If our national bird represents the soar of freedom modified by the strict migratory patterns of the rule of law, then it's clear that we have a seriously ill eagle. Some graffiti artist seems to have painted a toupee of sanctimony on that formerly clear head. In fact the entire concept of something being illegal has become alien.
This is not to say that folks are being consistent in this iconoclasm. In fact, if a Democrat and a Republican played Word Association, here's how it would go right now. The moderator says "Iraq": the Repo yells "Freedom" and the Demo shouts "Illegal." Next word is "immigration": the Repo yells "Illegal" and the Demo shouts "Freedom." I may have been dyslexic enough to buy alcohol at 12, but now I'm really getting confused.
Chuckles aside, the immigration debate seems to have hardened into two fairly describable positions. The first is espoused by the President and others of both parties. It maintains that all those illegal immigrants are here to help us by doing the work "that American simply will not do." Their lack of proper paperwork is a technicality that it would be churlish of us to mention while munching on the yummy grapes that they so graciously picked.
The second view, held by most of the population and given eloquent expression by various talk show hosts and callers, argues that the first courtesy owed a host is the knock on the door. Unless the immigration laws are strikingly draconian, and absent a flight from genocide or tyrannical oppression, they should be obeyed, if only as a rite of passage. As to the claim that Americans will not do the same work, that's hardly a sufficient basis for introducing anarchy. Plus it's probably not really true; open the jobs to the law-abiding public and let's see if they really can't be filled.
The wild-card kibitzing on both sides comes from the political mavens. These are the guys who have no principles or interests other than winning the next election. They are the party of the booth, not the party of Lincoln. They cannot vault beyond the poll; no sight but the plebiscite. So they worry about how it plays in Peoria. Border voters want to stop having boarders, so they want enforcement, but Hispanic voters hiss against the panic, and they want flexibility. Around and around the blocs they go.
Standing by, watching the verbal ping-pong match, I can't help thinking of George Burns and his vaudeville story about monologist Jack Whitehead. Whitehead was drinking backstage with a dancer named Gascoyne, who passed out. When Burns came in, the doctor was already on the case. "How's he doing?" George asked Jack. "Terrible," he answered. "He can't even see the pink elephants in the room."
It seems to me that there is a big pink elephant in this room, one that political correctness has declared officially invisible. Let us stipulate that Americans will not do the work, and these immigrants will. Don't we have to ask ourselves a simple question? Can a nation afford to import a class of immigrants whose noteworthy qualification for employment is the fact that they are uneducated and unskilled?
Now, I am not suggesting that we should adopt what Ben Hecht famously, and rightly, derided as a "Tiffany's window approach to immigration," where we only invite the best and brightest to join our elitist club. But is it wise to do the exact opposite? To specifically seek out large numbers of unskilled laborers to protect our pampered working class from breaking a fingernail?
In past generations, we had populations of highly educated individuals who were forced to pay their dues in America by doing manual labor for some years until they could translate their scholarship into a more suitable role in society. We also had peoples with intellectual traditions, who for reasons of political oppression were relatively undereducated. It remained a good bet that they would catch up quickly over here, or if they were already too old, they would push their children into our universities.
But to go to countries like Mexico which are basically free societies, and essentially extend an invitation that is limited to their lowest class, seems like a very short-sighted approach. Surely no nation would be doing itself a favor by importing the lowest class of its neighbor.
I suppose that this is a terrible thing to say and I will be duly castigated for announcing the imperial deshabille. Something like the lady who jumped onto the stage and grabbed Dean Martin's drink. "Why, this is iced tea!" she exclaimed. Dino fired back: "Lady, you're drunker than I am!" Maybe I am drunk, but maybe the emperor has no clothes, and maybe, just maybe, that eagle really is bald.
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