Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking commented this week that we on Earth should be frightened of aliens.
"If aliens ever visit us," he noted, it could be disastrous. Indeed, contact with aliens is "a little too risky," he warned, suggesting that the human race could be annihilated by interacting with these aliens.
It was surprising theory, to say the least. But then I realized Professor Hawking wasn't talking about aliens from the Planet Xenon at all. He was defending the new Arizona immigration law. He was talking about illegal aliens.
Okay, that I can see. Because it's the only way the new Arizona law can even begin to make sense.
Ghastly un-American as this ill-conceived law is, there is also a certain ironic whimsy attached to it. For the past year we have been treated to the spectacle of right wing Republicans and Tea Partyers agonizingly trying to compare health care reform to Nazi Germany - while right here, in their very own backyard, is an actual example of how the Reichstag itself really began.
How cool is that?! It's like living history.
You almost expect to see storm troopers stopping anyone who's crossed the border into Arizona and demanding to see to their papers. And then insisting to those who refuse, "Ve haff ways of making you talk."
Hey, if Tea Folks honestly want to protest actual totalitarian laws and the loss of personal freedom, head over to Arizona. You've already got the Nazi signs painted.
A word of warning: don't wear old, torn jeans. You don't want to be stopped for appearing "reasonably suspicious." Especially if you aren't carrying your papers.
Okay, yes, I know you probably feel fairly safe that this really isn't going to affect anyone if you don't look Hispanic. And that's true, so everything's okay. Unless you're perhaps Middle Eastern. Or maybe black. Or a foreign tourist. Then again, since anything that's "reasonably suspicious" risks arrest, nobody wants to piss off a police officer. Nobody.
Mind you, there likely won't be much of a tourist problem in Arizona after this. It's sort of like a family in 1936 trying to choose between going to Switzerland or the Third Reich for their holiday.
You know you've built a really un-American, un-Constitutional, creepy law when even Tom Tancredo, the patron saint of racist intolerance, says, "I do not want the police - here, there, Arizona, anyplace else - pulling people over because you look like you should be pulled over."
Even Arizona's own former-maverick senator, John McCain (R-AZ), has had a hard time explaining this law on this pandering tour for re-election. He's defended having immigration laws, while admitting this one might be a tad hard to enforce.
Hard, as in "un-Constitutional," as Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) says.
Yet for all it's un-Constitutional, racial ghastliness, it's a story that still keeps delivering a surprising stream of whimsy. How else can you describe Rep. Brian Bilbray's (R-CA) clownish attempt to describe the law's enforcement - "They will look at the kind of dress you wear. There is different type of attire, there is different type of - right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes."
At first, I thought Mr. Bilbray was just doing a comedy bit by the great satirist Stan Freberg. In his classic album, The United States of America, volume 1, Freberg wrote a sketch where in 1621 the Pilgrim mayor expresses his wariness about trusting the local Indians. "There's something about them," he says skeptically. "They wear funny shoes. They don't even have buckles on them."
That was 50 years ago.
It's in this spirit that I've decided to stage my own personal protest. National Wear Bad Shoes Day, to show my solidarity. Who knows, if everyone in Arizona did this every day, it might bewilder all the law enforcement that Brian Bilbray envisions.
Reasonably suspicious writer
America was started at its core as a haven against persecution. There are so many rational, self-evident reasons to abhor this Arizona law. But the thing is, the law is so un-American and discriminatorily abusive that if you don't grasp why without even being told, you won't be convinced by sane argument.
Yes, we know illegal immigration is a real problem. And reform is needed. But coming up with un-American laws that discriminate and erode liberty doesn't resolve the problems - it creates new ones. Worse ones. Despicable ones.
People will no doubt twist themselves into convoluted knots defending the Arizona law. That doesn't make it any less un-American. Or their defense. But then, in America our Constitution protects everyone's right to think things that are un-American. We just draw the line at trying to turn un-American thoughts into law.
It's hard figuring out why anyone right now would have an interest in doing business in, let alone visiting Arizona. I don't mean for moral reasons. But out of practical reality. Because anyone - you - could literally be arrested for simply appearing to be "reasonably suspicious" and not having your papers. Off to prison with you.
But if you do decide to visit, be sure to pack your good shoes.