IN MY OPINION
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XENOPHOBIA ALIVE AND WELL
27 May 2006
Why do I think of Wag the Dog and all the private conferences on West Wing about how best to cover up a story, to "create a diversion," as it were.
Just when it seemed like things were heating up even more than before in Washington, suddenly I don't hear as much about body counts in Iraq or pending indictments of government officials. Except for Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres, I haven't seen much about what's happening in the Katrina area lately. The stories get buried in the back page and suddenly "Illegal Immigration" seems to be the most pressing issue of the day.
It's something that we can agree on -- it's a problem. The man in the White House can address the problem, the press can report on the problem without any government interference, members of congress can work together to find a solution, the people can get upset about the problem. It's a win-win situation and maybe those "approval numbers" can creep up to 30% again.
We see the man in the White House riding a dune buggy across the border yelling in his very best inverse Ronald Reagan imitation: "President Fox, build this wall!!" while, underneath the ground under wheels of the dune buggy people are hard at work building tunnels. (Besides, I heard the other day--I don't have a link for this--that nation-wide, only 20% of the illegal immigrants in this country are from Mexico!)
Anybody with half a brain knows that the answer to illegal immigration is not an expensive wall, or positioning the National Guard on the borders (or encouraging renegate gun-totin' militia men), but it makes a great photo op, a great talking point, and it can deflect attention away from other more pressing issues.
The problem with all this illegal immigration talk, however, is that gives some people reason to be more honest about hating or just being suspicious of their neighbor. I've heard some very scary things since the brouhaha started.
A 16 year old called in to KGO's "The Karel Show" because he was very upset about illegal immigration. It seems that this son of a factory owner had gone to WalMart because he couldn't get the item he needed for one of his craft projects at some higher priced store. He found himself surrounded by "Mexicans" and he found it difficult to get attention from the staff in a timely manner. He sees illegal immigration as a major problem that we need to do something about.
Karel tried to talk to the kid about poverty and why people of a different shade of skin might be shopping at WalMart. He pushed him kind of hard and when he asked the young caller what made him think that all the brown people he saw around him were here illegally, the kid sputtered that "when they start outnumbering us, something has to be done."
Ahhh...there it is. It's not the legal status of the WalMart shoppers that really bothered him, it's that he didn't like being the minority around all these brown people and he felt that they should be sent back to their country of origin.
I heard someone else talking about how this country has a history and a tradition ... and I guess the speaker forgets that its history starts with a bunch of illegal white immigrants moving in uninvited and taking over the land on which Native Americans had lived for centuries.
There is a discussion of immigration going on in a discussion group for senior citizens I've been following for some time. Some of the attitudes are really very disturbing.
One woman, who seems to acknowledge that it's OK to come here if your life is threatened in your own country, says that she thinks about Mexican immigrants differently. "I think the difference for me is the life and death situation isn't really an issue with the Mexican illegals. I see them (I know it's a terrible generalization) as drug pushers and thiefs."
Others weigh in with negative opinions about whichever ethnic group they find in their neighborhood, whether it's Asians or Middle Easterners or even African Americans. So many negative stereotypes about people who don't look like "us" (whoever "us" is), or talk like "us," or live like "us," but who have become more visible in our neighborhoods.
"They" are starting to outnumber "us" and "they" have ruined the life that we have felt comfortable living all these years.
(I wonder how these people feel about the stereotype of the American that is held throughout the rest of the world. "I could give a flying damn about what muslims think of the United States," writes one person in a guest book. "I do not want my government to care about islams fanatics. I do not want my government to appease them or help them. I want my government to kill those who would kill Americans. Muslims do not have to like me, mine, the way I live or the religion I choose to follow. I AM an American, bitch." Now there's a way to win friends around the world.)
The one hopeful thing is that anybody in my on-line discussion who actually knows someone of a different color / race / culture personally has a completely different, more objective view of the whole situation.
Another participant in the discussion tried to bring a bit of reason to it: "it seems to me that among the poor in most cities is where we find the drug pushers and criminals....Most new immigrants start off poor therefore, it is reasonable there would be more criminals among any immigrant group that is starting out." She also added, "when we know some of the people we have a different impression and do not see the worst in the entire national group."
I think back to the days when we were hosting foreign students and how our views about countries and cultures were shaped by our interactions with those people. It would be very difficult for me, for instance, to ever make a blanket condemnation of Mexican people as lazy or criminal types having watched our Mexican daughter Marie make a such a success of her life in this country.
Idle comment. How do those screaming "NO AMNESTY FOR THOSE
WHO BREAK THE LAW" feel about impeachment when you've broken the law...?
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