Wealthy, pampered, educated in Ivy League schools, largely impervious to life’s practical setbacks—members of the ruling class in both parties need the South as their scapegoat, and amnesty is the ritual intended to kill her.
In memory of my great-grandfather, who died on Christmas Eve during a snowstorm when his Model T was struck by a train. This was in rural South Carolina about a century ago. He was carrying food to several poor black families.
Last week I attempted to address some of the loathing and loathsome comments (as cited by Pat Buchanan) that Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson recently directed at Southerners. “If the federal government,” fumed Meyerson in conclusion, “wants to build a fence that keeps the United States safe from the danger of lower wages and poverty and their attendant ills—and the all-round fruitcakery of the right-wing white South—it should build that fence from Norfolk to Dallas. There is nothing wrong with a fence as long as you put it in the right place.” Added Pat, “Harold looks forward to the day that a surging Latino population forces ‘epochal political change’ on a detestable white South.” Mr. Meyerson’s screed contains something more substantial, I’m convinced, than a facetious wish that Mexican immigrants would inundate the South and alter its complexion, figuratively and literally, forever. I should like to tackle that unwittingly profound stratum of his editorial hate-fest now.
First of all, a few observations based on current events and the recent experiences of a North Texas resident: you may decide for yourself if any of these smacks of racism.
Grocery prices are skyrocketing here. When visiting my wife’s relatives in Georgia, I used to notice that a gallon of milk went for five bucks there and a loaf of fresh bread for four; our prices here were about two-thirds of semi-rural Georgia’s on most items. This summer I found that the situation has reversed: Georgia prices are undercutting ours. Why? Could it be because illegals have largely abandoned peach-tree country due to stricter state laws yet continue to flood into Texas? But how can a tsunami of poor people run prices up—wouldn’t prices have to drop so that these destitute wretches can afford to eat (as my son would reason)? Of course, markets don’t work that way. Grocery stores exist to make money, not to distribute goods evenly and as needed. The inescapable explanation in this case is that, while some illegals live in dire poverty, many do very well. A “yard man” in these parts can find grass to mow or leaves to blow year ’round, and he could easily rake in fifty thou annually—in cash, tax-free, if he doesn’t have his papers. (That’s far more than I bring home, by the way.) Enough of these people are in our community that I’ve had to start growing some of my own vegetables in the back yard. I can’t afford to live around “illegally resident citizens”.
Oh, but the Gang of Eight will make taxpayers out of all the shadowy cash-rich drifters in our midst! This brings me to another observation. If illegals currently find such abundant work among us because American laborers want too much money for the same job, how will the “shadow-workers” find employ once they must receive minimum wage plus benefits? Won’t the same businesses that brought them north in the first place then bring their illegal cousins north for the same reason? What I beg to observe, naturally, is that the spate of illegal immigration will indeed continue—that legalizing current blue-collar labor will do absolutely nothing to stem the illegal influx.
I have heard it said repeatedly—and most lately by none other than Glenn Beck—that farmers simply can’t stay in business if they pay the going rate to American workers for picking their fruit. My observation on this score is that I see farmers’ markets doing quite well in many a town, and individual peddlers along rural highways making out very nicely. These are people who pick their own produce, or at least keep it in the family. Maybe the farmers of whom Mr. Beck speaks need to downsize: maybe they need to leave farming to those who actually live on the land and wear overalls instead of designer slacks for the golf course. Personally, I should be very happy to see agribusiness magnates driven into some other line of work and their lavish government subsidies permanently interrupted. Or maybe our government should allow twelve-year-old kids to pick apples for six bucks an hour instead of playing video games all summer.
I’m sure there must be creative ways, at the other end of all this migrancy, to make the deserts of northwestern Mexico more arable. After all, Veracruz goes under water just about every year. A system of ducts and pumps would require an immense initial outlay, but the expenses would mostly be one-time and would soon be negated by profits. Yet no one ever talks about this or any other solution on the Mexican side of the border. Ever. Have you noticed that?
Most illegals would be happier in Mexico. They’re here for the money and the freebies—they don’t intend to give up their language or change their habits. Last week, my wife and I both noticed how empty our little city seemed. Our Mexican immigrant population, legal and otherwise, had exploited the mid-week holiday for our “nation’s birthday” to take a few additional days off and visit family down south. The irony was delicious, if your taste runs in that direction.
Not accidentally, I also had a bit of trouble breathing last week. The air quality was less than healthy. It often is when temperatures heat up down here: car exhaust plus heat creates ozone alerts. The immigration problem has caused horrendous increases in traffic throughout much of Texas. Legalizing these millions, by the way, will do little to fix the problem—will, indeed, likely make it worse. Blue-collar workers typically drive older cars that pollute more, and they also must drive greater distances than average to jobs that often shift from one site to another. At least legalized citizens would have to get their vehicles inspected and buy functional mufflers; but then, as I noted above, legalization will simply renew the incentive for employers to sneak in more illegals—so then we would have both the pollution burden of new millions of citizens and the additional pollution of new illegals. It is impossible to understand how any normally intelligent person could honestly claim to be concerned about global warming, yet also desire to magnify the toxicity of our own nation’s air in this manner.
And when it comes to air pollution, let us not forget wildfires. Border-jumpers are a leading cause of them. Sometimes the blaze is touched off innocently: after all, these are very dry regions that the intruders are hiking through. Sometimes, too, the criminal element among them will deliberately start fires to mask their activities or to give officials more pressing concerns. Almost two dozen dedicated firefighters lost their lives a couple of weeks ago: no word yet on whether illegals were the conflagration’s cause… and there won’t be. There never is in the nightly news, especially if the word turns out to be “yes”.
Let me summarize. Illegal immigration is taking food off the tables of legal Americans, siphoning money out of our economy, making fat-cat mega-businesses wealthier than ever, destroying our air quality, damaging our natural environment, assisting corrupt Mexican officials in evading their own responsibilities… don’t these all sound like outcomes that any friend of the little guy and of the planet, any anti-Wall Street populist—any progressive—could applaud with gusto? No? They don’t strike me that way, either. In fact, a progressive would have to be miserably uninformed, abysmally stupid, or dangerously insane to be holding his ideological umbrella over such policies. So why do progressives do exactly that?
Mr. Meyerson’s comments have been a revelation for me in this regard. I would never have guessed it on my own… but now it all makes perfect sense. The idea isn’t to help poor people or save the environment or halt the exploitation of the vulnerable by the privileged: it’s to punish Southerners. The Invasion of 1861 left some of us alive: “immigration reform” is an opportunity to correct that error.
My comments are not entirely tongue-in-cheek. I went through several years of graduate school in the company of “Yankees” who had relocated to Austin, Texas—which they transformed into the Berkeley of the South. Of course, their contempt of the native Texans whose taxes were funding much of their education had no bottom… but neither did they waste much sarcastic ammunition on these barreled redneck fish. In the crosshairs far more often was the bourgeoisie, wherever one might find it; for my classmates were outcasts even back in Boston and Chicago and Newark. What they really hated were people who a) had both feet firmly in reality, and b) possessed a consequent knowledge of basic survival skills that couldn’t be doubted. The Latin construction worker and the black bus-driver didn’t bother them because these types, grateful for naïve liberalism’s promotion of union perks and the welfare state, wouldn’t rub grease in their faces or warn them that the tread on their tires looked risky. Minorities were essentially voiceless, never entering their world except as sympathetic stage props.
The middle class, however… that was Mom and Dad—especially Dad. “What are you doing with all that money I give you? When are you going to get a real job?” How they hated Dad, my graduate classmates! In their dreams, they were Charles Manson, and Dad and his business partners were the partiers at the Tate estate.
The North’s scorn of the South dates back to colonial days, of course. Yet I am convinced that it has metastasized politically within my lifetime, just as race relations have deteriorated in the past twenty years—and for some of the same reasons. Wealthy, pampered white punks who go to Ivy League colleges (and grad schools in Berkeley and Austin) could not keep hating the entrepreneurial middle class over these years, because it was rapidly vanishing. Jobs were shifting into the public sector and into the corporatist private sector (i.e., into the shady realm of big government’s plutocrat cronies and handlers). The pampered punk’s first exigency of life is that he must know everything worth knowing about it. He must be the oracle, the prophet, the visionary, the Mahdi, the Leader, the Dali Lama. Guys who laugh at him because he can’t check his oil really get under his skin; Dad’s sending his weekly check with a lecture about not blowing it on concerts also chaps him mightily. Yet with no petit bourgeoisie any longer and often no Dad (or two or three dads, which amounts to the same thing), who remains to tell the New Punk, “Uh, kid… you need two batteries in that flashlight”?
Go back to my ramble’s first half. Does the Ivy League Punk (ILP) know the cost of milk and bread? He’s never even been grocery-shopping—Consuelo always did that for Mom. Has he ever dirtied his fingers in a garden? Not unless you count the garage full of weed maintained by some dude that his high school chum knew. Did the ILP ever want a summer job as an adolescent? You must be kidding. Has he ever made out a tax return? You really are kidding, aren’t you? Does he know that Mexican immigrants mob the public park every Sunday afternoon to play soccer? Er… is that one of those places with trees down past the Convention Center? Has he ever set foot in the desert Southwest? No, but he did have a window seat one time on a vacation to the Baja to catch swordfish.
The last prominently surviving crystallization of all the rugged experience and common sense that the ILP doesn’t have, and will probably never have, is the Southerner. He cannot completely ignore his own lack of such necessities. Therefore, he concentrates them in the Southerner and proceeds to belittle them in the Southerner. You say we can’t spend more money than we take in? Yeah, right—so let’s be like those church-going Southerners who toss money in the plate but let their black neighbors go barefoot across the tracks. You say that we need our own guns to protect our children from home-invaders while the cops are on the way? Yeah, right… and we won’t have to worry about vigilantism like what happened in all those Southern lynchings. You accuse us of leading lives of privilege on a distant planet from poor folks and minorities? Well, for your information, we slept with chicks of all colors in grad school—but Southern states had laws against miscegeny until… yesterday. You think we addle ourselves with recreational drugs? Well, weed and ecstasy aren’t as bad as moonshine, and Southerners live on that stuff—you can check it out on the History Channel. You think we’re not concerned about the environment just because we climb on jetliners once a week for business or pleasure? Let me tell you, we also buy Priuses, while all those stupid Southerners are driving around their grandaddy’s Ford truck and burning old tires to barbecue their ribs. You think we treat our women and children like crap with all our alternative-lifestyle philandering and experimentation? Well, a woman enjoys a spousal swap once in a while, too—a lot more than she likes being slapped around the kitchen when Cletis comes home soused from his KKK meeting. You say that Occupy Wall Street has more than a mild whiff of anti-Semitism? Hah! Did you see those Southerners on the Internet blowing holes in the Koran with their shotguns? Didn’t you hear about the Southern preacher who was going to burn the Koran in a service?
The Yankee, or the ILP, or the progressive, is able to concentrate in the person of the Southerner all that worldly wisdom whose lack he cannot deny and all those native human foibles whose presence even in himself he cannot ignore… and then he kills them, ritually. The lacking knowledge goes away. The sordid brutality tumbles upon the sacrificial head. The Southerner is the Yankee’s scapegoat.
If you go back and read Mr. Meyerson’s exquisite witticism about building a fence from Norfolk to Dallas, it turns out to be incoherent on the literal level; for a fence to keep out Third World standards and practices is precisely what most people in Norfolk and Dallas want along our border, yet Meyerson implies that this state of affairs already exists in the South and that he wishes to keep it there. If he is allowed such a wish, then why are not we? On the other hand, Meyerson’s quip parses perfectly as an invocation of the oldest of human rituals. Kill them. I hate them. They remind me that I don’t know what I think I do, that I am less good than I suppose myself to be. They stand in the way of my dreams—the haters! I hate them!
Yes, at a profound level, I sincerely believe that amnesty is all about killing the Southern scapegoat. In the literal sense of “amnesia”, it’s about forgetting what you don’t want to remember. And a not inconsiderable number of Republican Congressmen are crowding in among the Democrats to place their sins, too, upon the victim’s sagging head. “Let him die—let me stay asleep and live in my dreams. Pass the Dream Act and kill the South.”