Wednesday, March 16, 2005


  • On the border between California and Mexico crosses memorialize those who died crossing the border.
  • While going back and forth to the hotel and the show, I rode on a shuttle with a guy who initially seemed very nice, middle aged fellow. We talked about business and the show and baseball (about which I know little). At some point the bus driver spoke to another passenger, but in Spanish.

    My acquaintance scowled fiercely and launched into a bitter, vitriolic tirade. It seems those filthy, disease ridden illegal immigrants from Mexico were ruining Atlanta. They were taking jobs from blue collar white folk, causing crime and drugs and gangs; apparently before the Latinos came, these things were unheard of in central Georgia. The schools, he told me, his voice rising in indignation; the schools were not even trying to teach English anymore!

    At that point I interrupted. The schools are not teaching English anymore? At all?

    Well, they are teaching English, he conceded with great reluctance. But they had dumbed it down so that the children of illegal immigrants could pass these classes. The hospitals though - what those hispanic horrors were doing to the hospitals was an outrage. My mind filled with visions of illegal immigrants pillaging hospitals, putting nurses to the sword, placing hospital administrators in chains (not a bad idea actually). I asked: what are they doing to the hospitals?

    His face reddened as he painted a grim picture of the heathcare system in Atlanta under siege by Spanish speaking swarms of Mexicans, Central Americans and even South Americans, all illegal, all draining white tax dollars in a bid for free medical care. He concluded with a harrowing tale of pregnant aliens lurking in the parking lots, waiting till the climax of labor to sprint into the emergency room and have their progeny delivered at the expense of good, white, Christian Americans. Worst of all, those babies were then American citizens!

    The horror.

    I knew better than to argue with him. People who are that poisoned with bigotry and hatred cannot be gently persuaded away from it in the course of a shuttle ride to the hotel. In addition I was stunned by the venom in his voice and saddened, he had seemed like a very nice man initially. We rode in silence for a few blocks.

    The bus passed a landscaping crew at work and I commented that what with travel and all, I could not maintain our yard and had given in and hired a guy to maintain it (the truth is we hired a friend who had started a lawn care business, partly to help him get started, largely because I did not want to mow our lawn in August). He agreed, sales and travel made it difficult to maintain the lawn and admitted he had hired a landscaping company as well.

    I could not resist. I know I should not have, but I did anyway.

    I pointedly remarked that my wife and I had hired a white, born-again Christian to do our lawn (all true, Pete is a white, born-again Christian. I don't hold it against him). I added that we had done this to support our beliefs and that I assumed he had made sure that all of the workers for his landscape company were legal before he hired them.

    Dead silence as I stared at him. I shook my head sadly and turned away from him, I could see his face reddening.

    What I did was not constructive. It did nothing to lessen his hate, in fact it may have confirmed to him that he was not alone and that his views were acceptable, so what I did was clearly wrong.

    My grandparents were Hungarian immigrants and German immigrants into New York city shortly after the turn of the previous century. They worked as maids and handymen, waitresses and soldiers. One died on Omaha Beach. He was a German American killed by German soldiers. They came here searching for a better life, not so much for them as for their children. My mother and father were raised in the Bronx in poverty. Both of my parents have PhD's (mom in psychology, dad in chemistry). My grandparents did not die wealthy, but they died as comfortable members of the middle class.

    That's the American dream right there.

    And that is all our fellow humans who cross the border are seeking. It is not unusual to fear immigrants, my grandparents were lucky to be able to enter the country, at the time we were turning people away for any reason. People still view America as the land of opportunity. The streets aren't paved with gold, they know that. The streets are paved with hope - for a better life for yourself and your children.

    For those folks who see Latinos as people who are taking away from America and not contributing, I would direct your attention to Faces of the Fallen. Amongst those who have died for their country in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy to find Latinos. In fact, I would bet that you can't find a page of those lost that does not have a Latino on it. Some of those KIA were not even American citizens.

    So, the next time I meet someone like that guy, I'm going to tell him about immigrants who are willing to die for their new nation. Immigrants who want their children to become doctors and lawyers. Immigrants who will do the jobs that fat white people won't. They are part of the backbone and fabric of this nation and they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated as such.