TLDR – Day 11

I grew up on the Appalachian Plateau, just south of Pittsburgh. For those who don’t think of this hilly area as a plateau, know that it once was very flat, but numerous creeks, streams, and rivulets have carved a network of valleys into the face of the land. We can tell this because the tops of hills are all roughly the same height; if you stand atop one you look directly across to the next one.

Having grown up in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan by matter of course. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for those who do not follow American sports, as the professional American Football (aka, “handegg”) team from that city. Of course, I am a little disappointed that this year the Steelers were eliminated in the semi-finals (the AFC Championship game, although here “Championship” doesn’t mean what you think it means) and will not be playing in the finals this Sunday (The “Super Bowl;” you may have heard of it in passing). But this is not for contemplating might-have-beens or what the Steelers need to do to get better next year (which, in my opinion, is not much — the defense just needs a little more experience) This, at least at first, is about rivalry.

Pittsburgh has a long rivalry with the Ravens of Baltimore. In fact, this rivalry has run longer than the Ravens have even existed. Not only was there a healthy rivalry with the previous team based in Baltimore (the Colts, now in Indianapolis), but there was a long-standing rivalry with the Cleveland Browns, the team that moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Naturally, these two rivalries combined into what many people think is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of American professional sports. For those who may know a little about American Football but wonder about Cleveland moving to Baltimore when there is still a team in Cleveland called the Browns, the league expanded a few years after the Ravens/Browns moved and created a new team in Cleveland, again called the Browns, and declared that the Browns team records would be transferred to the new team, essentially making the Ravens, not the new Browns, the expansion team. The Pittsburgh/Cleveland rivalry has not been as heated with the new team, however, in large part because they haven’t been very good, whereas both the Steelers and the Ravens have seen considerable success since the latter moved to Baltimore.

Sports fans can be passionate in support of their team and equally passionate in their disdain for fans of a rival team. I have experienced this firsthand, attending a hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia. I was dressed in support of the Penguins, and knew that I would receive a hard time from some of the Flyers fans. Indeed, I did receive some good-natured ribbing from some Flyers fans (and had various aspersions cast my way by a particularly loud – and possibly intoxicated – fan a few rows in front of me), but I expected that going into the game. However, sometimes these passions can turn violent. Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have gotten into heated fights, leaving one person dead in 2013.

Perhaps, then, to reduce these incidents of fan violence, it would make sense for Pittsburgh to not allow people from Baltimore to come through its airports (Pittsburgh International or any of the regional airports in the surrounding countryside). Perhaps only a temporary hiatus is needed; football season is essentially the months of September through December. Perhaps January should be included in this ban as well, since that is the month of the football playoffs. This isn’t a perfect solution — Baltimore fans would be able to drive to Pittsburgh, and we can’t force those fans already in the city to leave. Perhaps there are some people who grew up as Ravens fans but now attend college in Pittsburgh. Perhaps there are some now in the workforce in Pittsburgh. It’s possible; I am a Steelers fan who is now in the Philadelphia area, so transplant fans are a reality. But banning Baltimore fans from coming through the Pittsburgh airports should cut down on the possibility of future fan violence.

What could be the downside of this? There is no credible threat of violence from Baltimore fans, but there is always a possibility. Never mind that these students who fly home for winter break now won’t be able to fly back. Never mind that the Baltimore-native doctor, returning from a conference in California, now cannot disembark in Pittsburgh. Studies estimate that 49 percent of Americans are fans of the NFL; when news of a ban enacted by Pittsburgh reaches the Baltimore news stations, people may decide to become Ravens fans just out of sheer civic pride. They might get up to 75 percent of the Baltimore-area population, or even go higher. They might get some fans from other cities, even. Never mind that that now means that there are more Baltimore fans, which means the possibility of more violence should they find a way to Pittsburgh….

Wait, never mind the never-minding. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

I have, of course, analogized to the absurd the recent immigration ban enacted by Mr. Trump. The parallels are not exact; do not nitpick the details. But the lessons to learn are the same.

I have seen people say that they support the ban, not because they hate the people coming in, but because they love their fellow Americans. This is like locking your door at night. You don’t do it because you hate your neighbors; you do it because you love your family. But this is not locking your door at night, for American vigilance does not sleep; this is locking your door all day every day, even when you are at home. This is living in fear of your neighbors; it is being fearful that you neighbor will come in to you house, eat your food, and kill your dog.

The constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s order is complicated; it does seem to violate the 14th Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1890s. Some aspects of it might violate various statutes; these are complicated legal issues, and I am not a lawyer. But legal or not, I believe that the order is highly misguided. I have not seen that the people whose entry into the United States Mr. Trump’s orders are prohibiting wish to harm us or to take advantage of our good nature. We have had for years vetting and border control, and it has been working; I can find no terrorism/mass killing attacks on American soil since 9/11 that have been conducted by anybody but American citizens. (The Boston Marathon bombing comes closest; Tsarnaev is a naturalized American citizen.)

This is not a case of a neighbor moving in to your house and eating your food and killing your dog; this is a case of your neighbor’s wife moving in to your house because he beats her and you offer her your food and shelter. This is a case of allowing a contractor to come into your house to fix the plumbing. This is a case of allowing your friends to come into your house for a book club. When we turn away the students, we destroy our analogous book club. When we turn away the doctors, our analogous plumbing does not get fixed. When we turn away our neighbor’s wife, what does that say about us as a person? Yes, we must be wary of the neighbor who beats his wife, but our vetting processes tell us the difference between the neighbor and the neighbor’s wife. I will be vigilant, but not lazy, and it is lazy to sacrifice the many lives of the innocents because of a few guilty ones. For just as Lot and his family was singled out and spared the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, so too must we separate the wheat from the chaff, regardless of the ratio of wheat to chaff. And for these immigrants, the ratio of wheat to chaff skews heavily in the favor of wheat.