A Time to Defend the Republic

The American election of 2016 is a bit like 9/11: a moment when it becomes suddenly clear what the #1 threat to American freedom will be for the foreseeable future. Then, it was radical Islamist terrorists. Today, it’s Trumpism. After 9/11, there was much discussion of the “root causes” of Islamist terrorism. Today, it’s urgent business to discern the root causes of Trumpism.

Immigration is an obvious candidate explanation. That anti-immigrant hostility is to the rise of Trump what anti-Semitism was to the rise of Hitler is obvious enough, but in both cases, the timing seems underdetermined. Why now? Or in Hitler’s case, why then? Anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant hostility had been around long before Hitler and Trump, always ugly, but they hadn’t previously triggered movements strong enough to overturn the political regime. And nothing in 1933, or 2016, seems to explain why these hatreds got suddenly worse.

Thus, in Germany, one might have expected that anti-Semitism would be declining, several decades after the legal emancipation of the Jews and when Christianity, a past spur to anti-Semitism, was losing influence to liberalism, socialism, Darwinism, and other modern currents of thought. Instead, the smoldering embers of anti-Semitism suddenly burst into flame. Likewise, in 2016, undocumented immigration has been on the wane for sometime, assimilation is proceeding apace, and the economy is picking up, to the point where we’re near full employment. Crime is near historic lows, and immigrants commit less crime per capita than natives. Why an immigrant-hating presidential candidate now? One must look to other root causes to understand the opportunities that Hitler and Trump exploited.

First, new media. The rise of totalitarianism in the early 20th century was fueled by radio, which destabilized public discourse, and gave leaders like Hitler and Stalin direct access to the masses, fueling unprecedented cults of personality. Radio didn’t produce totalitarianism in the Anglosphere, but it did produce dangerous demagogues like Huey Long and Father Coughlin. Franklin D. Roosevelt, though no totalitarian, had his radio “fireside chats” that made him the center of a personality cult of sorts, and he was one of America’s most collectivist presidents. Contemporary new media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, have transformed public discourse, sometimes carrying it to new heights of thoughtfulness and lucidity, as exemplified by Bryan Caplan’s posts at EconLog, but sometimes descending to new depths of vitriol and propaganda, as exemplified by Donald Trump’s tweets. Anne Applebaum delivered one of the shrewdest judgments on Trump when she called him the spokesman for Internet trolls. The mainstream media and the party establishments have long functioned as elite gatekeepers in American politics, ensuring a certain minimum of civilized and democratic standards in our public discourse and politics, and muzzling the id of the masses. In 2015-2016, the media inadvertently helped Trump by giving him so much coverage, but they did so in ways that would in the past have guaranteed his swift political collapse, highlighting his outrageous statements and his obvious unfitness for office. But Twitter gave Trump direct access to his followers, and the Internet has allowed an angry underground to emerge, propagating its own myths and solidarities, so Trump couldn’t be deflated in the traditional way, and his ability to defy the traditional elite gatekeepers then added to his mystique. One of the shocking things about Nazism was that it arose in one of the world’s most educated, cultured, and industrialized countries, but that’s less surprising when you consider that its rise depended on new media, of which the most developed nations were the earliest adopters. Much of the postcolonial world experienced fascist-style regimes in the decades that followed. Let the rest of the world be warned, then, that new media has opened up new possibilities for vicious demagogy. Your Donald Trumps are probably on their way, if they haven’t appeared already. Let lovers of liberty be prepared to fight them.

The Iraq war is another root cause of Trump’s rise, since Trump used opposition to the Iraq war to upend the Republican establishment. This claim is orthogonal to support or opposition for the Iraq war. Critics of the Iraq war might blame the Bush administration for deceiving the country into waging an unjust and pointless war, thus shattering popular faith in the Republican party establishment and to a lesser extent the national government generally. My take is different. I think the Iraq war’s critics are to blame for systematically and deliberately failing to do justice to the Bush administration’s motives and the real merits of toppling a totalitarian regime, for undermining people’s attachment to liberty in general by devaluing Iraqi liberty, and for fostering a muddle-headed cynicism in the people, in their determination to delegitimize a high-minded and hopeful foreign policy venture that did a lot of good. Either way, the Iraq war of 2003 created a deep reservoir of cynicism and resentment in the American people, which Trump exploits. The Iraq war is to the rise of Trump something like what the Treaty of Versailles was to the rise of Hitler.

And of course, Trump’s supporters come largely from the white underclass described so potently in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, its jobs and earnings opportunities dwindling in the face of skill-biased technological change, its family structures ravaged by the Sexual Revolution, its morals and customs unraveling under the baneful influence of moral relativism. I think it’s here that the most important causal factor is at work, but this is also where my argument gets most speculative, most difficult to articulate and verify. But I’ll make a brief attempt.

It used to be truism that the health of republican government depended on the virtues of the citizenry, and especially the familial virtues. The Roman Republic was founded when Lucretia, the archetypal good housewife, having refused the seductions of a Tarquin price and then been raped by him anyway, confessed to her husband and immediately committed suicide, triggering a revolution that overthrew the wicked foreign king. Romans of the classical era, and generations of classically-educated modern Europeans, took it for granted that the happy home was the health of the state, and that the Roman republic flourished while Roman virtue lasted and decayed when luxury and lax morals ate away its virtue from within. This historical truism is no less wise for having been forgotten of late. Too many Americans weren’t raised right, and don’t know first-hand, let alone take for granted, the wholesome happiness of a good family, so they can’t feel proper horror at a man so inimical to it as Donald Trump. Here again contemporary America resembles Weimar Germany, which like America in recent years, was a sexually decadent place. The 1920s were the heyday of Sigmund Freud’s influence. The Sturmabteilung was thick with homosexuality. Adolf Hitler was the son of a sexual profligate, conceived out of wedlock, and seems to have had an affair with his niece Geli Raubal before he came to power. It’s hard to imagine people like Hitler and Trump coming to power in a culture where strong family values prevailed. They’d fail the respectability test and be immediately disqualified. Ultimately, is it the gnawing misery born in broken families that makes nations eager to sell their souls to demagogues? Do people who have never known familial happiness yearn for leaders who will tell them that their problems are someone else’s fault, and go after that someone in crude, angry ways, without being restrained by old-fashioned notions of law and due process and civility and all that? Are people who have never known the real, wholesome happiness of a good family, and who are left yearning for they know not what, fatally tempted to throw the dice on crackpot authoritarians who peddle vague utopian visions? 

I’ve waded into deep psychological waters here, and I’ll leave the question unanswered, as too difficult for me at the moment. But a related and more pedestrian point is that Obergefell probably helped Trump’s rise by putting a nail in the coffin of constitutionalism– if the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court, following the latest fashions, says it does, then why should Trump or his supporters respect it?– and by marking a definitive triumph of moral relativism. If political power could be used to overturn traditional morality for the benefit of gays, the alt-right felt, why not for the benefit of racists as well?

If Iraq, new media, and the Sexual Revolution explain the rise of Trump, is immigration irrelevant? Not quite. What I think Trump and Hitler, along with countless other successful fomenters of ethnic hatred and violence that have stained the last century of human history, show, is that it’s pretty easy to stir up ordinary people– not all of them, but enough to fuel a powerful political movement– to hatred of a minority that was already disliked, just by talking a lot about them, and saying publicly the things that people had long taken a guilty pleasure in saying privately, but that good manners and decorum had mostly kept out of the public sphere. Ambient hatreds are the perennial low-hanging fruit of democratic politics, always available for a cynical politician with the right kind of media reach to stir up and ride to power. They provide a cheap kind of skin-deep solidarity that people discombobulated by technological and social change often find comforting. Long before Hitler’s Final Solution, a lazy-minded and casual anti-Semitism was widespread among European nationalists and intellectuals. Similarly, too many generally decent American politicians have said “we have to control our borders, but…” Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, to be sure, are less evil than Donald Trump, but by not saying clearly and resolutely that the law of the land is wrong, they were his accomplices. For existing laws, if not themselves challenged, denounced, and delegitimized, provide a baneful legitimacy to anti-immigrant hatred. One can demand a vast program of ethnic cleansing, millions of people seized and uprooted from their homes and sent away to lands they’ve scarcely seen, and say more or less truly that one only wants to see the law enforced.

“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent,” Pastor Niemoller famously lamented. “I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent. I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out. I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent. I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” Yes. Human rights are the proper basis for solidarity, and only when we all react to the violation of anyone’s human rights as if the offenses were against ourselves, can we expect, or do we deserve, for our own human rights to be respected. First they came for the immigrants. Year after year, hundreds of thousands have been deported, and many more lived in fear. Many otherwise decent, God-fearing Americans remained silent, because they were not immigrants. Now Donald Trump, carried to national prominence as an anti-immigration leader, along with his pet media, threaten all our liberties. Right now, they are going after Clinton, conducting the election as a kind of show trial, concocting phony scandals and threatening her with jail. If they win, who’s next? Bill Clinton? Ted Cruz? Ben Sasse? Democrats generally? Open borders advocates like myself? To Trump, anyone who opposes him at all is an idiot, a loser, a criminal. Expect the show trials to continue.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton this year, which is something I never expected to do. I’ve always been a Republican. I’m pro-life, I was an ardent supporter of George W. Bush in 2004 and of John McCain in 2008, I’ve written a book against gay marriage, and I admire Mike Pence’s effort to protect religious freedom in Indiana. But that my conscience as a Christian and as a loyal American citizen prohibit me from voting for Trump was always as clear as day. Trump’s platform hardly matters. Donald Trump is a vicious sexual predator, whose business experience is a rampage of self-aggrandizement focused in sleazy, sinful industries like gambling, and fraught with fraud, failure, and bankruptcy, and such a man simply must never be given the kind of power that a US president has. To the extent that Trump has an ideology, what he essentially offers is an escape from freedom. His major stances– anti free trade, anti immigration, anti free speech, etc.– are consistently authoritarian. He’s an open admirer of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. His rhetorical style is distinctive among American politicians in that he doesn’t even pay lip service to liberty. The presidential oath, in such a man’s mouth, would be a travesty, and to vote for this would make me an accomplice in that travesty. The only question was whether to cast an effective vote against Trump, by voting for Clinton, or to abstain or vote for a third party. But after all the American republic has done for me, I think I owe it more than an abstention.

Trump’s signature campaign promise, to build a wall along the southern border (reasonable so far, even if I oppose it) and make Mexico pay for the wall (absolutely outrageous!) is chiefly interesting for the appalling light that it sheds on Trump’s own character, and on those of his core supporters. The idea of forcing a poor country like Mexico to pay for a wall meant to deprive their own citizens of economic opportunity, for the benefit of the far richer United States, is so stupid, mean, bullying, unchivalrous, and contrary to all norms of international law, that it beggars belief. It’s horrifying to think that there are Americans to whom such a thuggish, crazy proposal appeals. Trump’s appeal, indeed, is difficult for the educated to understand, but it seems to consist in a rebellion against what he calls “political correctness,” which in this case seems to mean civility, morality, the rule of law, and the dictates of conscience. I can’t shake the impression that the core Trump supporters are just sick and tired of being good. They are, as Hillary Clinton said, “a basket of deplorables”—in their political opinions, at least.

That qualification is important. I actually don’t think most of Trump’s core supporters are bad people, for the most part, only bad citizens. Most people’s political opinions, after all, are a very small part of their personalities. When we look back on former times, on slaveholding times, on colonialist times, on racist times, on times when national hatreds were universal and mandatory, when heretics were burned, or when wars of conquest were undertaken as casually as financial speculations are undertaken today, it’s easy to slip into the assumption that people of the past were monsters. But it’s possible for a person’s conscience to be numb to the wickedness of certain attitudes, beliefs, or social practices, even while he or she is quite high-minded and ethical in most of his or her personal dealings. If 99% of one’s social contacts are with white Christians, and one treats them beautifully, how much does it matter if one hates blacks and Jews? It does matter, certainty, but I would suggest that its weight in the scale of vices and virtues is rather small. The problem, ably diagnosed in Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter, is that democracy artificially amplifies the impact of people’s political opinions, which are often foolish and irresponsible because life doesn’t teach ordinary men virtue in political opinions as it teaches them virtue in private affairs. One learns a good deal of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice in the struggle to make a living, which, in a rough, everyday fashion, rewards virtue and punishes vice, starving the lazy and spendthrift and isolating the dishonest and intemperate, while those who are just, prudent, brave, and self-controlled usually see their assets and their circles of friends expand over time. But life doesn’t teach people virtue in political opinions, because one’s political opinions don’t really affect the daily business of one’s own life, so people’s political opinions are much more ignorant and biased than their opinions about things they have proper incentives to think about hard and fairly. In most societies, ordinary people’s political opinions don’t matter all that much, because they don’t control public affairs. In democracies, they do.

Americans have, historically, been unusually virtuous in their political opinions: unusually inclined to favor free speech even when they were offended; unusually ready to favor free markets and modest taxes and transfers even when they were poor; unusually deferential to the national constitution and the common-law tradition; unusually willing to accept the frequent frustrations of widespread popular preferences by the constraints that due process of law imposes on what the government can do; unusually insistent on high moral standards in their political leaders; unusually willing to accept adverse election results when defeated, and when victorious, chivalrously to ensure that vanquished candidates and their supporters retain life, liberty, and property, and the political rights they need to contest the next election. The widespread failure of real democracy to take root elsewhere in the world bore witness to a lack, on the part of many or most foreigners, of the kind of civic virtue and political enlightenment that has characterized America.

In the horrifying election of 2016, the American civic virtue that long upheld democracy has undergone a spectacular collapse. Trump’s core supporters are not worthy of democracy, in the rather precise sense that if everyone thought and acted as they do, tolerating and even applauding so much vice, thuggishness, ignorance, deceit, promises to violate human rights, and self-serving fantasy on the part of a political candidate, democracy wouldn’t long survive. Americans tend to feel we have some sort of mysterious divine right to be better governed than most of mankind, but we don’t. Democracy’s success here, imperfect as it had always been, has depended on the practice of virtue by politicians and ultimately by voters. If we vote for politicians destitute of virtue, like Trump, we’ll lose democracy, and deserve to lose it.Donald Trump is the ultimate un-American.

If Donald Trump is elected, American institutions will be put to the greatest test they have faced since the McCarthy era, if not since the Civil War. It’s possible that soldiers will disobey Trump’s orders to commit war crimes, courts will face down his intimidation and invalidate his illegal acts, Congress will block the laws he tried to pass and defund agencies that he turns to nefarious purposes, and in due course, when appropriate grounds have accumulated, will impeach him. A rising Trumpist dictatorship might be nipped in the bud by the American constitution’s checks and balances. Even in that case, damage would be done, but in some respects, the republic might be strengthened by its institutions having to flex their muscles against an evil elected executive. But it would be rash to count on this. One key American political institution, the Republican Party, which one might have hoped would simply refuse to accept a hostile takeover by a man whose personal character and political beliefs are inimical to its historic ideals, and would have gone on strike when a plurality of primary voters made an unacceptable choice, has already prostituted itself to Trump, throwing away a hard-won fund of trust that many Republican officeholders had won through decades of public service. The cowardice of leaders like Paul Ryan and John McCain, who clearly know that Trump is utterly unfit to be president, but who put partisanship before patriotism, is appalling. If Trump were elected, many other American institutions would probably follow suit, forsaking their principles in fear of Trump’s legal or extra-legal vengeance. To elect Trump would be to run a national version of the Milgram experiment. Alas, history shows how easily humans are corrupted by madmen in authority.

And even if Trump loses this year, his constituency has discovered their power. We can expect more Donald Trumps to come.

One of the ironies of Donald Trump is that, by losing, and bringing many other Republicans down with him, he seems likely to bring about an immigration amnesty. With luck, nativism will be burdened for years by the stench of Trump, allowing immigration liberalizers to make steady, pedestrian progress by letting more legal immigrants in, while respecting undocumented immigrants’ basic human rights and regularizing their legalization. But a deeper irony is that while Trump’s platform is allegedly “nationalist,” he has shattered whatever remained of American national solidarity. Many of the majority of Americans who despise Trump must, like me, be asking themselves what we have in common with people who can find such a disgusting man appealing, or who can desire that such a vile desperado be US president. The whole point of being an American was that Americans were too virtuous to vote for people like Donald Trump. That was why we could trust in democracy, why we could look back on our past with pride, why we could look on our future with hope, why we could claim leadership of the free world with an easy assumption that all mankind benefited from our doing so. That was the key to American greatness, the reason why America was a force for good in the world. I don’t want to be a rootless cosmopolitan or a stateless person, even if, as open borders advocates desire, the world became a much safer place for stateless persons than it is today. I was raised a patriotic American and want to stay that way, but I always understood America to be founded on certain values of which Trump is the antithesis, so I can’t help but regard Trump’s hard-core supporters as a kind of foreigners. I can get along with them well enough as neighbors. It’s just really scary to be part of a polity in which they have votes. That’s the problem. Is any solution possible?

It’s not feasible, of course, to gerrymander Trump supporters into their own polity (which would be a rather miserable place). It might be possible to substantially eviscerate the polity that Americans in my sense of the word, not mere juridical citizens but freedom-loving Americans who would never vote for Trump, are condemned to share with Trump supporters. We could look for ways to alienate power to local governments like states and citizens, to voluntary organizations like labor unions and churches, to international organizations like the UN, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, and to private corporations and free markets. Wouldn’t it be nice if the US president could gradually dwindle to a figurehead, a little like the king of England?

But the most promising way for real Americans to protect ourselves from the Trump voters is to elect a new people. We now know, from the rise of Donald Trump, that millions, if not tens of millions, of native-born Americans can’t be trusted to vote for liberty. There can be little doubt that tens, if not hundreds of millions, of foreign-born people are far worthier of being entrusted with votes in a free republic. And if we let them in, and enfranchise (at least some of) them, the Trump voters will be safely outnumbered. At this point, that seems like the best chance to preserve America’s republican liberties so that the next generation of Americans will be able to enjoy them.

As usual with Open Borders posts, the opinions expressed here are my own and not the collective opinions of the Open Borders team.

A Future of Stronger American Political Support for Immigration

Despite the enthusiasm of many in the U.S. for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, for expelling undocumented immigrants from American soil, and for banning Muslim immigrants, there are reasons for optimism about a future of increased political support for immigration into the U.S. These include demographic shifts between the two major American political parties and demographic changes to the country as a whole.

As those who have followed the American presidential campaign know, two of Trump’s core policy positions are opposition to free trade and undocumented immigration. David Brooks of the New York Times suggests that Trump’s emphasis on these issues may “smash and replace the entire structure of the American political debate.”  He notes that the debate over the size of government which has dominated American politics for decades could be transformed into one in which a “right-left establishment that supports open borders, free trade, cosmopolitan culture, and global intervention” competes with populists who advocate “closed borders, trade barriers, local and nationalistic culture and an America First foreign policy… When the frame of debate shifts to open/closed, sometime soon, the old coalitions will smash apart and new ones will form.” He also suggests that even if Mr. Trump fails to win in November, this new “open/closed” framework will emerge as the new political norm.

It is apparent that the Democratic Party would be the “open” party under the new framework, while the Republican Party would be the “closed” one. Notwithstanding large numbers of deportations under the Obama administration, in general Democratic politicians have been more receptive to immigration into the U.S. than Republican ones. For example, in 2013 all of the Democratic senators  in Congress voted for a bill that would have legalized millions of undocumented immigrants and increased legal immigration levels by 50 to 70 percent, while most Republican senators voted against the bill. Moreover, rank and file Democrats feel more positively about immigrants than do Republicans.

With demographic shifts between the two parties, support for immigration within the Democratic Party will only increase. Better educated white voters, who traditionally have voted for Republicans, are more likely to support the Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, while less educated white voters are increasingly abandoning the Democrats and supporting the populist Trump ticket. (See herehere, and here.)

David Wasserman and Thomas Edsall of the New York Times suggest that this shift is occurring regardless of the candidates in the current campaign, although the contest has quickened the pace. This is significant because apparently the better educated a person is, the more likely they are to be receptive to immigration.  As Edsall notes, the changes in the composition of the two political parties “have contributed to sharp changes, at least for the moment, in the outlook of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, including the party’s elite, remain decisively liberal, and have become more cosmopolitan — more readily accepting of globalization, more welcoming of immigrants, less nationalistic — and more optimistic about the future.”

Better educated white voters will join with two other groups that lean Democratic: non-whites and millennials. Non-whites are even more likely than better educated white voters to both support Mrs. Clinton and be more positive about immigration. (See also here.)  Millennials lean left politicallyfavor Clinton, and are more positive about immigration than other age groups.  (See also here.) The unification of these three groups (which often overlap) within the Democratic Party ensures that it will push it to become even more pro-immigration.

Moreover, these groups provide great political strength for the Democrats. Even though only 36% of the non-Hispanic white population aged 25 or older has college degree or higher, the well-educated are more likely to actually vote in elections than those who are less educated.  Millennials are becoming a larger portion of the electorate, now equal in proportion to the Baby Boomers. The percentage of the population in the U.S. that is minority is growing, and, among children under five, whites are in the minority.  (See here and here) Moreover, the Democrats have been making gains among upper income whites (who overlap with the well-educated), further strengthening the party. Edsall adds that, despite the economic differences between its constituencies, the Democrats also will be more united than the Republicans.

The comfort Democrats have with immigration was evident in the reaction to a document released by Wikileaks, in which Hillary Clinton referred to her “dream for a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders…”  When she was asked about it during a debate, she stated that she was only talking about energy. It is unknown what her thinking was when she referred to open borders,  but her possible support for open borders, at least in one hemisphere, apparently didn’t weaken her support among Democrats. Any discomfort from the left seemed to be about the free trade portion of her remarks in the document.

The increasingly pro-immigration outlook of the Democratic Party and its strong prospects for future political success should eventually translate into policies that legalize undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and increase legal immigration levels. An open borders America may not be imminent, but it is moving in the right direction.

Guest Post by Gülin De Vincentiis

This is a guest post by Gülin De Vincentiis on her personal journey towards open borders. She did her doctoral study in mechanical engineering at Boğaziçi University. You can read more about Gulin and her travels on her personal website. Do you wish to share your own thoughts on open borders? Consider submitting a guest submission

Why would anybody want to go to every country in the world?  Why would anybody like me, who believes crossing some arbitrary line on a map of the world and ticking a list is meaningless, want to go to every country in the world?

Well… I want to do it so that I can burn my passports to protest the injustice of borders, the idiocy of visa practices, the absurdity of defining people by their statehood, the total illogicality of making people spend billions (let alone put their life at risk) to cross the borders you’ve set up while you yourself spend billions on police, building walls and fences to block those people and then complaining that you need to look after these people whom you let into your fictional line because of your international obligations. In short, to make a tangible, a noticeable complaint about the absurd workings of this world.

What are borders? They are imaginary lines drawn by either a literally bloody war or by metaphorically bloody politics called diplomacy. Defining people by the imaginary line they are born in, defining their radius of movement on the earth they were born, again by that imaginary line is nothing but madness.

How Did I Get Here?

I did three circumnavigations of the world. The important detail here is: I did the first two of these trips on a Turkish passport. My first round-the-world tour was in 2001. I quit my PhD studies at Mechanical Engineering and decided to travel the world. When you wish to travel, the first thing you do is make a research on visas: Which countries require them and what they ask for to give you a visa.

Tanzania was on my route. I heard that until recently, we (the Turkish) did not need a visa to go there. However, there was a bombing in some embassy and allegedly a Turkish was involved in the case. So now we needed to get a visa. I didn’t think anything about this news. I found out the contacts of the Honorary Consulate, went there, paid my dues, and got my visa.

It was only after a second round-the-world tour in 2008 and many beatings with dealings for visas that I came to question the premises of that Tanzania visa requirement:

So… One guy did something bad and millions need to pay a price. Let’s suspect all the people who happened to be born within the same imaginary boundary as that man. “From the baby in the cradle to the 80 year-old ladies, all people born within the same imaginary line as that bad guy are suspects from now on!” goes the firman. Yeah, right. Sounds pretty rational to me!

Grouping people according to the imaginary line they were born in and treating them as one is the most ridiculous thing ever.  Yet, it is done so thoughtlessly and so matter of factly by “big big” people who are our “leaders” and respected by almost all of us “small” people.

Citizens of the so-called “Western” countries do not need visas to visit most of the UN countries. There are 193 “recognized” countries, and EU and American passport holders are exempt from visas to go to about 160-173 of them. The rest, the ones they need a visa for, they are mostly not interested to visit anyway. As for the citizens of the “not so Western” or developing countries, they do not usually get to travel much. Even when they do, they usually travel with tour groups or for short periods of time, they just pay the agencies the fees and go along with their life. Sure, there are backpackers too. Even so, they travel in places where they’re not asked for a visa or go get their visas like I did. Only when you travel on a not-so-prestigious passport and without any plans and you bump into so many imaginary lines that you become aware of those lines. Someone sitting on a booth at the airport, asking you why you are going somewhere… where your stamp is… Someone being paid for this…

Someone being paid to sit at a desk and process papers from you to judge if you are “fit” to go into the imaginary line they were born in. It is also so illogical, the papers they ask from you to “grant” you a visa, like a hotel reservation which can be cancelled anytime, that it makes you want to pull your hair out.

Then there is the arbitrariness of it. I was returned from the border of Panama because I had completely forgotten that I needed a visa for it while skipping happily in Central America. Two weeks after my “expulsion,” the visa requirement was lifted. On two grounds: One, the Turkish no longer needed a visa because of some diplomatic relations. Two, there passed an Executive Decree saying those who held US visas valid for three months which had been used at least once could enter Panama with a simple Tourist Card. Regardless of their nationality… So had I been there just a month later, I would have gone in without any trouble.

Ah, sometimes it works the other way around too, in happy ways. I was ready to pay my due to get a visa for Brazil. I went to the embassy and found out that I no longer needed one. Why? Because the son of a Brazilian politician had recently married a Turkish girl. Good for them. Thank you. (And please don’t get divorced. I’d like to visit Brazil again. Without hassle if possible…) But is it logical, is it just, is it fair? That things should work this way?

Persona Non Grata

At the end of the second world tour which was to be by sea, I was faced with another ordeal. I carried a special passport which did not require a visa for EU countries. So I came to Italy without any hassle. However, on the way back to Turkey, I was going to go through Greece, which demanded a visa even from the special passport holders. But there are no borders between Italy and Greece.: Which means there are no check-points. I went to the Greek Embassy in Rome just to make sure. They told me that I needed a visa, I couldn’t get it from Rome. “Go to Turkey to get a visa,” they said.

What??! Go fly to Turkey and back in order to go to Turkey by sea? Didn’t make any sense to me. I had had a similar experience passing from Sweden to Norway which was not in the EU. No problem at all. I also had not been let into Switzerland from the Geneva airport, but once I got in France, I walked into Switzerland freely, smiling at the immigration officer. So I said I’ll go through Greece too. And I did.


On the way out, that is going back to Turkey from Greece, I was stopped and told I was to pay a fine of 600 Euros and they’d be putting a “Persona Non Grata” stamp on my passport. Person Not Wanted… I was so indignant, I told the immigration officer to go ahead with it. I had not done anything wrong, I had not sneaked in to “their” precious country, I was just going back to “my” country. Returning with a “persona non grata” on my passport from a second circumnavigation of the world would be my badge of honor!
My Italian boyfriend, who was to become my husband, did not look kindly or approve of my retort to “officials”. He was thinking about the practical problems we would be faced with, basically the fact that I wouldn’t be able to enter the EU to be with him were I to be labeled “persona non grata.” Anyway… A sweet and reasonable supervisor intervened and I went back to Turkey only to get married (in Las Vegas, which again was by force of law, but that’s another long story) and settled in Italy.

Needless to say, the third round-the-world tour I did with my family was uneventful as far as visas went, because I now possessed two passports. An EU one along with the Muslim one which covered the countries that did not “like” the Westerners so much. I used whichever was convenient. I was the same person, but now that I had found myself a husband who was born in a prestigious place in the world from a prestigious womb, my status had changed.

It took me about 90-100 countries (to travel to) to see the injustice of visas and borders. I felt it in my skin. The humiliation of being made to go around for papers as if I was a rat in a maze, being returned from a “border”… Just because of the passport I carried. My wanderings were for me to realize how the world is partitioned off to political parcels, how we are not born as a human being but as a “citizen”, how we belong to governments and therefore subject to their whims and mandates/dictates.

To me, it’s about an injustice. The one main unarguable, undeniable reason for removing the need for visas and letting people roam the world they were born on freely is the injustice and unfairness of it. Discriminating people according to the imaginary line they were born in is Global Apartheid. It is Birthplace Racism. It is Injustice at Birth.

I care so very much, because I have such an unshakeable belief that this global apartheid is so very utterly unacceptably unjust, and therefore, even if impractical needs to end.

Looking For Logic…

It’s also the illogicality of it. You happen to be born in some place to some parents and it shapes all your life and the extent of your movement on the Earth you were born. I don’t believe in equality. We are not born equal on this Earth. We all have our physical and psychological challenges to face. However, simply striving to get a basic decent life overcoming the obstacle of your geographical birthplace, your “statehood” should not be among those challenges.

There is also the economical illogicality. According to the migration researcher, professor Hein de Haas, we spend 1 billion euros a year to keep “them” out, the refugees and/or economic migrants spend another billion euros to get in. Now tell me how does this make sense??! It’s all such a huge WASTE of resources. We force migrants to use up all their money on human smugglers, wasting time and exhausting themselves trying to cross borders just to get somewhere. If we, that is governments removed the visa requirements, these people could just get on a plane for a couple of hundred bucks and have money in their pockets to pay for their expenses, have the energy to contribute to society etc.

Think of all the money that could be saved on “our” side too, all the money saved from all the controls and blocks trying to keep people out… That could be used for a much more useful purpose. I have no doubt the world would be in a much better and much secure place for all of us if that money was spent on people and their basic needs. The warlords’ making profit out of arms sales need to stop.  There is no real security in this world but just the “feeling” of it. I understand even the feeling of security is important; however, the price we are paying is unacceptably too high!

What’s more, if visas were lifted, they would move back if they didn’t feel good in one place. Now, because the price they pay to settle in one place is so high, they cannot give it up.

I quote from the article “Humanity Adrift: Why Refugees Deserve Better” in New Internationalist:

“Until early 1990, Moroccans did not need visas to enter Spain. They would come for seasonal work and then leave. As soon as visas were introduced, immigration from Morocco rocketed. And instead of returning, people stayed put. ‘If we had visa-free migration, more people are likely to come to work, and to have a look around – but also to go home again,’ says Hein de Haas. It’s only when you obstruct this flow that you get a crisis.”

Logic is a forgotten word in the dictionary. People, conditioned by rules and regulations, do not know the meaning of it anymore.

Why Do People’s Mental Border Stop Too Short?

I’m fine with borders. Borders are necessary, we need them as human beings. What I’m not fine with, however, is being born into a border and being defined by it all your life. If people form groups by choice, then they’re welcome to set up borders for themselves. (For example, gated communities. I wouldn’t want to live in one, but they’re fine by me.) But how do we set borders? Some people in power set up borders, then we, are born into a border.

We no longer live in tribes. Being born into a border, in a village, could have been acceptable at those times. No longer… It is so self-righteous to claim a certain piece of land belongs to you and “your” people because you were born within some border. I claim the world to be mine.: Just because I was born on it. And I believe every single person on this Earth has a right to that claim.

An angry Bulgarian was asking “Why I should respect such people when they violently enter my country and my continent?” I understand people claiming a country to be theirs, as that’s how we’ve been raised to believe. This man was claiming a whole continent to be his too. I said “Good for you. But why do you stop at the continent? Why don’t you say the whole world belongs to you as you were born on it? Which is basically what I am saying. The world belongs to us all. Wherever we, you, they may have been born!”

The world we grow up in shapes our views. We are like kittens which were brought up in an only vertical line world and cannot recognize horizontal lines when they grow up. We’ve been looking at the world through the lens of political borders all our lives, it’s time to remove that lens to see things clearly.

Even though the contemporary political world order has turned it into this… The Earth is not a place to be parceled into countries and forbidden to people who themselves, their parents or spouses have not been born there or let in on conditions. It is a land as a whole, to be lived and traveled on for some time and then buried under.

Eppur Si Muoveranno

To be honest, I don’t know what I hope to accomplish by travelling to every country and then burning my passports. Perhaps I don’t even care to accomplish anything. I just know I have to do it. I feel the push to protest. Maybe it’s just to relieve the humiliations I have faced travelling the world. Of course it’s not personal, I hope to do this on behalf of all the people who have died in vain, all the wasted sad lives which are treated as just numbers. And perhaps maybe, just maybe, it could evoke a response, “raise awareness” as people say. Someone who has travelled the whole wide world burning her passports could make more people become aware of this injustice.

How nice it would be if more people would join me and we burnt all our passports together. But that’s getting too way ahead of myself…
I said I don’t care to accomplish anything; on the other hand, I have an ambition to change the world. I would like to have borders removed as barriers of movement, I would like visas to be abolished, I would like to end statehood and citizenship the way they are defined today. However, I do not set out to accomplish these. I only do what I have to do and let life and history take its course.

I wish to note that I do not believe in sacrificing one’s self. I mean I would sacrifice myself if I knew it would serve something, make a positive change in the world. So when I do burn my passports, I plan to burn the old ones as valid passports are official documents and burning them is a criminal offense. My husband thinks that wouldn’t be a real protest. “If someone whose life is travelling gives up that right, it would be meaningful only then,” he says.

However, change happens slowly, change happens when the time comes. I am on the side of Galileo who said that the Earth did not revolve around the Sun. I would have done the same. What would have happened if Galileo did not recant? Would the Catholic Church have said, “Ah see? Such a prominent scientist did not recant even with our threats; therefore, the Earth must be revolving around the Sun”? No. Galileo’s life would have been more of a hell unnecessarily, that’s it. What happened that Galileo recanted, did the truth change? No. Why would you put yourself through needless torture when your cries would only go through the deaf ears of ignorant rulers? For no reason… We got there. Nobody really believes in geocentrism anymore. Even though almost about four centuries later, the Church apologized.

Last year, when I started writing vigorously on being free to roam the earth we are born on, I felt there was not much hope. Now I see many people talking about open borders and I know we will be getting there too. It is so obvious that this is an injustice that cannot continue. Of course it cannot be done in spite of the people opposing the idea, a general consensus needs to be reached. Still, the fact remains… Opening up borders, acknowledging everyone’s right to move around and live anywhere they wish on the planet they are born is the moral imperative of our time.

Galileo allegedly said “Eppur si muove” after recanting. And yet it moves… I say “Eppur si muovono.” And yet people move… You may make laws, require people to carry passports and get visas, build walls and fences, put surveillance cameras, the police… Eppur si muoveranno. Yet people will be moving… True, some may die along the way. Yes, some may even give up. But you will never be able stop the movement of people. Because movement is not a right, it is a fact, it is a life force.

And so it will be as long the Earth keeps circling the Sun.