DALLAS -- One man loudly told me that I should be ashamed of myself for advocating U.S. population stabilization at an Earth Day festival -- and indicated that the founders of Earth Day were shamefully selfish if they advocated what NumbersUSA is advocating.
Three of us are in our second day of running our NumbersUSA booth at this giant Earth Day festival in downtown Dallas. It can be most informative to hear the ideas that pop out of people's heads and mouths when confronted with the original Earth Day 1970 message of stabilizing U.S. population.
THOSE WHO ARE SHOCKED
It was a white male Baby Boomer who has gotten the most upset with us.
I saw him eyeing our booth from afar. I motioned him closer and gave him a foldover card of Census projections. Apparently, he thought we were pushing for Americans to have smaller families at first, because his face went blank when I explained we are carrying out the recommendations of two national commissions under Pres. Clinton to reduce immigration.
The man reached in his pocket, pulled out our card and tossed it back on our table.
"Shame. Shame on you," he said to me. "I bet you were a hippie when you were young and now you are doing THIS?"
"Well, not actually."
"But you had long hair didn't you?"
"Now, you're like the narcs who grew long hair to trick the hippies so they could arrest them," the man said. "If your ancestors hadn't been allowed to immigrate you wouldn't be here today. And now you are just selfish."
I handed the man a flier that had quotes from a number of national environmental commissions and leaders about the essentiality of stabilizing U.S. population for the sake of American ecological resources and the world's. The man just brushed them aside. I asked him if he was saying that all of these environmental leaders, including the founders of Earth Day were selfish and meanspirited. He indicated they were.
As he walked away, he told me I should use my intellect and energies to do something good for humankind.
TEACHER INSISTS CLASS HEAR MY LECTURE
While Mr.-You're-A-Disgrace-To-Hippiedom was finishing with me, a school teacher sidled up to NumbersUSA Deputy Directory Anne Manetas and said:
Oh, this is about population. I want my kids to hear about this.
She then had her full class stand in our booth for me to give them a 10-minute population lecture about our "Wall charts."
"When I was growing up we were taught about the importance of slowing down population growth," the teacher said. "But these kids almost never hear about it."
With a teacher like that, the students were most attentive and asked good questions.
MOST IMMIGRANTS AT BOOTH ARE WITH US OR UNDERSTANDING
An Indian immigrant just stopped by with her family and had a long conversation and a thumbs up.
In fact, most of the people who identify themselves as immigrants, as well as most Hispanics (could be immigrants or recent descendents), either indicate some agreement on the need to slow immigration or at the least show a lot of openness.
Frankly, I'm somewhat encouraged by that. The city of Dallas is heavily immigrant now, so the crowds here reflect that. My experience here undergirds my wish for people to step back from a lot of negative stereotypes about Hispanic Americans, assuming that they are in favor of ruining the quality of life and environment in this country. It is true that most Hispanic leaders seem to show little concern about future generations of Americans (because of their advocacy of massive population growth). So, it is little wonder that most Hispanic Americans may not have heard about the need for lower immigration. But, then, most Americans of any ethnicity probably haven't heard it either. That's a big challenge for all of you who are connected with NumbersUSA.
Having said all of that, we definitely get an occasional booth adult visitor who acts soiled after picking up one of our foldover cards and states that his/her parents were immigrants and that they can't be a part of anything limiting immigration.
TOO MANY PEOPLE THINK IMMIGRATION CAN SAVE SOCIAL SECURITY
Discouraging to hear so many people who start out totally with us on limiting immigration but then say, "But one good thing is that all this immigration may save Social Security."
Several detailed studies have shown that immigration actually makes the threatened Social Security crash even bigger. A lot of the huge demand on SS the next couple of decades will be the huge wave of immigrants who are retiring. And most immigrants do not pay enough money into SS to help out.
WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT THAT?
A middle-aged white woman just turned up her nose at our charts and said, "What so bad about that?"
"You mean adding another 300 million people to America this century?" I asked.
"No, but you're talking about immigration," she said. "Why aren't you telling people to have fewer babies?"
"Well," I said, "actually, Americans have been having fewer babies since 1972. 100% of our long-term population growth is now caused by Congress which is forcing it through elevated immigration numbers."
"Don't you value cultural mixing and enrichment?" she shot back.
"Whether immigration is good or bad is not the issue here," I said. "The issue is whether we should bring in quadrupled levels of immigration to force 300 million more people into the U.S. this century."
"Who is going to do all these jobs that Americans won't do?"
I did my usual information about that, after which she started talking about her son working in landscaping for a long time. I didn't quite follow her argument there.
"What you ought to be doing," she said, "is fight all these corporations moving the jobs oversees. That's what is really hurting America. You should do that instead of taking after immigrants." And then she stormed off.
One of things that Anne and I marvel at is the number of people who seem to think that it is illegitimate to work on immigration and U.S. population as long as any other jobs or environmental problem has not yet been solved.
Many people have told us what NumbersUSA should be doing besides immigration.
Of course, we know that we are dealing with classic signs of denial. I really think hardly any of these people in a calm moment would say that adding 300 million more people is good for the environment or the country. But as long as stopping that growth involves reducing their sacred cow of immigration, they just have to go into all kinds of silly denial.
I am sure that everybody reading this has dealt with this kind of ignorant response from otherwise educated and intelligent people.
WE DON'T FOCUS ON THE HOSTILES
Of course, those who are hostile or in denial are not going to determine this country's future.
No, we are interested in identifying all the people who already are with us -- or who have the capacity to understand new information. There are millions of people who would like to reduce immigration but don't know that NumbersUSA exists.
There are millions of people who would help you pressure Congress to do the right thing if they could just hear about us. We don't have the money to take out an ad for the Super Bowl (of course, they wouldn't accept the ad).
So, we really depend on the people who are giving us thumbs up here in downtown Dallas, and on all of you, to spread the word.
My biggest effort here has been to convince people who agree with us to believe that we can eventually win. Too many people just give up.
YET ANOTHER ENGAGED HISPANIC AMERICAN AT THE BOOTH
He identified himself as an immigrant, asked for my full presentation and said he really can see why we are doing it, although he hadn't thought much about it..
He said it hurts to tell people they can't come to the U.S. but most people in the world are going to have to live where they are and be helped to transform their own societies.
I told him that there is one group of people who have tended to be really angry at us -- middle-aged white women.
Our new immigrant friend said that too many white people are scared of the immigration issue because they are afraid of being called racists.
Interestingly, not one person mentioned racism to me these two days. But lot of them sure told me that I was wasting my life for a bad cause.
Again, though, I am finishing this trip thinking about all the wonderful people who came by and said how excited they were to see us there and working on the lower-immigration cause.
I'll have some more thought on another day. Happy Easter.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Sat, Apr 23rd 2011 @ 9:33pm EDT