Papers Please

Well, fellow San Diegans,  Memorial Day 2010 has come and gone and with it has begun the event that defines a California endless summer like no other: the Annual Invasion of the Zonies.

They’re Heeeeere……

You San Diegans know the drill.  Sometime around Easter all those Zonies who moved from Duluth to Phoenix in January saying, “My how wonderfully temperate it is here during the winter!” begin to remember that, come summer, the surface temperature of Arizona approximates that of Venus.  (I swear I’ve seen a Saab melt into a puddle of Swedish goo on a Scottsdale street in August.) So the migrant retired workers spend the next two months lubing and tuning their Winnebagos  and lining up on the  border at Yuma.  Then, on Memorial Day,  the Governor of Arizona a fires a gun (of course with all of Arizona’s open carry laws there’s no real need to wait until Memorial Day but tradition is tradition) and the invasion  of the Zonies begins.

And pacific life  as we Southern Californians know it ends until Labor Day.  Some years Thanksgiving.

There they are, the Zonies, parking their RVs down at Mission Bay across the heads-in  spaces,  taking up twenty spots each , setting up awnings and habachis and laying claim for the summer because they’re retired anyway.  As a result the closest any San Diegan will get to park to Mission Bay is La Mesa.

There they are, the Zonies, driving four vintage RVs side by side down the I-15 at precisely fifty-two miles per hour, causing twenty-mile traffic jams.  I think Zonieland has a contest every year to see which Zonie can cause the biggest backup on a San Diego freeway.  The winner gets free cortisone shots for a year.  That’s why Zonie RVs have those cameras on the back: to count the number of cars stacked up behind them.  And have you ever passed a Zonie RV?  It’s terrifying. All you ever see is a tuft of white hair atop a captain’s chair and two, liver-spotted hands on the steering wheel.

There they are, the Zonies,  hogging the Zoo and SeaWorld,  taking four hours to figure out how to take a picture of the Pandas with that new digital camera the grandkids gave them while little San Diegan children are left in line to cry.  There they are, the Zonies, taking up all the prime three to five PM dinner reservations in town, so our only choice for an afternoon tête-à-tête is Mickey D’s.

Well I, for one, am tired of these aliens in sneakers and oversized sunhats invading my homeland.  They have diseases, you know, those Zonies do, all full of catchy stuff like rheumatism, cataracts and incontinence.  They cause a ton of crime, too.    I have it on good authority that, every summer there’s a spike in shoplifting of stuff like Depends and Prep H at the Walgreens.  And they’re shiftless and lazy.  You never see a  Zonie work; they just get fat off  fat government social welfare checks.

Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve had it.  Absolutely had it.  Zonies are the enemy amidst.  It is time to act.  I suggest we go over to that national guard armory by Mesa College—the place the guy borrowed the tank—and “borrow” a few rocket-powered grenade launchers.   Then, come next Memorial Day, we hide in the Yucca plants along the I-8 across the bridge from Yuma.  First three Zonie RVs come across the state line—Kaboom! We blow ‘em right off their chassis.  The other Zonies see the smoking hulks, they’ll turn around and go invade New Mexico and make life miserable for the folk in Taos.

Let the battle cry be raised across the land! Death to Zonies! Death to Zonies! Death to…..oh, right.  Never mind.

Darn you, 14th Amendment.  Turns out those Zonies have rights.  Rights as people, mind you, not rights citizens of the Great State of California or even as citizens these United States.  Zonies have rights to life, liberty and property just because they’re people.  (And, yes, under those WalMart crew shirts and WalMart underwear Zonies are people.  Shriveled, incredibly blanched people.)

So, my fellow San Diegans,  looks like there’ll be no RPGs for us next Memorial Day.  We’ll just have to suck it up and tolerate those nefarious Zonies as they come here and spend money on full admissions to local attractions (that’s ok; we’ll just get Fun Passes and go see the fish in October), and at restaurants and hotels (darn them and all those local summer jobs they create).  I know it’s Zonie money but, hey, money’s money.

But can’t we at least discourage the onslaught a little bit?  Hey, how about whenever a local member of law enforcement—or waiters and waitresses—stop someone in the normal course of their duties they ask “suspicious” looking people—AKA Zonies—for their papers?  You know, see if they have valid permits to be a Zonie outside of Zonieland.  And if they don’t?  Whammo.  They’re sent packing back to one hundred-thirty Fahrenheit quicker than you can say “Undocumented Old Person.”

Of course we don’t want to “profile” people.  We can’t stop them just because they look different than Us.  But there are subtle ways you can tell who those Zonies are.  I mean, just look at their shoes.  Look at the way they talk.  You find me a blue haired old person in a pair of sandals with socks speaking about whitefish in an upper-Minnesotan accent and, badda-bing, it’s “Papers, please” time.

And for those Zonies originally from Wisconsin: “Papiere bitte.”

After all, if you just make things hard enough on ‘em they’ll get the message and leave…..

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

content_berlin_wall

Nineteen Eighty-nine was a miserable year to start teaching political science.  I mean, between Tiananmen  Square, the Fall of the Wall and the revolutions that swept Eastern Europe  it was  almost impossible to stay on syllabus.  (And, yes,  we of the professoriate are such a myopically focused breed that staying on syllabus, come hell or high collapse of communism,  is our greatest goal in life.  Except, of course, that we almost never manage to accomplish that simple task….).  Most of my students these days were not even alive when the wall fell. When I first started teaching I asked myself “How do I explain a political world to students who weren’t around for Nixon?”.  Now they weren’t around for Reagan—or the Soviet Union and the Cold War.   Listening to all the celebrations and reminiscences of the Cold War and its end in the media the past week or two has come with a sense of nostalgia, therefore, for people of my generation.  Oddly enough, of all the history and factoids about the wall discussed on CNN and NPR one in particular–one particularly relevant,  I feel, for someone living in San Diego on the nation’s southern border—was the real, immediate human toll the wall claimed. 

Historians estimate between one hundred and two hundred people died ttrying to go over the Wall in its twenty-eight years, one hundred to two hundred people who gave their lives from a chance at freedom, at liberty and at a better life, plain and simple.  Over the last fifteen years, meanwhile, estimates of the number of people who have died attempting to cross over from Mexico into the United States  range from two thousand to six thousand.  That is a death rate ten times greater than the Berlin Wall’s—twenty times greater in a yearly average of mortality.

And what did those two to six thousand people die for? A chance for greater freedom, greater liberty and at a better life, plain and simple. 

In the scheme of human history the United States stands out as the one place  that thousands of people have died trying to get into.  That is the greatest distinction between this society and all the despotisms and tyrannies that have dominated so much of mankind for so long.  The day people stop dying to come here is the day American Exceptionalism dies as well. Which is something all of us should keep in mind whenever America’s attention drifts back from healthcare, war and recession to more prosaic matters of hundreds of people dying each year on our own border, our reverse Berlin Wall.

In my more neofascist moments I ask myself, if we really want to build a lean, mean American fighting machine that can take on the world, who do we want living here?  A bunch of whining faux patriots screaming  that since they were born here by random genetic luck they actually deserve the blessings of liberty more than anyone else who wasn’t born here, even if they themselves have done nothing of note nor paid no sacrifice of value to get those blessings?  People like most of those beer-bellied, baseball cap wearing faux Patriot Minutemen sitting on beaten up old lawn chairs beside beaten up old  RVs scanning the border for illegal aliens while chugging Coors.  (Side note: when I see people camping outside of nuclear power plants  in protests for weeks on edge or sitting by the border of binoculars, I’ve got to ask:  Don’t these clowns have jobs and responsibilities?”.  But I digress.)

Orrrrr,  if you want a strong, exceptional America would you rather have a citizenship composed of people who were willing to cross hundreds of miles of scalding desert or hundreds of miles of shark-infested waters on driftwood rafts, risking body and soul to do so? Forget “Send me your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.”  The real motto of this country for three centuries has been “Send me your risk takers, your courageous, your dreamers willing to lay it on the line for a better life.”

So how about this: let’s take everyone  in America when they turn eighteen and drop them ninety miles off Florida or smack dab in the middle of the California desert and, if they make it to shore or to LA alive , we meet them, shake their hands and say “Welcome to America,  Citizen.” Or at least the Minutemen.  (Now THAT would be a great reality show:  “Survivor: American Citizenship Edition.”)

 Or at least let us acknowledge that those two to six thousand people who’ve died on our southern borders are every bit as much a testament to and martyrs for the same concepts of hope and freedom as those brave souls who perished going over that hideous wall.

illegal-immigrants3

 

Wilsonian

What is it with San Diego politicians who build their early civic careers based on outreach and understanding to the regions large Hispanic community, including those who are, shall we say, legal-status challenged but then, when the bug of national attention bites them, become rabidly anti-illegal?

Why do they, at least if they are of the Republican persuasion, tend to get the Wilson flu?

That would be the Pete Wilson flu (scientific name: Influenza I-Love-Hispanics-Unless-There-Are-More-Votes-To-Be-Gained-From-White Xenophobes Wilsonious variant 1996). Back in the day, Wilson was “Mister community outreach personalized,” “Mister Mayor of America’s Finest Ethnically Diverse City” and later US Senator from California who received large backing from the state’s Hispanic community.” But then he got the Presidential flu bug and suffered delusions that immigrant bashing was his surest route to the 1996 GOP nomination.

OK, illegal immigrant bashing. But I’d bet my last dollar that the large majority of those who are the most fired up over “illegal immigration”—the kind who like to sit in lawn chairs tailgating by the border they watch with army surplus binoculars—would, if given a helpful dose of truth serum, admit they’d be really happy if all those foreigners from points south were shown the national emergency exit. Yes, Rick Roberts—and most of your listeners—I mean you.

Boy, that worked out well.

And then there’s Brian Bilbray, erstwhile congressman from the 50th Congressional, a district he’s spent less actual time living in than D.C. Back in the day, when he was a South Bay poll representing the most ethnically diverse area of greater San Diego as a member of the city council and later mayor of Imperial Beach and then on the County Board of Supervisors, Bilbray was a moderate bordering on progressive on most issues,, including illegal immigration. Same when he ran and won his race to represent the 49th Congressional. Then he got voted out of Congress largely over his Clinton impeachment vote. One successful carpetbagging run to succeed Randy “the Dukester” in the more conservative (and far whiter) 50th Congressional District and, viola, Mister Moderate is now one of the harshest anti-illegal immigrant voices to be heard.

Last April Bilbray co-sponsored former California Attorney General cum Congressman Dan “The Man Who Was So Inept He Lost to Gray Davis” Lungren’s bill to essentially strip 14th Amendment protections – including the birthright of citizenship—from the children of illegal immigrants born in the US. Lungren said he thought this legislative attempt to circumvent the constitution would pass constitutional muster because there are already exemptions to the 14th Amendment in regards to the children of foreign diplomats born on American shores. Except that exemption is there under standards of international law affection diplomacy and national sovereignty, not immigration status. Congress can’t trump the constitution without an amendment.

And this guy was the top law enforcer in California?

Today Bilbray cosponsored legislation to punish cities that adopt “sanctuary” status for illegal immigrants and, more importantly, elevates the violation of legal immigration to a felony offense. Nice one. If the proposed legislation has any meaning, I look forward to Congressman Bilbray next sponsoring legislation to appropriate monies to increase the size of out Border Patrol, INS and Federal Prisons by the 500% to 1000% that would be necessary to enforce such a law. Maybe we can start building big, concentrated holding facilities for these new felons out in the desert somewhere? How delightfully police state-ish!

But, of course, Bilbray is not serious with this bill, which has about as much change of moving through Congress as a resolution to put George W. Bush’s face on Mount Rushmore. And that’s not just because Democrats would block it. Conservative (read John Birch vintage) Republicans running in ultra-conservative Congressional Districts (in California, pretty much any district east of I-5…) don’t want to see any meaningful resolution of the immigration issue, either. It is such a red-meat, code-word issue to motivate white conservatives to the polls that no thinking GOP-right stalwart would want to take it off the table.

Bilbray’s proposed bill is elections are a’comin’ demagoguery, pure and simple. Like the flag protections amendment (to wit, amend the Constitution that protects free speech to prohibit the burning of a symbol of American values like free speech as an expression of said free speech), the Congressional term limits amendment and, probably, the “hey, ain’t mothers swell!” amendment that will be offered up in Congress between now and November, 2008.

Gee, I wonder if Brian ever hangs out in his old hood, anymore? If he does, I’m sure the folks around the South Bay can barely recognize him.

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