People frequently get into these verbal messes where one person makes a generalized statement–say, “Cats poop in litterboxes,” and someone else counters (often very agitated) with “Not all cats! Some poop in my flowers!” And the first person invariably responds, “YES I KNOW.”
The American political debate this election cycle has devolved into one, long, continuous discussion of this nature. Trump says something about a group of people–Mexicans, illegal immigrants, Muslims–and Dems respond with “But not all X!”
This is exemplified by the Democrats inviting the parents of fallen American soldier Humayun S.M. Khan to speak at their convention:
To summarize this debate in internet terms, the Trump side is saying, “Muslims are terrorists,” (and “Illegal immigrants are criminals.”) The Hillary side is responding, “Not all Muslims–some Muslims are patriotic war heroes who died for America.” (Also, “Not all illegal immigrants.”)
Of course, given that there are 3.3 million Muslims in the US, it would be very strange indeed if none of them were brave and heroic. Even Donald Trump can probably do the math on that and figure out that it is statistically very likely that some Muslims are in the military and some have died there.
This is not the real argument.
It is obvious that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists (and the majority of illegal immigrants are not criminals or rapists, except for obviously having broken immigration law,) because if they were, we’d have about 2 million terrorists on our hands, and again, even Donald Trump (and his supporters,) can tell that we don’t have 2 million terrorists.
The Trumpian argument, therefore: Illegal immigration is, on net, bad for Americans, because illegal immigrants are disproportionately uneducated and criminal compared to Americans and legal immigrants. Islamic immigration is, on net, bad for Americans, because Muslims are disproportionately likely to commit terrorist attacks.
Likewise, the Dem’s response of “Not all Muslims” (and illegal immigrants) is not their true response. As has been pointed out, if someone handed you a bag of M&Ms and told you that only one of them was poisoned, you probably wouldn’t proclaim, “Not all M&Ms!” and proceed to eat them. Likewise, if I told you that most of the people sitting in the next room were perfectly nice people, but one of them was a serial killer, you would not be eager to enter that room. Even Hillary Clinton wouldn’t want to go in there, and wold probably call the police and ask them to thoroughly investigate everyone in that room. And the guy with the M&Ms.
The Dems’ real argument: Muslim immigration is, on net, positive for society. More generally, all immigration, (legal and illegal,) is a net positive for society.
We could of course test such suppositions–first we would have to assess the environmental and long-term impacts on the present population of adding, say, a million more people living at first world levels, which according to all of the environmentalists I’ve ever talked to, must be considered a net loss to humanity due to increased fossil fuel consumption.
Too many people when discussing immigration seem to default to an “infinite growth is best!” model, which obviously does not account for the fact that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. Even if we suppose that we could live in much more cramped environs than we currently do (people in suburban America could cram themselves into Tokyo-style apartments,) I don’t really want to, and I consider having much less space a massive decrease in my quality of life. So merely adding people for people’s sake is not, IMO, a good idea.
But by the same token, trying to freeze all of the world’s populations exactly where they are probably isn’t a good or worthwhile idea–at the very least, some of those folks out there are probably excellent folks whose presence in my country would be of great benefit to me.
So we also have to compare adding a million people from Group X to adding a million of some other group–say, Pygmy refugees, British doctors, Iranian atheists, Venezuelan beauty queens, mathematicians of any nationality, Mormon Americans, etc.
But such arguments tend to make people uncomfortable, first because they are technical arguments that don’t appeal to the emotions, and second because trying to enumerate the worth of people strikes too close to valuing some people more than others just because of their ethnicity, which most Americans are very opposed to. (Even if, in fact, the average American would be better off with an immigration policy that specifically preferenced certain traits.) So we are left with one side proclaiming “[Group] does X!” and the other side strenuously opposing, “Not all X!”