposit themselves in America each year. She thinks there should be lots of pro bono lawyers available to the kiddies to help them through immigration court proceedings.
Has she not considered the possibility of sending them home to their parents? But the simple action of returning children to sending parents apparently doesn't have enough drama for Hollywood refugee rescuers.
The imposition of Hollywood personalities on the refugee issue makes it seem like just another marketing campaign like Coke vs. Pepsi. But of course no one minds, certainly not at the UN, which has welcomed glamorous stars for years.
Laura Bush's shindig featured several refugees now living in America who came to bear witness: unlike many legal and illegal immigrants, the event's refugees were vocally grateful to be here, and they love the USA for more than just the dollar bills.
That was the script, anyway.
The First Lady used the occasion to enumerate the good works done for refugees by America generally and the Bush Administration in particular [from Mrs. Bush's Remarks in Honor of World Refugee Day]:
"The United States contributes more assistance to refugee populations than any other government. This year, we'll spend nearly $1.2 billion to facilitate refugee resettlement and to provide food, shelter, and supplies to those who fled their homes in search of safety.
"I'm pleased to announce that this morning, President Bush approved a $32.8 million emergency funding to support unexpected and urgent needs, including food, for refugees and conflict victims in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.
"Many American families came to this country to escape repressive regimes and build better futures. We honor this legacy by welcoming more refugees annually than any other nation.
"In the past 30 years, the United States has accepted some 2.7 million refugees. And this year, we'll take in as many as 70,000 displaced men, women, and children. "
(You can watch the whole event on C-SPAN using RealPlayer.)
Call me ungenerous, but it's disturbing that this do-gooder activity is done on the national credit card, now run up to over $9 trillion. I contribute to worthy causes [e.g. VDARE.com] only after I've paid my bills and stocked the fridge.)
In addition, I'm sure there are many genuine stories of suffering among refugees. But it's hard not to remember Prof Jan Ting's estimate that 95 percent of refugee and asylum applications are fraudulent.
Needless to say, unpleasant facts did not intrude upon Laura's lovely garden party. Furthermore, her warm hostessing was a signal that welcoming the extremes of diversity remains a top American duty, as well as a pathway to civic virtue, particularly for Republicans of the Compassionate Conservative subgroup.
And if there's one thing I've learned from reading Stuff White People Like, it's the importance of virtue in modern life—or at least feeling virtuous in terms of being a diversity-positive individual, and projecting that idea by wearing foreign clothing, declaring empathy for the downtrodden, appreciating ethnic cuisines and raising children to be citizens of the world.
Of course, a cynic might think that appeals to hipness and liberal generosity are a version of fiddling while Rome burns, i.e. it's cover for the globo-culture agenda promoted by the Mainstream Media and other elites, while they are busy dismantling the nation-state and undermining individual rights.
Interestingly, this year's Refugee Day may have had an extra twist lurking in the background beyond accruing diversity points. Refugees are now seen by some businesses as a new source of cheap labor.
For example, colorful legal Somalis have replaced illegal immigrants (mostly Hispanics) on the slaughterhouse floor in Greeley, Colorado, and beyond. In late 2006 ICE raided six Swift plants across the country and arrested 1297 persons, including 262 in Greeley. Jack Shandley, head of human resources at the Greeley plant complained, "The raid almost brought this corporation to its knees." [Factories Turn to Refugee Workers after Government Crackdown, Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2008].
Whatever the truth of that dire assessment, the company moved to a different strategy. If illegal workers must go, then exploitable Africans known for their fine herding skills might be the next best thing.
You wouldn't expect meatpacker management to return to paying citizens a middle-class wage—like 30 years ago, when "meatpacking was one of the highest-paid industrial jobs in the United States" (according to Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation).
Plus, the Somalis don't have any idea of American workers' century of struggle for decent wages and workplace conditions. That ignorance makes Somalis perfect workers from management's viewpoint. Other than their annoying demands for special Muslim prayer breaks.
I wouldn't put it past them.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She believes undefined "diversity" is worth about as much as unspecified "change."