May 19, 2006

What the Jingo-Xenophobes Fear

In his heart of hearts, George Bush has a vision of America that scares the hell out of him. It's an America where most people don't speak English or, at the very least, don't speak it as their first language. While George Bush plays at being the Texas cowboy ranchero who speaks a smattering of Spanish badly, he remains true to his Brahmin Yale culture of privilege, black tie events, and patent leather shoes. It's fun playing cowboy, but he really does not want to mingle too much with the Indians.

If you think about it, George Bush's God is not the God of all those Spanish-speaking Catholics, the blood of his Christ not the same blood of their Christ. Despite his lip-service to the contrary about religious tolerance in America, the Papacy and Roman Catholicism bother him. He knows Republicans need as many Catholic votes as they can get. But if he were to speak his mind honestly about the difference between what he believes and what they believe, Catholics would not be very happy.

So he fears an America overrun by Spanish-speaking Catholics from South of the Border. And he is not alone. There are plenty of other Republicans and Democrats who have the same uncomfortable notions about illegal immigrants, migrant workers, and legal immigration itself. The worst of them are the jingo-xenophobes, trying to figure out how to stem the tide of an alien culture and language. While many moderate politician try, yet again, to figure out what to do, the jingo-xenophobes know exaclty what to do. But at the root of it, is a challenge that is not new, nor much different than it was in the mid-1970s when I worked in Washington DC and saw how Congress dealt with these same issue on Capitol Hill.

The Congressman I worked for, Rep. Jim Scheuer (D-NY), chaired the Select Committee on Population. He held a series of hearings on many issues including illegal immigration and the long-term effects on America's population. We heard from experts about how to stop it, how to increase border protection with more patrols, a big 3000 mile fence, guest worker programs, better working conditions for migrant labor and their families, and the list goes on. A significant Report was written and recommendations were made. It all sits on a shelf somewhere in the Library of Congress.

Back then, we covered almost all the same ground we are now hearing about yet again. Except this time, there are two major differences that overwhelm the debate -- the Global War on Terror, and the increased population of Hispanic people.

For the jingo-xenophobes, in a perfect world, with a perfect border, no one would be allowed in. Some of their colleagues who know that couldn't possibly sell, we would import as many of "those people" as we need to do the "jobs Americans won't do," but we would maintain strict control of them, and send them back occasionally so they don't get used to living here. In this age of the Global War on Terror, the jingo-xenophobe ideal is a perfectly controlled border to protect our white Christian population. Of course, other than the most viscious hatemongers like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson, most of them would never admit to any such convictions.

One of the great ironies is that these same self-avowed fighters in the Global War on Terror don't seem as concerned about the porous border to the North, nor the fact that almost all the cargo coming into the United States is not secure. But when it comes to protecting us from our brown brothers to the south, we need to spend billions and send thousands of American troops to help protect us. Can anyone imagine a more overt racialist (if not actually racist) act?

I heard the Mayor of Calexico, California speak on NPR this morning about the great relationship he and the people of Mexicali, Mexico have -- sister cities, right across the border from each other. They work together on immigration problems, migrant worker problems, family reunification problems, economic development, and even drug trafficking. The Mayor of Calexico says that the arrival of American soldiers will have a serious negative impact on that relationship. What can the Mexicans possibly believe about such a development? How could Mexicans not believe that Americans view them as a threat equal to any terrorist threat America might fear?

It's one thing to have a border patrol, it's quite another to be stationing American soldiers on our border. What makes it all the more reprehensible is that it is being done to assuage the right-wing base of the Republican Party, create a new fear in the minds of the American people, and construct a new threat that Bush can be perceived as "dealing with" with all his "hard work." This dog-and-pony show Presidency continues unabated. Without ever once confronting the realities of his failed Global War on Terror and his Iraq debacle, he pushes on relentlessly, headlong in his pursuit of more enemies and more phony battles.


rc/vt said...

Good story, Stephen. I'm always up for hearing more about your D.C. experiences.

Last night on one of the news shows an older woman patrolling the southern border (free-lance law & order of the finest kind) spat out "This is my country and I don't want anyone invading it," or words to that effect.

The level or ignorance, blindness, and stupidity broadasted by this woman (in collusion with the networks, ever on the lookout for something to stoke ratings) may be insurmountable.

What does she imagine was here when her ancestors arrived a generation or two ago? A blank country waiting for Europeans to harvest? Or a multitude of indigenous peoples who might have had some other ideas about how to live, and who had thirty thousand years of residence here stored in their souls?

thepoetryman said...

Hell! Most people do not even consider the true threat, Bush, and simply deny the existence of a right-christian takeover of this country as the greatest threat to democracy ever confronted. If they'd douse their prejudices in the dank liquid of truth they'd see this...but as in Hitler's rise, they just do not see it coming!

Dicky Neely said...

Good post! You know where I live and as I have mentioned before I have spent most of my working career in South Texas or Southern California.
I have a lot of experience working with illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico but other places as well.
I agree that racism and fear is driving this debate and it is totally irrational.
After the 50's, 60's and 70's and Viet Nam, JFK, RFK. MLK, Watergate, Iran-Contra I never thought we would be where we are at this point in time!

J.D. Ryan said...

Shameless plug here, Steve, but I know you won't mind. I took on the immigration subject today too, at Five Before Chaos.... have a look at this

Sick of all this rain yet?

Kvatch said...

Stephen...excellent post. I had not considered that the use of soldiers on the border is a tactic to increase the level of fear in the minds of the electorate--as you put it another way for Bush to deal with an immament threat.

Dicky Neely said...

Hell, I think we should send Bill O'Reilly into the driest part of the Rio Grande Valley and let him guard the border!