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← A personal plea for humanity at the US-Mexico border

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Showing Revision 6 created 10/09/2019 by Oliver Friedman.

  1. This one's personal.
  2. I know what it's like
    to have the government say,
  3. "We're going to kill you in the morning."
  4. I know what it's like
    to leave a country on six hours' notice
  5. and land on someone's couch.
  6. Because of that, I wrote a book
  7. on why countries do well
    and why they don't.
  8. Let me summarize 250 pages.
  9. Countries have to be compassionate,

  10. they have to be kind,
  11. they have to be smart,
    they have to be brave.
  12. Want to know what doesn't work?
  13. When you govern through fear
    and you govern through cruelty,
  14. it just doesn't work.
  15. You can play Genghis Khan for a while,
  16. you can play Stalin for a while,
  17. you can play Pinochet for a while.
  18. It does not work in the long run.
  19. And it doesn't work in the long run

  20. because to govern
    through fear and cruelty,
  21. you have to create a division.
  22. You have to take big chunks
    of the country and convince them
  23. that they're not like them.
  24. That they shouldn't associate with them,
  25. they shouldn't talk to them.
  26. That those people are nasty,
  27. those people are criminals,
    those people are rapists.
  28. And the country is in danger
    because of them.
  29. And if you spend millions of dollars
    doing that in your country,
  30. you will make enemies abroad,
  31. and you will create divisions within.
  32. And that has consequences.
  33. Three quarters of the flags
    and the borders and the anthems

  34. around the United Nations today,
  35. they were not there a few decades ago.
  36. Those lines that are there today,
  37. those flags were created
    because somebody said,
  38. "the Scotts are not like us,"
  39. "the Welsh are not like us,"
  40. "the Basques are not like us,"
  41. "the northern Italians are not like us,"
  42. "the Muslims are not like us,"
  43. the blacks, the whites, the Christians.
  44. You create "us versus them" ...
  45. you destroy nations.
  46. Part of the problem
    from creating us versus them

  47. is it's hard to do.
  48. What you have to do
  49. is you have to make people
    believe absurdities.
  50. And once people believe absurdities,
  51. then they start to commit atrocities.
  52. That's the dynamic of this thing.
  53. You can't create "us versus them" --
  54. you can't have the massacres
    you had in Rwanda,
  55. you can't have the massacres
    you had in Yugoslavia --
  56. unless if you create this dynamic.
  57. Let me summarize
    current immigration policy.

  58. Let's deter "Them"
  59. by being as cruel as we can possibly be,
  60. and let's target their children.
  61. They are going after the children.
  62. You have US lawyers arguing
    that kids do not need
  63. soap or hugs or showers,
  64. adult help or a release date.
  65. Somebody gets pulled over
    for a broken tail light,
  66. who's worked here for 20 years,
  67. gets thrown into jail,
  68. maybe for life,
  69. with no legal representation.
  70. The terrorists that blew up
    the World Trade Center get lawyers.
  71. These kids, these parents,
    they don't get lawyers.
  72. Governments are telling
  73. some of the most desperate,
    hurt people on earth,
  74. "I took your child, pay me 800 dollars
    for a DNA test before you get it back."
  75. Three-year-olds are appearing in court.
  76. Look, we've all watched these
    courtroom dramas.

  77. And it's exciting,
  78. because the wise judge sits up there,
  79. and the defense lawyer attacks
  80. and the prosecutor counterattacks,
  81. and then you figure out
    how it's going to happen.
  82. I want you to understand
    what is happening right now.
  83. Prosecutor's there --
    it's the tough prosecutor.
  84. Accusing, attacking,
    on behalf of we the people.
  85. The judge is up there, Judge Muckety-muck,
  86. with his black robes,
  87. and he's questioning the defendant
  88. from up there.
  89. And the defendant is three years old
  90. and the eyes don't reach
    the side of the table.
  91. The defendant does not speak the language.
  92. The earphones for the translator
    have fallen off the defendant's head,
  93. because there are no headphones
    for three-year-olds in US courtrooms,
  94. because they are not supposed
    to defend themselves.
  95. This makes a mockery of justice,
  96. it makes a mockery
    of the prosecution system,
  97. it makes a mockery
    of who we are as a nation.
  98. These are absurdities.

  99. These are atrocities.
  100. This is unbelievable.
  101. And we're looking
    at a bunch of statistics,
  102. but I want you to understand,
  103. this is happening to the housekeeper
    who brought up your kids.
  104. This is happening to the gardener
    who took care of your house.
  105. This is happening to the guy
    who washed the dishes
  106. in the fancy restaurant
    you went to last week.
  107. This is happening to the people
    who deliver the newspaper in the mornings.
  108. This is your community,
  109. these are the people who have lived
    side by side with you.
  110. Treated you well,
  111. treated you with respect,
  112. taken care of your kids,
  113. taken care of your grandparents.
  114. This is Luis, this is Laura,
  115. this is Jaime.
  116. This isn't some abstract,
  117. "Oh, it's happening at the border" --
  118. this is happening
    in our community, right now.
  119. And the danger in this stuff

  120. is once you start normalizing
    absurdities and atrocities,
  121. people think that
    those instruments are legitimate.
  122. So you get school boards
    sending out letters like this:
  123. "Dear Parent,
  124. because your kid owes
    lunch money to the cafeteria,
  125. the result may be that your child
    will be taken away
  126. and put in foster care."
  127. This is going out from school boards
  128. because people think,
  129. "Well, that seems to be
    an instrument of deterrence."
  130. When you board an airplane,

  131. before kids, before first class,
  132. soldiers in uniform board.
  133. Some of them are immigrants.
  134. Here's a contract: join the army,
  135. serve your term, be honorably discharged,
  136. get citizenship.
  137. We are rescinding those contracts
  138. after they have been signed.
  139. And if those soldiers
    are killed in action,
  140. we are deporting their wives,
    and sometimes, their children.
  141. These are the people who protect us.
  142. These are the people that we honor.
  143. These are the brave.
  144. And this is how we're treating them.
  145. These are not the people
    who cross the border illegally.
  146. Once you start allowing
    this kind of behavior,

  147. it normalizes into a society,
    and it rips the society apart.
  148. Countries are built on the hard work
    and grit of immigrants;
  149. we are all immigrants.
  150. We just came at different times.
  151. Fifty-five percent
    of this country's main businesses,

  152. the most successful businesses
    in this country, the unicorns,
  153. are built by people who came
    as foreign students or as immigrants,
  154. and they're the founders
    or the cofounders.
  155. Well, here's what's happened
    over the last three years
  156. to the best brains in the world.
  157. Forty-two percent of them
    did not get visas
  158. or chose not to get visas.
  159. This is how you wipe out an economy.
  160. This isn't about kids and borders.

  161. It's about us.
  162. This is about who we are,
    who we the people are,
  163. as a nation and as individuals.
  164. This is not an abstract debate.
  165. A lot of us like to think

  166. if we had been back
    when Hitler was rising to power,
  167. we would have been out in the street,
  168. we would have opposed him,
    we would have stopped Mengele.
  169. A lot of us like to think,
  170. if we had been around during the '60s,
  171. we would have been
    with the Freedom Riders.
  172. We would have been
    at that bridge in Selma.
  173. Well, guess what?
  174. Here's your chance.
  175. It's now.
  176. And as you're thinking about this stuff,

  177. it's not just the giant acts,
  178. it's not just go and block the bridge
  179. or chain yourself to something.
  180. It's what you do in your daily lives.
  181. The Harvard Art Museum just opened a show
  182. on how artists think about immigration
    and building a home somewhere else.
  183. And people come out of that show
    and they're pretty shaken.
  184. There was a blank wall at the end.
  185. And the curators did something
    that usually doesn't happen --
  186. they improvised.
  187. They drew four lines,
    and put in two words:
  188. "I belong."
  189. So you come out of this exhibit,
  190. and you can take a picture in front of it.
  191. I can't tell you the impact
    that has on people --
  192. I watched people come out of this,
  193. and some of them sat
    in front of that picture,
  194. took a picture, and they had
    a great, big grin on their face,
  195. and some people just had tears.
  196. Some people hugged
    and brought in strangers,
  197. others brought in their family.
  198. Small acts of kindness
    go a long, long, long way.

  199. There is pain going on in your community
  200. like you cannot believe.
  201. So next time you're with a cab driver
    who may be one of "Them,"
  202. according to certain people,
  203. give that person an extra five bucks.
  204. Next time you see a hotel maid,
  205. thank her and tip her double.
  206. Next time you see your gardener,
  207. you see your nanny,
  208. you see somebody like this,
  209. give them a great, big hug,
    and tell them they belong.
  210. Make them feel like they belong.
  211. It's time for big policies,
  212. but it's also time
    for big acts of kindness.
  213. Because we have to reclaim who we are,
  214. we have to reclaim this nation.
  215. (Voice breaking) And we cannot sit there

  216. and watch this shit going on.
  217. This has got to stop,
    it's got to stop now.

  218. Thank you.

  219. (Applause)