When a mob was caught on camera looting a BP gas station mini-mart, the fact that the business was owned by an Indian immigrant has given one columnist the license to define deviancy down. In this Journal-Sentinel column Eugene Kane writes that since the owner, Jay Walia, is non-plussed by the looting, we too should be willing to “take the good with the bad in order to keep moving forward.”
Kane goes on to tell readers that, “One Middle Eastern gas station owner in a tough central city neighborhood once told me his employees slept in the store overnight in order to avoid vandalism. He seemed to accept it as part of doing business. In other words, compared with what life was like for many of them before arriving in America, it wasn’t that bad.”
And, certainly, compared to riots in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Syria, or other countries in the news recently, a mob of teenagers looting a gas station does not merit global headlines. But neither is it “just another blip in the road,” toward the American dream.
It’s troubling to see the immigrant experience in the U.S. used to excuse bad behavior. We frequently hear similar excuses rationalizing the exploitation of illegal aliens by unscrupulous employers. They are still far better off than they would be in their own countries and they are willing to accept what we might consider unacceptable conditions, we are told. No, it is never okay to exploit illegal aliens, or anyone else for that matter. And no, the fact that much worse things might occur to the mini-mart owner if he were in Mumbai instead of Milwaukee should not make the looting of his business any more tolerable.
When flash mobs loot retail stores the average public reaction is not “Things are much worse in Mumbai, and therefore this isn’t a big deal.” It is more along the lines of “This is not how our country should be.” And it undermines the real American dreams that immigrants moving to America seek — among them the idea of a country free from criminal anarchy — to use their home country experiences to tell Americans that we don’t know how good we have it, so stop complaining.