The furious debate of the last few days about whether or not controls should be tightened against illegal immigration and penalties slapped on those who have the temerity to work wherever they can find jobs has a great void at its center. The power-structure but especially the right, who by now have stopped bothering to conceal that 70-80% of their foreign and domestic policies are racist to the core, seemed to have forgotten something.
You call them 'illegals'? Uh-uh. Not very many generations ago -- a mere squirrel-blink in the 50,000+ years' life of the human race -- this was their country. You can see it in their Mayan cheekbones and stolid Olmec physiques and almond Aztec eyes. All those red states trumpeting their Americanness along the southern border -- Arizona, New Mexico et al., above all Texas -- are populated not just by immigrants but by very recent immigrants, and lest we forget, murdering, thieving, land-grabbing and land-devastating immigrants who practiced early but highly effective forms of biological warfare, ethnic cleansing and good old genocide. The spectacle of Republican -- and Democrat -- lawmakers with German, Irish, Italian, English, Polish and a dozen other kinds of Indo-European names standing up in Congress and sanctimoniously bloviating about the moral fiber, alien lifestyles, work ethic and financial reliability of real Americans, the Americans whose homeland this has been, for oh, 20-30,000 years, is hilarious to behold. Somewhere Texans, Arizonans et al seem to have gotten the impression that they actually have a right to live on the lands their grandfathers stole at the point of a gun. This is even more hilarious when the bloviator in question belongs to the party nominally led by the cretin from Crawford who is not just an immigrant like the rest of us, but -- despite his faux-cracker accent -- the son of a carpetbagger.
David Brooks' excruciatingly patronizing column on immigration in the NYT a couple days ago gives you a pretty good idea of what the underlying issues really are. A. will these new 'immigrants' share the good solid family values of our divorce-wracked, gun-toting, drug-slurping, morbidly obese, self-obsessed, environment-raping, terminally corrupt and militarized society? B. can they be relied upon within a generation or so, to acquire a mortgaged-to-the-hilt ticky-tacky living box, buy the 5-10 thousand largely unnecessary Wal-mart gadgets and trinkets deemed to render a person respectable, keep their front lawns trim at all times, not voice unorthodox opinions, especially in the form of signs on the aforementioned lawns; not play loud music after 10 pm or fart in the supermarket? C. will they be Republicans or -- s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g...e-l-s-e?
Brooks expresses the petty-minded Babittry that in our times has absurdly appropriated to itself the august term 'conservative' A mentality that has nothing to do with conserving anything, (or respecting tradition or preserving the ancient). If it makes a buck tear it down, if it's pristine, fill it up with junk and sell it.
Brooks and his fellow Babitts embody the narrow-headed obsession with money, taxes, regulation, profit and property, the concomitant obsession with the minutiae of class and status, the suffocating priorities that insist on the mortal dangers presented by the dissenting, the different, the Other, always judging itself to be 'better' in every way -- but especially morally -- than its neighbor, that believes deep in its shallow soul that the earth-hostile suburban cocoon it has created will somehow protect it from the inescapable realities of life: disease, disaster, age and death. In a word the latest version of that bane of freedom, creativity, generosity of spirit and human respect, the bourgeoisie.
When Marx identified the bourgeoisie as the prime enemy he got it exactly right. You don't have to subscribe to the rest of his ideas to thank him for that.
They've always been with us the bourgeoisie: you can see them in the rigid grid on which most American towns and cities were laid out; you can see it in the fussy, claustrophobic, pokey, dark-roomed houses, with their ugly gingerbread and idiot turrets and gloomy porches -- an earlier era's version of conspicuous consumption, the precursors of Macmansions -- that yuppies across the nation are snapping up and renovating 'with pride' as if they represented something admirable about the nation's brief history. You can read about the bourgeoisie first hand in the brilliant acerbic melancholy literature of the '20s and '30s, writers who saw through the thin veneer of civilization slapped on a chaotic society built on greed, violence and injustice, even as it was a-borning.
What if these 'illegal' Americans brought with them not a hunger for a Wal-mart society but transformative values, that challenged the petty-fogging priorities of the bourgeoisie, aka nice respectable Republicans? Perhaps -- having been battered and crushed so long -- they'll have an aversion to war and a military-corporate economy whose core is war -- the pacific Olmecs after all built their towns without walls. Perhaps with a modicum of prosperity they'll promote an affirmation of nature and community -- instead of their opposites -- a respect for the ancient and the wise: deep conservatism, instead of the egocentric, hypocritical petty-bourgeois clap-trap we have to endure.
It's worth trying. At the very least we have an obligation to allow true Americans access to any part of their ancestral lands they feel like occupying. Morally speaking it's time we did something to expiate the crimes on which the country was built. And if Jose or Tomas takes work from some crank-sniffing, beer-swilling, gas-guzzling, Bush-loving redneck who cheats, swindles and steals from every employer he works for, well, so much the better.
Border patrols? Better documentation? 'Guest' workers? Harsher penalties for undocumented 'illegals'? It's all bullshit. Historically and morally we're the illegals.
Here's a thought. Simple, inexpensive and avoids all those goldarn regulations the right hates so much. Set up wide arches of garlands every single mile along the southern border. Officials -- or volunteers -- at every arch have explicit instructions to warmly welcome all who want to pass through and offer them work wherever they wish. As they pass through, roses should be strewn in their path and profound apologies offered to them one by one.
It's not much but it's the least we can do.
SHAMELESS PLUG: Speaking of true Americans check out my imminent new book.