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Politics in Music: Icky Policy

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After three weeks in office, President Donald Trump has already caused extreme amounts of controversy. Most notably, his immigration policy, which includes a travel ban on refugees and all people (including green card holders) from seven Muslim-majority nations, and his campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico have raised concerns.

Two songs aptly describe the frustration pro-immigrant groups feel toward other Americans and government officials who seem content to let human rights go by the wayside, push agendas that propagate fear and ignore the ideals that this nation was built on: “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes and “This Is Our War” by Billy Talent.

Jack White of White Stripes sings, “White Americans, what? Nothing better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out? You’re an immigrant too.” There are many Spanish lyrics in the song; it is evident that White was trying to draw the argument toward Mexican immigration specifically. He talks about “sitting drunk on a wagon to Mexico,” and “a redheaded senorita,” with a notably Latino-feeling guitar riff.

Turning our eyes to the Mexican immigration problem is important, because when the song was written in 2007, former President George W. Bush had proposed a large Immigration Reform Bill.The bill sought not only to increase border security, but also to supplement that with a temporary worker program and to hold employers accountable for the people they hire. The bill faced opposition and ultimately died.

Looking at today’s conservative agenda, this bill seems moderate, and its opposition almost hints at our noxious immigration opinions today. Is illegal immigration a problem? Sure. Will building a wall fix it? I’d say not! Not only would the expense be frankly ridiculous, those set on entering the country illegally could still find a way around it. Additionally, I believe a compassionate approach to immigration would be more morally rewarding. As Americans, we are extremely lucky to live in a country where we do have freedom. That is not to say that poverty doesn’t exist or that our lives are perfect, but there are millions who have it so much worse.

The White Stripes understand the relevancy of its song under Trump’s presidency. The group is selling shirts that say “Icky Trump”.

Billy Talent lead Benjamin Kowalewicz sings, “Wash your mind out, where’s your morals? How many people have to live this sorrow? Rights should not be begged or borrowed, How many really want to change tomorrow?”

“This Is Our War” comes off of Billy Talent’s 2016 Album, “Afraid of Heights”. Given the newness of this album, it is easy to make a connection to the refugee crisis in the Middle East. Since 2011, an estimated 11 million Syrians have fled Syria.

Does moral obligation exist? In my article about Aleppo, I more fully describe the situation and why I believe we as Americans, should display more compassion toward Syrian refugees, despite potential risks. But “How many really want to change tomorrow?” A sizable amount of the country would feel morally uncomfortable with the situation in the Middle East, but how many will take action to change this country’s policy?

It’s a cliche, but we are a nation of immigrants. Why should that change?

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