Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A Post I Really Didn't Want To Write

What occurred in the comment section below was inevitable, I guess, but I'm not going to tiptoe around both what I wanted to get across in this story (which wasn't a story about race to begin with, it's about personal responsibility, and how I still feel responsible even when it's not my fault) and what some of the folks who read this blog have said in the comments.

1) This ain't a public forum. This is my blog, and if you think I hold the 1st amendment rights of anyone in higher regard than my mood a minute after I get out of bed and read this ridiculous racist crap on something associated with me, then you're mistaken. Very mistaken, and if this becomes a problem, don't think I won't at the very least start deleting comments.

2) I feel very strongly about ad hominem attacks anywhere there's public or semi-public discourse. They're stupid, unproductive, and frankly, a sign of a weak argument. If you must insult someone, do it in a way that the Yalies who read this understand. Think of it as heightening the level of discourse--but lay off the "jerk off's," OK?

3) Finally, the language thing.

To clarify what I said in the previous post: I'm not talking about your mythical dude who comes to the US from Aguascalientes Mexico, files for welfare, and stays til he's forty, whistling out of beat up cars at your white women. I'm talking about the motherfucker who's got the guts to go to a foreign country (which, I think you'll agree, is a scary proposition to begin with) and work like a slave to feed his family back home. Because that's what they fuckin' do, kids. They do it because they don't have a choice. You think they'd be here if they could have graduated from high school and got a job at a help desk somewhere close to home? Sheeyit. Know why you see Mexican (and Guatemalan, and Honduran) flags all over the fucking place? Because they're homesick, kids. They don't want to be assimilated here because they're not Americans. They're Salvadoreans. They're Nicaraguans. And they got a family to feed, and no jobs at home. Do they want to stay here? Nope. Do they want to live on your welfare? No, and you know why? Because welfare don't feed babies in other fucking countries.

You know how many guys I got, living four to an apartment and working Sundays for some other lawn crew, that get food stamps? Zero. Z-e-r-o. Know why? 'Cause the state don't give single dudes welfare money, never mind that you have to have a freakin' Social Security number to apply. The "Mexican welfare" myth that you see isn't my people. It's Mexican-American families who are struggling (generally) just as hard as anyone else to make a life for themselves IN THIS COUNTRY. Think about it, Gentle Fucking Reader, would you want YOUR kids to grow up in a country they couldn't speak the language in?

And did it ever, ever occur to you that "no hablo" doesn't mean "I don't understand," it means "I don't talk?" As in, I don't want to talk to you? As an American citizen, can you somehow demand that everyone to whom you speak want to talk back to you? Arrogance, peeps. There are many, many days when I don't want to talk to a soul, including my friends--much less someone who obviously (and don't tell me it ain't obvious, yo) thinks you're not worth the boots I'm standing in?

And guess what, man. That attitude is inborn--I'm an antisocial son of a bitch, and I don't really know WHY. Imagine what I'd be like if I'd ever been fucked out of a paycheck, or arrested by a cop on trumped up charges (ask me, I'll tell you all about it), or freakin' held in lockup long after The Law that some of us hold in such high esteem requires that I be sent back to my homeland....

So this whole "he doesn't speak English when I want him to, so he's a bad person" sure says a lot about the arrogance of our citizenry, unless someone can convince me differently. That California proposition which required bilingual education showed how silly it is to stretch an already failing public education system by requiring it to teach in English and Spanish...the EU, I think, is being hamstrung by requiring everything it does be translated into every single member language before anything can proceed (I just read that somewhere, don't pick a fight with me on it). I don't know what to do with this, I really don't. If I knew what to do, I'd run for president, just to see which one of you rat bastards would sell out my anonymity to the incumbent party (whichever it is).

But you know what? I learned something years ago, something I think applies to all people who feel uncomfortable around others. If you hear someone speaking to someone else in a foreign language, there's a quick moment (if you're lucky) when you're sure they're talking about YOU. The smart people get over that--they realize they're being silly, or overreacting. The dumb ones get uncomfortable, and maybe do something stupid, which fulfills the punchline of "white people/arrogant American" jokes worldwide.

Look, ladies and gentlemen, I hate to sound like a fucking Burner here, but the shit is all the same color. The blood is all red. The words are different, but the ideas are the same. If you're down on someone because he didn't get the education you did, so he's got to have a pair of minimum wage jobs, think for a second why you have the education you do. Think about how, if you had spent the years from 12 to 25 working in Taco Bell's tomato fields, being paid just enough to survive, you'd feel the next time some gabacho bastard walked up to you and asked you a question. Think about how, and here's where you really should smoke a little dope and contemplate the situation, you would react given the same set of circumstances.

I'll tell you a little something about my boss, whom I've known for about 13 years now. When I started, he had 10 white boys, a black guy, and a visceral hatred of hispanics that I guess is just delivered into your hearts by drinking the water. The blood of the Alamo seeps into the aquifers, maybe.

Anyway, within four or five years, he'd lost the hatred of hispanics, because he was forced, by market pressure, to interact with some of them. Yes, some of them were bad people, but by and large they were better people than the white boys and black guy.

So for a time he "liked Mexicans, but hated wetbacks." This lasted a remarkably short time for him, considering that changing his mind is like making sandstone out of sand, but then, he spun off on a completely new tangent: black people.

Since I have a few black friends that wouldn't approve, I won't use the racial epithet he used...but once again, he had a universal dislike of blacks until, wonder of wonders, he actually started hanging around with them (at his kids' basketball games). Suddenly, and this is a dichotomy that persists to this day, there were "blacks" and there were "niggers." Sorry, kids, there's no way around that one--it's offensive to me, too.

But the people in the latter category was a hell of a lot less than it had been in the previous years, just like the people in the "wetback" category are a hell of a lot smaller in number than they were in 1991. Know what I'd extrapolate from this data, given my highly educated American brain? Maybe you can't tell good or bad people from the color of their skin, or (here's the kicker, in case you fell asleep) the language they speak.

Well, hell. I really intended to crystallize what Dman and Beardking and Hippie were saying in the comments, but I don't know that I've done it. After trying to list my points, I've decided to give up and just send this sucker out for you guys to tear apart (I'm also finishing my third beer, which is generally the signal for "publish and get the fuck out"). Point is, until you guys realize that there are no local problems anymore, you won't be happy. We found that out with Pearl Harbor, we found that out with 9/11, we found it out in a trade deficit that staggers the mind, which continues even today. We see it in blood diamonds and cocaine, and we saw it in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nothing's local. There are too many of us now, and we're connected in too many ways. That may be bad, and that may be good, but it's the way things are.

Look, I've hung out with and worked side by side with Mexican laborers my entire adult life. I've lived in Little Saigon. I try and eat Indian food once a week, and every time I'm in NYC I try and eat a shwarma at the Middle Eastern place down from Sackett Street. I don't resent these cultures, kids--I relish them. Different is good.


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