Steinberg: Why do people have babies and drive cars?

SHARE Steinberg: Why do people have babies and drive cars?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump | AP

Follow @neilsteinbergWhy do people insist on having babies? When they know that many of them will end up as criminals? One percent of American adults are currently in prison. That means one out of every hundred newborns cooing in a bassinet can be expected to end up rotting in a bathroom-sized cell. And if you consider those who commit crimes but aren’t arrested, the one-in-100 failure rate for babies is even worse.

And yet we keep having them. Why?

The answer is easy. The babies are ours. We want them. So we ignore the considerable percentage who will go into the ditch, preferring to focus on the handful who will become baseball players or Nobel Prize winners or presidents.

To suggest otherwise would seem demented. The certainty of future criminals is not an argument against babies, any more than the certainty of accidents is an argument to set highway speed limits at 15 mph. We accept — or would, if we thought about it, which we don’t — that not every child grows up into a contributing member of society, just as we accept that 30,000 people are going to die in 2017 on the roads. It’s a price we’re willing to pay for babies and driving.


Follow @neilsteinbergBut not for immigrants. The Republican Party, led by Donald Trump, wants to roll back immigration, both Hispanics and Muslims — and I don’t think I am misstating their argument here — because: a) criminals are to be found among Hispanic immigrants; and b) terrorists are to be found among Muslim immigrants.

That argument is not even an argument, for them. It is a deciding truth, almost a conditional formula. If criminals are to be found among Mexican immigrants, then we should build a big wall and block them. If terrorists blame Islam for their acts, then we should bar and harass all Muslims.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?” read a poorly capitalized and punctated graphic re-tweeted Monday by Donald Trump Jr. “That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

Imagine if it had been a picture of 100 babies. “If I told you just three would kill you . . .” Imagine 100 car trips. “If I told you just three would kill you . . .” Doesn’t work, does it? Skittles can stand in for Syrian refugees because, to Trump, neither are people.

It’s such a simple truth that I’ve never seen it stated before. So here goes.

So what? So what that some Hispanic immigrants are criminals? The fact — and I realize we have entered the post-fact world, but work with me — is they are criminals at a lower rate than those of us already here and scorning them — they have to be, because one speeding ticket can send them back over the border. To bring up criminality is to hypocritically condemn them for something they do better than citizens do. Then again, hypocrisy is what we embraced when we spurned reason.

So what that some terrorists who commit acts of violence blame Islam? The percentage of the 1.6 billion Muslims is minuscule, and I would circle back to that 1 percent of American adults who are felons.

Republicans don’t accept the above two statements because they apply different standards to those they fear than they apply to themselves. Babies get a pass while immigrants don’t because the GOP loathes immigrants, anyway, and criminality of a few is the fig leaf they hide their shame behind now that saying, “I hate these people and don’t want them in my country,” has fallen from favor.

We certainly have an immigrant problem. We allowed 11 million Hispanic immigrants to live in legal limbo when they should have been on the road to citizenship long ago. And we have a refugee problem: America cowardly turned its back on thousands of desperate Syrians who would have become fine Americans, as would their children after them, had we only allowed it. Only we were too afraid.

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