I've been looking high and low for the proper context within which to vent my growing exasperation over conservative xenophobia towards Mexicans. Each bit of blatant racist stupidity propagated by the likes of Fox News (it's on in our cafeteria at work) building within my psyche like a sword slipped slowly from its sheath. Then, as if from On High, an email floated gently into my inbox, containing the fevered rantings of country music performer and latter day wingnut pundit Charlie Daniels. My enemy stands before me...
Charlie Daniels on Immigration: Mexican Standoff
I don't know how everybody else feels about it, but to me I think Hispanic people in this country, legally or illegally, made a huge public relations mistake with their recent demonstrations.
The same thing was said about the Selma march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Those who are opposed to minority rights always claim that minorities are "hurting their own cause" by standing up and being heard. Fortunately, we have a Bill of Rights, not mob rule. Civil rights aren't granted by majority opinion; according to Thomas Jefferson they are an "inalienable right" granted "by the Creator". Demonstrations aren't supposed to be a popular PR move. They're supposed to challenge the status quo. Maybe Charlie needs to actually learn a little of the history of the country he lives in to learn about the struggle for minority civil rights. Of course, you won't find that on The History Channel or Fox News, even in February...
I don't blame anybody in the world for wanting to come to the United States of America, as it is a truly wonderful place. But when the first thing you do when you set foot on American soil is illegal it is flat out wrong and I don't care how many lala land left heads come out of the woodwork and start trying to give me sensitivity lessons.
I'd sooner be able to teach a pig philosophy than a racist bigot sensitivity, so I won't even try. Many of the undocumented immigrants from Mexico have risked their lives and their freedom for the opportunity to make sub-poverty wages in the U.S. They risk deportation, arrest, death even, on the journey here, all for the chance to be denigrated by people like Mr. Daniels, while they break their backs laboring for our economic success. These are the kind of people we want in the United States; the kind of people who are willing to take such risks for the betterment of themselves and their families. If we really want to make America wonderful, we should naturalize these hard-working Mexican immigrants and deport some lazy conservative faux-intellectuals!
I don't need sensitivity lessons, in fact I don't have anything against Mexicans! I just have something against criminals and anybody who comes into this country illegally is a criminal and if you don't believe it try coming into America from a foreign country without a passport and see how far you get.
I'll bet some of Charlie's best friends are Mexicans. Just like some of Lee Atwater's best friends are black and some of James Dobson's best friends are gay. Only the target changes, not the behavior, sadly. Also, Charlie needs to spend himself some time studying up on the difference between criminal and civil law. Undocumented immigrants are in violation of a civil statute, not a criminal one. Perhaps if the U.S. adopted a sane immigration policy, one that allows for expedient entry and citizenship, then perhaps we could talk about the illegality of certain kinds of immigration. Maybe I'm crazy, but I suspect that most, if not all, undocumented Mexican immigrants would much prefer a legal way into the U.S. that didn't involve risking death in the Sonoran Desert.
What disturbs me about the demonstrations is that it's tantamount to saying, "I am going to come into your country even if it means breaking your laws and there's nothing you can do about it."
Again, perhaps that's an indication that our laws are the problem. Of course, that would never occur to someone like Charlie. If conservatives were to admit that our immigration policy is the problem, then they wouldn't be able to demonize an entire nationality of people as "criminals". I suspect that what really disturbs Charlie is the idea that those shifty brown folks from south of the border might bring their own culture and language with them.
It's an "in your face" action and speaking just for me I don't like it one little bit and if there were a half dozen pairs of gonads in Washington bigger than English peas it wouldn't be happening.
Shorter Charlie: "If only we had more elected racists in Washington; they'd shut those rowdy wetbacks up!"
Where are you, you bunch of lilly livered, pantywaist, forked tongued, sorry excuses for defenders of The Constitution? Have you been drinking the water out of the Potomac again?
Someone needs to remind Charlie that our country decided awhile ago that being the "United States of White People Only" was not a good way to build a nation. We even fought a war about that (Tennessee's side lost, Charlie). Individual rights in the Constitution are no longer limited only to wealthy white people. Being cruel to the downtrodden isn't a sign of strength; it's a sign of moral decay and serious character deficiency.
And even if you pass a bill on immigration it will probably be so pork laden and watered down that it won't mean anything anyway. Besides, what good is an other law going to do when you won't enforce the ones on the books now?
Can't argue with him there. Republican hypocrisy knows no depth. Fiscal responsibility is a liberal ideal and law enforcement under a President who openly flaunts the law is a joke. The Republicans can do nothing about immigration except destroy their chances in November. They either lose the Latino vote with their draconian Sensenbrenner legislation or they lose the bigots in their base by granting amnesty. Fun for me; for the Republicans, not so much...
And what ever happened to the polls guys? I thought you folks were the quintessential finger wetters. Well you sure ain't paying any attention to the polls this time because somewhere around eighty percent of Americans want something done about this mess, and mess it is and getting bigger everyday.
I actually have to concede this point to Daniels; none of our politicians are getting much done on this issue. I've heard the whispers of certain good policy changes from various local Democrats, mainly in the southwest, but nothing much from Washington. Again, though, immigration is such a losing issue for the Republican party that it's almost unfair to expect them to actually do something about it. Almost...
As for the polls: I guess in the sense that Republican governance is so poor as to be almost non-existent, it's almost true that they don't govern by the polls. While a majority of Americans do believe we need immigration reform (as I certainly believe), the implication Daniels is making is that most Americans want the racist cruelty of Sensenbrennar or Tancredo made into law. Not true for the vast majority of Americans, I hope.
This is no longer a problem, it is a dilemma and headed for being a tragedy. Do you honestly think that what happened in France with the Muslims can't happen here when the businesses who hire these people finally run out of jobs and a few million disillusioned Hispanics take to the streets?
What a cutting analysis of the France situation; completely wrong, of course, but a bold attempt. The problem with the French riots wasn't that businesses ran out of jobs. It was the inevitable result of a "guest workers" program. The French created an entire underclass of immigrant workers, segregated away from French society, with little social or economic recourse for their situation. This is the kind of government approach to immigrants that most Republicans actually want! They're just too ideologically blinded by the color and language of the immigrants coming in to the country to make the connection. France purposely avoided integrating Muslim immigrants into its society, which is exactly what conservatives are trying to do with our Mexican immigrants. The arrogant belief in complete American exceptionalism virtually guarantees that our elected Republican officials learned not one lesson from the riots in France, and neither did Daniels, obviously.
If you, Mr. President, Congressmen and Senators, knuckle under on this and refuse to do something meaningful it means that you care nothing for the kind of country your children and grandchildren will inherit.
To a certain extent again, I agree with Daniels. Our immigration policy continues to get pushed off on successive generations because it's such a political hot potato. If our government officials would actually lead for a change, instead of trying to pander to majority bias and protect their own jobs, we could actually get an intelligent, workable immigration system enacted. The only advantage of waiting is that our children, having grown up more with Mexican friends and classmates, will be much more tolerant and empathetic towards the immigrant situation, unlike the wealthy, white business advocates currently running Washington (and getting support, no doubt, from conservatives like Daniels).
But I guess that doesn't matter as long as you get re-elected. Shame on you.
If you support Republicans in Washington, Charlie, then you have no room to complain when they can't produce. A political party whose main platform is anti-government is certainly not going to produce effective government policy. Just ask the survivors of hurricanes Andrew and Katrina which party they think administers federal programs more effectively. If you can find someone in NOLA with a working phone, that is.
One of the big problems in America today is that if you have the nerve to say anything derogatory about any group of people (except Christians) you are going to be screamed at by the media and called a racist, a bigot and anything else they can think of to call you.
Ooh, the wingnut trifecta. Be a racist that says derogatory things about minorities then blame it on the media when you get called out for your views. Imply that there is something noble about being openly racist, as opposed to a closet racist, I guess, and throw in an accusation of Christian-bashing to boot. Magnificent! I'll bite: Charlie Daniels, you, sir, are a racist and a bigot and, let's see, what else do I have, oh, and a nativist. Your real beef isn't about jobs or about immigrants violating federal civil statutes. It's about your, and other conservatives', fear that an influx of Mexicans will change American culture, and, being a conservative, you despise change above all else. It's the same tired argument that's been used towards immigrants since the country was founded. You and others like you are already here and you want America to yourselves, to luxuriate in the wealth of our nation and keep what you feel belongs to you by virtue of being born in the right place. It's a racist view, an anti-Christian view and a profoundly un-American view.
Well I've been pounded by the media before and I'm still rockin' and rollin' and when it comes to speaking the truth I fear not. And the truth is that the gutless, gonadless, milksop politicians are just about to sell out the United States of America because they don't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the face reality.
Shorter Charlie again: "I think I'm really cool because the Oldies station still plays "The Devil Went Down to Georgia".
And reality is that we would never allow any other group of people to have 12 million illegals in this country and turn around and say, "Oh it's ok, ya'll can stay here if you'll just allow us to slap your wrist."
Ah, some classic conservative projection. Since Daniels is racist against Latinos, everyone who disagrees with him must be racist against everyone but Latinos. This is essentially the same arsupremacist white supremecist groups use to justify their positions. White America for white Americans, right Charlie?
And I know that some of you who read this column are saying "Well what's wrong with that?"
Actually, I don't even think the slap on the wrist is necessary.
I'll tell you what's wrong with it. These people could be from Mars as far as we know. We don't know who they are, where they are or what they're up to and the way the Congress is going we're not going to.
(This just keeps getting better, doesn't it?) Yeah, we can't have those sneaky Mexicans just "hiding in the shadows" (favorite Fox News mantra of the moment) now can we? They could be doing something subversive with their Mexican culture and their Mexican language. It's possible that they're just working, raising their kids, going to church, etc., but that doesn't fit very well with our conservative bed-wetting xenophobia. I know: let's find a way to mark them somehow. Make them wear something like a Star of David or a pink triangle, so we always know the strangers among us...
Does this make sense? Labor force you say? We already subsidize corporate agriculture as it is, must we subsidize their labor as well?
Corporate welfare never makes any sense. However, it's ridiculously unfair to blame 30 years of Republican pandering to big business on impoverished immigrant workers. All too easy to scapegoat the minorities, eh Charlie?
If these people were from Haiti would we be so fast to turn a blind eye to them or if they were from Somalia or Afghanistan? I think not.
Again, Charlie, just because you are a xenophobic racist, doesn't mean the rest of America is as well. Most of us tend to believe in judging a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin or nation of origin. A wise man said that once, not that you or others like you listened or understood.
All the media shows us are pictures of hard working Hispanics who have crossed the border just to try to better their life. They don't show you pictures of the Feds rounding up members of MS 13, the violent gang who came across the same way the decent folks did. They don't tell you about the living conditions of the Mexican illegals some fat cat hired to pick his crop.
All the media shows us are pictures of white Christian soccer moms picking up their kids from school. They don't show the Feds rounding up members of the Aryan Nation in West Virginia. See, Charlie, this is what happens when you stereotype an entire nationality with the characteristics of its worst members. Timothy McVeigh was a white Christian; does that mean that all white Christians want to bomb federal buildings? And, for the record, the Discovery Times channel did a great documentary about MS 13. So your personal ignorance, Charlie, is not the media's fault.
Again, blaming migrant workers for being taken advantage of by corporations is like blaming a rape victim for being too friendly with guys. Both are morally reprehensible examples of blaming the victim for being victimized.
I want to make two predictions. No. 1: This situation is going to grow and fester until it erupts in violence on our streets while the wimps in Washington drag their toes in the dirt and try to figure how many tons of political hay they can make to the acre.
Perhaps this will end in violence. I certainly hope not but many conservative politicians seem dead set on inflaming this situation as much as possible in order to placate racists like Charlie in their base. The Republicans have control of Washington; they can choose to make progress on immigration reform. However, it will cost them their racist "Southern Strategy" and likely their majority. The grossly misnamed "Party of Moral Values" can either do the right thing and support the immigrants that have always made our country stronger or they can do the politically expedient thing and cling to their racist redneck base. Either way, they're going to pay a heavy price for taking on this issue. Who knows, maybe if a Republican politician actually took a difficult principled stand on something like immigration, they might find they enjoy it and that the American people support them. In the words of George Carlin: "It just might work; it certainly hasn't been tried yet."
No 2: Somebody is going to cross that border with some kind of weapon of mass destruction and set it off in a major American city after which there will be a backlash such as this country has never experienced and the Capitol building in Washington will probably tilt as Congressmen and Senators rush to the other side of the issue.
A remote possibility, but a possibility none the less. That's the real cost of freedom, Charlie. Not sending other people's kids to die overseas, but recognizing that living in a free country means that occasionally that freedom gets exploited to tragic ends. The alternative is a police state, where everyone has the illusion of safety (it's really just the threat that changes) and no one has any freedom. We fought a very long Cold War against that ideology. It's rather frightening at how much Soviet policy conservatives seem to admire or clamor for these days.
I don't know about you but I would love to see just one major politician stand up and say, "I don't care who I make mad and I don't care how many votes I lose, this is a desperate situation and I'm going to lead the fight to get it straightened out."
First of all, I don't think this situation is really all that desperate. There is something intrinsic to the conservative mindset that seems to require that any and all challenges our country faces must be redefined as a life or death struggle for our nation's existence. 10 million undocumented immigrants in a nation of 300+ million is not an "invasion". Second, Charlie seems to be getting his arguments crossed here. If, as he claims, 80% of Americans feel as he does about immigrants, then every politician in the land should be jumping all over this issue. It's a sure-fire win! It's a play off of one of the Right's favorite logical fallacies: fallacy ad populum. Just because a lot of people think something is a good idea or the truth, does not make it so.
I don't blame anybody for wanting to come to America, but if you don't respect our immigration laws why should you respect any others.
When the choice is violating a United States civil statute or living in grinding, endless poverty, I think any rational person could sympathize with those willing to do the former to avoid the latter. It's empathy and compassion that are completely missing from the conservative view on immigration. It's all about petty legalism and money at the expense of human well-being. That's a perversion of the law, not a compelling support of it. Laws are nothing but a tool of society and, as such, need to be reworked or discarded when they are so obviously inadequate. I wonder if Charlie would feel the same way if it were he and his family living in poverty with jobs available in Mexico?
And by the way, this is America and our flag has stars and stripes. Please get that other one out of my face.
If Charlie only remembered the ideals for which our flag stands, then he wouldn't be too worried that immigrants wave the flag of their former nation as a show of solidarity in their community. Would Charlie expect an American living abroad to get rid of their Old Glory? I think not. Besides, plenty of folks still fly a flag synonymous with racism and sedition in the United States, even here in Wisconsin.
Pray for our troops
And bring them home safely.
Charlie's rant is a shameful display of racism and intolerance, and pretty succinctly lays out the entire conservative problem with Mexican immigrants. They're different. They speak a different language and they have different cultural values. Just like the Irish, Italians, Germans, Norwegians, Japanese, Indians, and so on, who have immigrated to the United States over the past two centuries. Conservatives like Daniels see the greatest strength of America, it's diversity, as one of its greatest faults. How historically blind can they be?
As a final note, I have to take a shot at the phony outrage over the Spanish language version of the National Anthem. I will leave it to Clytemnestra at The Polis to lay out just how stupid this whole issue is:
Think Progress did a fact check and found 4 different Spanish versions of the Star Spangled Banner the first has a 1919 copyright. And guess where they are; the United States of America State Department web site!
So 87 years ago during the Nadir of American Race Relations a specifically multicultural, inclusive project was commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Education.
Just when I think the Republicans can't get any more obtuse and historically ignorant, Lamar Alexander steps up to show just how wrong I am. Here's a little clue to the symbolically challenged: Latinos wishing to record and sing our shared national anthem in Spanish is a sign of profound RESPECT for our shared home. Speaking Spanish is not a protest against America. Latino immigrants who come to the United States WANT to be here and WANT to lead a productive life, including speaking the native tongue. Given that our own President can't even speak English properly, it's a little bit ridiculous to expect 12 million Spanish speakers to pick it up overnight. And more to the point, if we become a bi-lingual nation, so be it. We were colonized by the English, so we speak English. It's not some mystical language gifted to us by The Almighty.
Anyway, this is my say on immigration. We need a quick and efficient system that allows those wishing to come here to get in, get settled, get working and get on with their lives. None of this "going to the back of the line" garbage when the line takes years to navigate and often changes where it's heading. Mexican immigrants are an asset to our nation, as all immigrants have always been. One of the beauties of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence is that the rights contained therein were never limited to American citizens. They were embraced as being common to all people. That's the idealism to which we need to return. Not this xenophobic, racist hatred that is permeating our national discourse.