Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tomb of the Undecided Voter.

This posting has been languishing, half finished, in my Drafts folder for quite a while now. I'm not particularly happy with it. It repeats information I have written about before and when I look for ways to expand on my previous exposition I find it difficult to find topics with clear stopping points. But, since it looks like the immigration bill may be decided, one way or the other, in the near future I am faced with the options of deleting the draft, expanding it into a grotesquely long and terrifyingly tedious essay that nobody would ever read, or just posting it as is. I have chosen the third option.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened but at some point in the last year or two the last undecided mind in the US was irrevocably made up on the subject of immigration policy. There is simply no point talking about the subject any more. People have chosen their sides and no one is listening. But this doesn't stop the pundits. Despite the impossibility of convincing anyone of anything-- or perhaps because of the impossibility -- the rhetoric has become increasingly shrill. The spokesmen for both sides have long since passed into ultrasound and their arguments are now audible only to dogs. It's sad, actually, because many of the people whose opinions I most respect are on the other side.

It would be interesting to do a meta-analysis of the polling on the issue to try to locate the individual who was the last person in the US to form an unassailable opinion. We could then feature him (or her) in a museum exhibit as a sort of historical relic -- a historical oddity like the last-decommissioned manual phone switch or the last horse-drawn milk-delivery wagon outside of Amish country.

I don't know who that individual might be but I am not a candidate. I seem to have chosen a side years ago. I remember the moment, although I had no idea at the time that I was choosing sides in a decades-long debate. I was waiting to be picked up at a train station and watching the day-laborers at a pick-up shelter across the street. One by one trucks would pull up and, after a brief discussion, three or four Hispanic-looking (probably mostly Mexican) men would climb in and the truck would drive off to make room for the next one. The only native-born, obviously all-American man at the shelter was the drunk who would stumble out to the truck and noisily announce his unwillingness to work for "No sevunnn dollursss an houuurrr."

Musing on the contrast between the big mess that was Mexico and the men quietly waiting for a day of hard work in the hot sun it occurred to me that the Rio Grande was exactly wide enough and deep enough and cold enough. The effort required to sneak across the border was just enough to deter the Mexican counterpart of my American drunk; our wetbacks were the best, the hardest working and the most-motivated low-skilled labor available south of the border. The Mexican bums didn't bother.

I have since decided that the Rio Grande may no longer be quite wide or deep enough. The economic problems in Mexico in the late 1990s increased the pressure on the border and the it proved too porous to control the new, more forceful flow. As a result, we have more wetbacks now than we really need and the quality is starting to drop. We need to make an adjustment. We need to make the Rio Grande a bit wider, deeper and colder. That is to say, I want to build the fence. I want stepped up enforcement. I want a vigorous effort to catch and deport newly-arrived border-crossers.

You might think, what with my supporting increased border and security and enforcement, that I had switched sides. But you'd be wrong there. I can't lose the image of the hard-working illegals waiting quietly in line to be put to work and it turns out that the Enforcement First Club has very stringent rules on who can join; I am just not angry enough about illegal immigration to get in.

Before I realized that first impressions are destiny on immigration I would listen to the arguments of conservative pundits who took the opposite position on immigration but with whom I generally agree on other topics. My thought was that, since I find myself somewhat in the middle, their arguments might offer useful areas of agreement. But noooo. There is very little discussion of the merits of the issues, and what little discussion did occur was punctuated by constant appeals to that anger which I just can't manage.

Many of the talk radio types limit their argumentation to childish manipulation of words, convinced that if they can just get their opponents to say the word "amnesty" they will disappear back into the fifth dimension like Mr. Mxyzptlk in Superman Comics when he is tricked into saying his name backwards. So, for those of you who are big Sean Hannity fans, here you go: I don't think it is possible or desirable to round up fifteen million poor, mostly-hard-working illegal immigrants, who are trying to make a buck to support their families, and send them back to Mexico. Apparently, that means I support an ...
Yeah, fine... Whatever...

No comments: