Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Okay, so here is my take on the culture clash of the great US-Mexico border wall. While I disagree with anyone who argues that the risk to our borders of terrorists is not an issue, -- it is whether it has happened in the past or not because of the new climate of the world in which we live -- I agree the wall is a ridiculous proposition, but I am also sure it will never happen. It was political. The Republicans, of whom I am one, wanted to look strong when they were fighting for election victory. It is too impractical to ever actually be built, though there will be postering about it for years to come no doubt.

I also think blaming Congress alone is silly. The American people are as much to blame. I travel in country and out frequently, and I can tell you, I have discussed this issue with lots of people. The American public at large is woefully ignorant. They actually think if immigrants did not come in to take low wage unpleasant jobs, then Americans would have more jobs. But I have seen the jobs they are talking about and no American would take them. They are unpleasant and they require long hours, low pay, and little dignity. At least most of the jobs. American companies are looking to cut wages every way they came. Removing immigrants would just result in them trying to find other ways to meet those needs.

Additionally, the American public seems to be woefully suffering from memory loss. Immigrants founded this country. It used to be everyone could proudly trace their roots back to immigrants. Now people just think of themselves as Americans with some God given right to live here and prosper and they don't remember the circumstances of our nation's founding. Why shouldn't people faced with the level of poverty in Mexico try and seek a better life for themselves and their families? Just across the border in West Juarez last Saturday I saw conditions reminiscent of African villages. And just across a dry river bed were visible signs of a lifestyle that seemed royal by comparison. I would try and cross and so would you. If we really want to change immigration, we need to allow our tax money to be used to help the Mexican government build infrastructure, provide education and training, and get those people jobs, houses, plumbing, clothes, food, etc. to eliminate poverty. Only then will they stop desiring or needing to immigrate. But most Americans would roll over in their graves before they would allow money to be used that way. Because we have no sense of poverty.

There is poverty in the U.S. in places like the mountains of West Virginia and the inner cities of Chicago which people are so far removed from they never think about it. We do nothing about it, and we do nothing about this either. And that is a shame. Because our real problem and cause for concern is our woeful lack of concern for the world. We so often move to better our own interests without concern for others' needs. We are the sole superpower. With that comes great responsibility to fight injustice and police the world. But with it also comes a responsibility to use our wealth to better human kind. And we do not do much of that. You can argue we are one of the largest donor nations on Earth, but we allow those donations so often to sink into miring pits of corruption and bureacracy so that they never have real impact. Get out on the dirt with these people. Go to their homes. See what they deal with. Spend a night as I did in a home with no heat, where the walls are so cold the cold transfers to the pillows and mattress leaving you no escape. Eat table scraps turned to soup. I am not doing enough either. And I know I need to. We all do.

To me, these things are the real heart of the wall issue. And as long as we continue to use stupid diplomatic ideas to try and resolve them (ignore them really), we will continue to be hated and mocked around the world. And nothing will really change. And we will actually have reason to fear people attacking us with hatred. Why shouldn't they when we selfishly sit back and prosper, wasting millions of dollars on ipods and fancy cars and other meaningless things while they are fighting to survive.

Immigrants suffer so many humiliations to be here, even legally. And what they go through from their families who are less fortunate than them is also so much harder than anything most Americans ever face. It is admirable that so many of them do so much for others, when they have so little themselves. We should admire them for it, and we should seek to learn from them. Our culture is richer for all the immigrants. We would not have any Mexican restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Brazilian restaurants, you name it, if it weren't for immigrants. For one thing, even if those restaurants are owned by U.S. citizens (which not all of them are), those who staff them are most often immigrants who work hard at lower pay than any of us care to acknowledge or would be willing to do ourselves. We owe them for so much. Not just food. Clothes, music, sports, etc.

What do they get for it? This giant legislative slap in the face. This giant taken for granted political statement. And are they angry? Yes. And so am I.

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