Thursday, March 30, 2006

Scapegoat Immigrants

This is a two-part post. First, Robert Scheer:

THERE IS no immigration crisis -- other than the one created by a small but vocal stripe of opportunist politicians, media demagogues and freelance xenophobes. So it has always been throughout the history of this country when anti-immigrant hysteria periodically reigns during low ebbs in our national sense of security and vision.

The script is as old as the Mayflower: A false alarm is sounded that the values, wages and safety of the roster of credentialed Americans are jeopardized by the "flood" or "tidal wave" or "river" sneaking across our porous borders -- be they Irish, Chinese, Jewish, Russian, Mexican or even the freed slaves seeking to earn an honest living in Northern cities after the Civil War. Any and all manner of societal problems are to be laid on these scapegoats, and the same simplistic solution offered: Find and deport them, and don't let any more in.

Having intermittently covered this issue for the Los Angeles Times over 30 years, I can well recall the peaks of panic in which we reporters were dispatched to the border and out into the fields to witness the arrest of people desperate to find work -- only to be embarrassed by the hunted eyes and clutched crosses of the enemy discovered.

Such frenzied attention was inevitably followed by a lull in which most Americans were quite happy to eat the food harvested by those same harassed and abused workers as well as entrusting the "illegals" with the care of American homes and children. On no other issue is there such an extreme disconnect between attitudes and actions.

This current xenophobia is no more warranted than it has been in the past. The number of claimed "illegal aliens" as a percentage of the population is clearly absorbable by the job market as our low unemployment rate demonstrates. Yet, the Republican Party and the Congress it dominates are teetering between driving undocumented workers further underground or taking a saner compromise approach.

This is a moment of truth for America. It is time we acknowledged that we need the immigrant workers as much as they need us and began to treat them with the respect they deserve.

Do we want them or don't we? Either way, we have to do what we have to do, but we have to make up our minds. The line between "legals" and "illegals" is becoming blurred, moreso in regard to low-skilled brown people from South of the Border than to highly-skilled brown-skinned software engineers from India, just for example.

Scheer makes some good points you should go read. I think he did well hooking up with the EssEffChron after leaving the LATimes. The Chron isn't quite as liberal as it used to be, due to a merger a coupla years ago, but it's a lot better than what the Times is getting to be.

The second part is about what this country is capable of doing when whichever "Yellow Horde" of the moment gets to be too hot for the pols to deal with it rationally. Not only am I interested in the history of my country, and my state in particular, but I just drove past Manzanar the other day on my way home from L.A. so it's fresh in my mind. Mrs. G grew up in farm country on our Central Coast with kids that were born in this joint. Her Grandpa not only sold most of their folks all their electrical appliances, but stored them while they were interned. Those folks were lucky. Many others had all their land and possessions simply stolen and had to start over upon their release.

Please go to the site with a few minutes to spare. There are a lot of links in the right-hand sidebar, including History & Culture and In Depth. I recommend the "In Depth". There is a "Virtual Tour" on the left that has a map and 360 degree photos. Click around a little, you'll find lots of stuff.

I think the camp they'll send us lefties to will at least be more modern. I'm holding out for WiFi. If I get to be in charge of who goes, the wingnuts will be lucky to get inside plumbing.

This immigration bullshit has gone on before as Mr. Scheer writes. All kinds of Europeans have been its victims back east, and Mexicans and Asians out west. Most of 'em, particularly whites, have been assimilated over time. Hey, with white people you have to know their last name cuz they speak English. Much easier to discriminate against "culluds" cuz they're easier to spot. Even if they speak English.

Which brings up a point: I think part of this whole deal has to do with language. Most of the Europeans that I've met can speak several languages due to proximity. It's not far to where a different language is spoken, they're right there, and it's fairly easy for them because they're exposed at a young age.

A good portion of the U.S. is so fuckin' insular and hidebound that I think a lot of people are insulted that furriners fresh out of the trunk of a car dare to speak their own language. I think we'd do a lot better if we started teaching practical languages in school, like Spanish and Chinese, if for no other reason than communicate a little bit when you go to town.

Communication fosters understanding, and we need a lot more of that. There was a sign on the wall of One-Eight's comm shack at Camp Lejeune: "Communications lends dignity to what would otherwise be considered a brawl." I think it fits here in general, in a country with 200 languages being used.

I took Russian in the 7th Grade. That was in the fifties when we thought we might need it. I haven't much vocabulary because I've never used it, but I can read the words and sometimes know what they mean. I speak enough Spanish to call 'bullshit' in the supermarket check-out line when Latinos are cussin' or otherwise talking about folks. They shut right up when they know you're onto them!

Ah, fuck it - if English was good enough fer Jesus, it's plenty good enough fer them Messicans.

I better not get started on football v. soccer.

Pardon the rambling, please. The pup's asleep on my feet again.

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