I reckon very easily. Nationalism, racism, unjust and paranoid vilification of a group. Give me, or create, the right context (and they are easy to find) and a few good impassioned speeches about how we care very much for our own and these awful people are destroying us and Bingo!
T'other day, I was walking the streets of downtown Washington and a guy just stopped a girl and said 'what country do you come from?'. Just like that. The rest of the conversation suggested that he wasn't trying to chat her up. I suppose she had a vague 'foreign' look about her and she didn't have an American accent but, unless you were especially bothered by this, I don't think you'd even notice. She seemed more confused to be asked than anything.
It made me think of a recent This American Life podcast on the recent anti-immigration law in Alabama. I have blogged about a similar law in Arizona before. It has led to crops rotting in the field because there is no one left who wants to harvest them. And amusingly several foreign company directors have been arrested leading to fears that foreigners will not invest in the state. Indeed, some neighbouring states are using it as a means of attracting foreign investment - come to us, not them - they don't like you! The Governor apologised and was rather embarrassed but the police say exactly the same would happen again because that is the law and police have strong sanctions for not enforcing it.
The thing that struck me most about the podcast was the fact that non-Latinos were refusing to talk to Latinos (who the law was mainly aimed at). Even in churches. Non-Latinos were not shaking hands with Latino members of their congregation and school children are chanting 'Mexicans to the back!' in class/assembly/meetings. Walmart employees were refusing to serve people without papers (even though that is not a part of the law).
The law makes it illegal to simply help an illegal immigrant. You can't give people lifts in your cars. Identity papers are checked by every state official before providing any service. Even legal residents and citizens are being hounded out of the state. The aim of the law is to encourage illegal residents to return 'home' voluntarily by making life so difficult for them it is not worth staying.
I kind of fancy a trip to the friendly south and it would be curious to know how Nazi Germany would have been. I just need to make sure I carry all my papers around with me all of the time. Or might it be an even more interesting experience not to do so?
A non-economist justified the law by saying that a local woman who worked in childcare came up to him crying because she couldn't find work because all the foreign people had taken her work. He passed the law for people like her, you see. (Clearly a jolly nice chap giving that wonderful speech about how much we care for our own and are such nice people and these evil foreigners..... ) Since the law has been passed, unemployment has come down much faster than in the rest of the country. Only, not in the sectors where immigrants tend to work. And in any case, this is appalling economics. It suggests that there is a limited number of jobs to go around. It is amazing anyone at all is employed given that the population of the US has increased from about 225 million in 1980 to around 310 million today.
The interviewer asked the Governor whether Jesus would vote for the law. After some awkward sounds, the answer was 'no'.
This is a recurring theme of mine. I have blogged before for example about how Britain prefers to be POORER and be a CULTURAL BACKWATER than accept foreigners. It all depends how much your prejudices are worth to you.
Of interest is that the guy who is crafting these laws to encourage 'voluntary repatriation' has jointed Mr Romney's campaign team and the term has crept into a speech or two. I wonder if everyone would like living in such a place or if there might be some voluntary expatriation too.