In other news from the GOP side of the presidential campaign, Chris Christie has suggested that he would consult with the CEO of FedEx on how to reduce our problems with illegal immigrants because FedEx accurately tracks ten of millions of packages per year.
Almost immediately, Chistie was criticized for comparing human beings to parcels, and he defended himself by saying that he didn’t mean the analogy to be understood in that way—begging the question of how the analogy would make any sense whatsoever if he were not comparing human beings to parcels.
But, putting that question aside for the moment, the analogy is not really cogent, never mind illuminating, for a number of other reasons.
First, the real issue is the 11 million or more undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. So the analogy would have to be: what if FedEx suddenly discovered that it had no idea of where 11 million parcels that it was shipping were? This total could include not only packages that customers had handed over but those that unidentified customers might have been planning to hand over. What if, in fact, FexEx didn’t even know if it was 11 million or 30 million parcels that were “lost in the system”? I think that all of America would be interested in know how FedEx would handle that situation. I suspect that FedEx would close its doors–or perhaps transform itself into a fleet of food trucks specializing in Latin American cuisine.
Second, if someone sends a parcel, everyone involved—the sender, the shipper, and the recipient—are interested in tracking the package’s whereabouts. That is simply not the case with many, if not most, undocumented immigrants. Even if they are very law-abiding, hard-working people, it goes without saying, I think, that they want to avoid being identified and possibly deported. So even though the word “tracking” can be used in discussing both topics, tracking a parcel and tracking an undocumented immigrant are clearly issues that are different in many more ways than they are similar.
Lastly, FedEx tracks its packages with bar codes. Even if one is talking about undocumented immigrants who have initially entered the U.S. legally but have overstayed their visas, how would the government attach a barcode to each of them? But, perhaps, Chris Christie was, like Governor Kasich when he talked about eliminating teachers’ lounges, simply talking metaphorically—that is, perhaps Christie is simply adding a metaphoric dimension to an already dubious analogy. Perhaps Christie wasn’t talking literally about barcodes but, instead, about using them as a metaphor for—well, for what, exactly? Perhaps he has in mind tracking chips similar to those inserted under the skin of pets so that they can be tracked even when they get “lost.” On the plus side, that would make the comparison of people to parcels seem much less objectionable, by comparison, but, on the down side, it would also conjure images of dystopian future societies in which everyone’s movements are tracked. One imagines then an underground industry for the surgical removal of the chips, and the manufacturers of the chips responding by somehow making it so that the individual dies, or perhaps is simply paralyzed, if the chip is removed illegally. And one can imagine, then, what schemes some conscience-less geniuses in the intelligence services might hatch if we suddenly started planting any sort chips routinely into people.
Yes, if anything is certain is this muddle of figures of speech and the associations that they might provoke, it is that Chris Christie undoubtedly has the courage to imagine such a brave new world.
Because anything that “big government” cannot do, private enterprise cannot do better.