07 November 2007

Opening Cans Of Worms

From comedy, we now go to the deadly serious, with this essay taken from something that I both did and happened to me this evening.

Got an e-mail from a friend of mine about immigration that I didn't care for, and it'd been one of several that I'd received over the weeks and months past from this friend and two others, that had either anti-illegal immigrant or anti-Muslim postings in them.

Well, to-night, rather than just deleting the message and not responding to it at all, as has been my usual practise these many years past, I responded, politely, or at least so I thought at the time, asking them not to send me any more messages of that sort, as I don't care for them, and giving a very small idea of why I don't care for such messages.

Also sent a copy of my response to my therapist, for her to peruse and see what I may have done right and wrong in addressing my friends.

All that said, received a phone call from one of the friends I sent my response to this evening, and it was not an easy phone conversation to have.

However, as much as I disagree with my friend on the immigration issue, I have to say that, however inelegantly he put some of his points at times, he had some good ones to make, particularly about economic competition with illegal immigrants and being essentially priced down, if not completely out of the labour market he's in(construction), and the effects that immigration has had on school districts, health care facilities and the like, and, as much as I'd perhaps like to pooh-pooh some of them, the observations I can't disagree with, even if I do strongly disagree with some of his premises and conclusions on the causes.

By the way, don't let the manner in which am putting this deceive you. There were often times that we talked over, quite literally, and across each other. This wasn't some sort of Oxford-Cambridge-Harvard-Yale-style debate, done over glasses of sherry and with cigars, while seated in easy chairs.

It also wasn't, Thank God, a complete telephonic knock-down, drag-out brawl, either.

If so, there would undoubtedly be, if I even felt like writing this, a much angrier, darker tone to this essay than there is.

It's not that everything worked out to be hunky-dory. The conversation ended when my friend's wife, who is an even older and dearer friend of mine than the fellow mentioned here, said that she would call me to-morrow morning, because my friend was rather too upset to continue it, and I agreed.

I don't know when and if that call will come, and what will come of the whole matter within the next few days, weeks, months or years.

Only time will tell. Am hoping it will work out well for all of us, but can't and won't say that for now.

Have yet to hear from the other two friends, as well as my therapist, and their reactions to the whole matter.

Mind you, I don't like making trouble, as a general rule, and risking losing friends over issues that, in the long run, may turn out to be just so much small beer.

But, I also don't like seeing, reading or hearing something and not at least making some small, polite murmurs of dissent, either.

Have opened up a can of worms here, Folks, and yes, I just hadda open my big mouth, now, didn't I???

Well, maybe not.

But, I can't always keep it shut either, not and feel like, on some nano-level someplace, am betraying the values for which I say I stand.

However this works out, there is one lesson that am least aware of enough to take away from this, and this goes with a notion that have been formulating for the past several days now, which is that much of the American Left, as it currently stands, is very painfully divorced from the realities that many working-class and poor Americans live, each and every day, on a wide variety of issues.

Illegal immigration is one of those issues, I think.

Yeah, racism, fear of change, whether cultural, social, economic or biological, and the whole sorry history of US-Latin American, especially with our closest Latin American neighbours, are at the back of a lot of this nastiness, as well as a certain feeling of entitlement on the parts of many Americans, especially European-Americans.

"Thank God, We're White" has long been a sentiment and saying among many working-class and poor European-Americans, who otherwise are struggling just as hard as their African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Pacific Islander and Native American neighbours, and has been used as a kind of crutch to deal with very real fears about their own economic, social and political presents and futures.

My friend has, I think, some pretty legitimate fears about his and his family's health care, educational and other needs, especially his son's, and those can't simply be dismissed as know-nothing concerns.

Those are as real as anyone else's concerns, regardless of race, class or other origins, for themselves and their families, whether citizens, legal immigrants or illegal immigrants, and can't just be dismissed out of hand the way that some on the Left, including Yours Truly in the past, have done so.

This is where the Left has really fallen down on the job, I think, because, ultimately, immigration, like a ton of other issues I could name, but won't, because it'd take me too damned long to it, is connected to race, class, other historical issues, and, the most important one of all, who gets and who don't in this country, and the world.

There are a lot of people out there, like my friend, as well as various family members and other friends of mine, who've expressed similar ideas and sentiments to me in the past, and with whom I've fought about this, because I thought they were expressing a particular form of bigotry.

Well, turns out that was only half-right.

There was bigotry, but also, however unscientifically-done and emotionally-based(as are the vast majority of observations), there were some real observations from a worm's-eye view of some of the social conditions currently present in the US.

Does this mean I'm gonna go support Lou Dobbs, the Millionaire Populist, who's got rich off of yammering on about illegal immigration and advocating a nasty form of middle-class populism that daemonises both the rich and the poor alike???

Hell, no, for the reasons I've about him I've given above, and will say no more about that clown.

Does this mean am gonna go join the Minutemen????


I'd sooner join the fuckin' Klan as join them, and that ain't gonna happen anytime soon, baby.

What it means, to me at least, is that so-called ordinary folks from the various sides of the immigration debate seriously need to get away from our so-called leaders and opinion-makers, and talk, debate, argue and work our respective ways through all the propaganda and out-right lies that we've been fed, and, in turn, have fed to other folks along the way, about this and a whole bunch of other issues.

This doesn't mean that we're all gonna end up holding hands, singing whatever hymns of unity, peace and brotherhood, as we march together, hand in hand, into the Promised Land(With all due apologies to the late Rev. King on this score).

There is a lot of history, and all the bad, and other kinds of, blood that goes along with it, lotsa differing premises, ideas and conclusions from as many folks as there are sides to this issue, and some of them aren't ever gonna be reconcilable, no matter how hard one tries to make them so.

These facts, I think, should be noted and taken as givens before such a dialogue even starts up.

That said, I think there's also quite a bit of room here for both agreement and disagreement on at least a few of the various issues dealing with immigration on which most folks, even if in just the smallest ways, could agree enough with each other to take effective action on.

One of them is that, for whatever reasons, the current immigration system in the US is busted, plain and simple.

Two is that, for far too God-Damned long, many shit-bird employers have been able to skirt 'round labour and other laws designed to protect workers from various forms of employer-inflicted abuse, and justify their actions by saying that they can't afford to get the job done any other way, unless they hire illegal immigrant labour.

Number Three would be that, whether due to illegal immigrant labour use by American employers, or the various forms of out-sourcing by American businesses to overseas markets, where labour's far cheaper than here, the positions of many middle-class, working-class and poor Americans have been badly under-cut by the American business classes and their policies, especially within the past twenty-ix years or so, or there are no signs of the situation improving anytime soon, no matter which of the two parties, or even some of the third parties, win the 2008 general elections.

The fourth, final, and most controversial point of all is that there needs to be a fundamental change in the way in which wealth is produced and distributed, not only in this country, but world-wide, so folks don't have to leave home to find satisfying work, or just plain old unsatisfying work, period, to themselves and their loved ones from starving to death.

This, to my mind, means some form of socialism, in whatever manner or form you want to call it or apply it.

Capitalism's great at generating wealth, don't get me wrong.

But, it's dead shitty on distributing it evenly throughout a society, period.

For those who are fortunate enough to benefit from capitalism as an economic and social system, it works great.

Then, there are the rest of us folks, for whom it works only intermittently well, marginally well, or not at fuckin' all, take your pick, your name here, thank you very much.

It's the nine-tenths of folks, to whom I belong, with whom I'm concerned.

The rich have always taken care of themselves, and always will take care of themselves, come what may.

Gotta hand it to 'em in that regard. They've generally done just fine at doing that over millennia, centuries, decades and years, and I see no sign of them, again, generally speaking, losing their touch in that area.

That's why I ain't concerned with what the rich think or how they will fare.

But, I would have to also say that, whatever form of socialism, or at least substantial economic, political and social reforms that come about in the US, or in other parts of the world, that aren't socialist, but are at least steps in the direction of greater equality and prosperity(That's right, PROSPERITY. No sense in being equal if the only equality there is is of starving to death)for the bulk of humanity, is gonna have to be suited to the individual region's history, geography, resources, resource use and culture.

No more assuming that just because something works well in, say, Sweden, that it will work equally well in the US, France, Mexico, Singapore, Poland, or Uganda.

One size fits all may work great in the garment industry, but it sure as shittin' don't work worth a tinker's damn in politics, economics, or in making a society that works for the benefit of all of its people.

Well, here I've gone and done it again. Opened up another can of worms, haven't I???

You bet I have.

This time, am not sorry I have, as there really needs to be some kind of active debate going on in this country that isn't just driven by politicos, pundits, think-tank intellectuals, academics and the like.

They have their places, don't get me wrong, but they don't generally have to feel the impacts of their policy debates, policies and policy implementations on the ground level.

You, I, and a lotta other people whom neither of us will ever even meet, much less get to know, will and do, every single day.

Be seeing you.

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