Wednesday, April 5
Of divided loyalties, civic responsibilities, and shitty houseguests.
All of a sudden I forgot what I'd gotten so worked up about . . .
Earlier today, as some of you may know, I was ripped by a regular reader for my remarks in this post in which I declared my pissed-offedness that illegal immigrants would dare to wave Mexican (or Guatemalan, or Nicaraguan, or insert non-U.S. country here) flags while they rallied for amnesty for their illegal-ness. She made some valid points, and look, I'm not going to try and tell you I wrote that post casually, flippantly, and thoughtlessly like I do so much of the other crap I throw up on here. Even as I was hitting the "submit post" button, I was worried that some people might read that and think I was anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, or worse. I know some of the things I said put me a lot closer to the rabid right-wing Brown People Go Home camp than the faithful inclusive left-wing bleeding-heart Doug you've come to know and love (or pity), and I won't act like that didn't worry me.
But I'm not going to retract or apologize for anything I said, either. I will, however, elaborate a little, just so there's no misunderstanding.
The reader who laid into me brought up one of the posts I did back during the Olympics in which I cheered on the Slovakian hockey team -- Slovakia is where my mom's side of the family came from, FYI -- and referred to Slovakia as the "motherland." (You know, even as I was writing the immigration bit, I was thinking, "I'll bet someone's gonna bring up the Slovakian hockey team thing.") You will not be surprised to find that I think there's a difference between that and thousands of illegals waving Mexican flags in the streets, but perhaps I didn't explain that difference well enough the first time.
Before I begin, let me make it very clear that if lovin' Slovakia is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Let's make up a hypothetical American citizen, Juan Ramón, who is originally from, oh, let's say Costa Rica. Juan Ramón came here five years ago, went through the exhausting naturalization runaround, and is now a full-fledged American. He has a 9-to-5 job, and thus pays taxes. He registered with Selective Service just like every other male in America has to do. He's voted in nearly every single election that's been held since he got here. As much of a pain in the ass as it is, he's filling out his 1040 form right now, because that's the law and that's his responsibility. His English isn't perfect yet, but at least he's learning.
Juan Ramón loves soccer, and is thrilled to death that the Costa Rican national team has qualified for the World Cup in June. Not that he's got anything against the American team, but he's rooting for his homeland, and plans to hang a Costa Rican flag off his balcony during the Cup.
You know what? I got no problem with that. Juan Ramón followed all the rules to become an American citizens, he's fulfilled all the responsibilities of American citizenship since then, and with all that in mind, simply hanging a non-U.S. flag out of his apartment isn't enough to make me suspect his loyalty or dedication to his new country.
But contrast this with the people waving Mexican flags in the streets of Los Angeles and San Diego and wherever the hell else. I don't know how many of these folks are American citizens, but it doesn't seem like very many of them are. They're not paying taxes, filling out 1040s, or contributing money to Social Security. They haven't registered with Selective Service. They don't appear to have made much of an attempt to learn the language. As far as I can tell, they've kept up with hardly any of the civic responsibilities that I and every other American citizen have to follow. Not only that, but they want to receive certain benefits from the U.S. government without having paid anything in. So when I see them waving the flag of some other country, I think I have every right to wonder if they're really all that serious about this American-citizenship thing. They haven't come here through established legal channels, they haven't engaged in any of our American civil responsibilities, they're even waving someone else's flag -- on paper, they appear to be no more American than any Japanese tourist who just got off the plane from Tokyo.
Besides, if you've come over here illegally and now want to be considered a full-fledged American citizen, doesn't it seem like just plain bad rhetorical strategy to demand your amnesty, citizenship, whatever in Spanish, while waving the flag of the country you just left? Surely I'm not the only one who sees a disconnect here.
And again, I don't want anyone thinking I'm the least bit pleased about finally having something in common with Michelle fucking Malkin, who, if not the world's biggest racist, is certainly its most ironic. But I can't lie: The Mexican-flag-waving bothers me. Not enough to start knocking heads or spending entire days perched by the Rio Grande with a pair of Bushnells and a thirty-aught-six like those Minutemen knobs, but it bothers me.
And the worst part of this is, I'm very much in favor of a less bureaucratic, more simplified naturalization process. As I said in the comment I left in response to the angry reader's, I've watched people from Croatia, El Salvador, even freaking England come over here, follow every INS rule and regulation to the letter, abide by the law, renew their visas religiously, and contribute to American society in a manner almost befitting that of a religious quest -- and still be denied (or at least delayed in receiving) citizenship by an immigration protocol that moves slower than a senior citizen driving a bulldozer uphill. Through molasses. In January. See, I want more people to come over here and become Americans, not fewer, and I think there's got to be a better way to do this.
But that only begs the question, if we're not willing to make any concessions on behalf of the people who are following the law, why are we just going to grant them to people who willingly broke it? I'm never in favor of any policy that basically says "Yeah, you willingly broke the law, but we'll just let that slide," whether it's being said to a tax cheat, an Enron exec, or an illegal immigrant.
So, to recap: Immigration good, illegal immigration a problem. People who follow the law should get more consideration than people who don't. Waving another country's flag is not a bad thing to do in and of itself, but it depends on the context. Sometimes you're just showing ethnic pride; sometimes you're just being an asshole. I think the L.A. demonstrators fall on the latter side, but your mileage may vary.
I leave you with this scenario. Let's say I'm from New Orleans because my house got destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Without calling ahead, I show up on your doorstep one evening -- yes, yours, dear reader -- and I'm like, "Hey, it's me, Doug, from Hey Jenny Slater. Yes, the blog you read all the time. My house back in New Orleans is gone, so I was wondering if I could come live with you for a while."
C'mon, look at this face. You'd take me in, right?
You're a little surprised (and taken aback) by all this, but you're a nice guy (or girl) and you want to help me out, so you let me in. I'm eating your food, drinking your beer, using your toothpaste to brush my teeth. (Don't worry, I brought my own toothbrush.) You're generous, and you know I've been through a lot, so you don't raise a big stink about this. Although it does get a little annoying the way I insist on watching "Simpsons" reruns when you want to watch the news -- oh, and forget about watching anything other than football on the weekends ('cause Hurricane Katrina has just happened and this is all going on in the fall, remember). Still, I mow the lawn and do your laundry without complaining, so it seems reasonably fair.
Before too long I've got a day job -- it pays good, not great, but enough that I can buy my own stuff now. Strangely, though, I'm still using your toothpaste. And months later, when you start asking me if I might chip in a little kinda-like-rent-but-not-really money for home upkeep, garden care, re-tiling the bathroom, what have you, I'm like "Yeah, sure" but always manage to conveniently forget about it later.
Now I'm starting to get kind of annoying, right? OK, now imagine that I never actually asked you if I could stay with you, but just snuck into your basement one night and set up shop. And imagine that I took down the Dallas Cowboys flag you had hanging on your front porch . . . and replaced it with one for the Washington Redskins.
Am I or am I not now officially being a dick? I leave this to you, dear reader, to decide.