Human Costs

And Maid in America joins the very short list of movies that have brought me to the verge of tears. Grave of the Fireflies is the only other movie I remember which has managed to do that. (There might be more such examples from my childhood, but those are the only two recent examples.) I mean, a lot of movies try to get you to empathize with the main characters, so it's not like those two movies are special in that regard. Perhaps the best way to put it is that those two really succeeded.

Immigration policy, of course, has become one of the particular wedge issues in American politics. There's a large contingent of politicians, mostly those on the right wing, who argue quite passionately that we can't let people "get away" with entering this country illegally, and oppose any hint of measures that would open our doors wider or recognize any of the undocumented immigrants in this country today.

Likewise, foreign policy is and will almost certainly remain a major point of contention. There are those who want to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by any means necessary, including military action, and would happily engage us in yet another undeclared war on a foreign country in support of that end.

If there is one thing that never seems to enter the discussion, at least not from those people who support hard-line stances on immigration or foreign policy, it is the human cost of the policies they advocate. What those two movies did, and did well enough to drive me almost to tears, was to illustrate that human cost in a way that is impossible to ignore.

What I remember from watching Grave of the Fireflies is a picture of two kids caught up in the bombing of the city of Kobe, who lost their family and were forced to survive on their own in the end. What I saw today watching Maid in America was a picture of families torn apart and people struggling to do right by themselves and their children, confronted with a system which offers them no protection and indeed constantly threatens them.

I have my own opinions, on immigration policy and on foreign policy. I have my own opinions on World War II. But in the end, none of those are truly relevant here. Whether you think we should or should not offer amnesty, whether you think we should or should not have firebombed Japanese cities in the Second World War, we cannot ignore the fact that these decisions will affect millions of people.

Argue what you will, and I will agree or disagree as I choose. All I ask is that you do not ignore this one simple fact: that these policies and decisions carry their own human costs, and will have a real effect on actual people.

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