America the Eclectic

I don’t really know anyone who eats raw eggs.

Nor do I know anyone who eats raw baking soda. The same rule seems to apply to sugar, flour, and vanilla extract. You don’t eat them raw (that’s nasty). But when you mix them together…that’s right, it’s a cake. And really, try telling me that you don’t like cake.

But imagine that there was a wall that separated each ingredient, never allowing them to interact—that halted the production of a mouthwatering delicacy. That wall exists. It’s on the border of Mexico and California. The wall (and the values it represents) isolates the ingredients. Someone’s trying to steal your cake.

The wall’s shadow on the desert’s desolate ridges catapults even the most hopeful of men into indefinite darkness. It’s the only thing standing between the land of penury and the land of promise. Its iron foundation is impenetrable. It’s like a moat surrounding an opulent palace. America is on the other side.

America has an eclectic personality. In fact, our taste is so heterogeneous that we’ve been called a salad bowl. We take and adapt. What could be more American than a hamburger, pizza, and good ole’ apple pie? Nothing. The hamburger, however, hails from Germany. Pizza calls Italy its home. And pie, that distinctly American delicacy? Ancient Egypt. Stop being naïve, America. That which is uniquely American is uniquely multicultural. Drop the holier-than-thou attitude. It’s time to realize that our food—as childish as it may seem—is analogous to ourselves.

John Kennedy said it and each of us knows it: we are a nation of immigrants. Unless you’re one of the 1.9 million Native Americans left in this country of 307 million, you’re an immigrant. I was born here, but my great-grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe. Our President’s father was an immigrant. Five hundred and thirty-four members of our Congress are not Native Americans. That means that the ratio of once-immigrants to Natives is 534:1. We all came here from somewhere.

Our country was originally built as a haven for immigrants. Don’t you get a bad taste in your mouth when you realize that we’ve forgotten our roots? That the very fruit of our founders’ loins are the people who now seek to stack bricks upon bricks, building the wall higher and higher? Isn’t it tragic that the level of sanctimony has become so overwhelming that the men and women who preach the quintessential story of migration have forgotten the taste of the salt of the sea? Isn’t it ironic that this country that was created by people seeking refuge from a repressive and impoverished land is now the first in line to push newcomers away?

We often forget that humanity is just as valid a common bond as any. Americans have paved so many different paths to success because of our polychrome composition. According to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank, one in every four doctors in America is born in another country, forty-two percent of medical scientists in America are foreign-born, and one in three software engineers. Immigrants contribute $1,800 more in taxes than they collect in benefits according to the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences. According to the Congressional Budget Office, “ tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the costs of the services they use”. Immigration has served as the backbone of this country; if there were no immigrants, there would be no United States of America.

Immigration needs to be easier. Becoming a citizen of this country ought to become an inviting and enticing process instead of a legislative turn-off. The notion that Americans are better than everyone else is bunk. Our “moral high ground” is often a plateau and we’re not more worthy of achieving success than anyone else. Our country’s original foundation was an experiment; something that had never been tried before. We are living proof of how an unsteady mixture of idiosyncrasies can build upon each other to form not an obtrusive wall, but an invitation to the rest of the world.

Raw ingredients serve a much more pragmatic purpose when they are combined. America is so successful because it is a motley crew. And so, to those who wish to bolt up the door to opportunity and hold up clenched fists rather than outstretched arms, I have but one thing left to say: let them eat cake.

A Shattered Cultural Taboo

Left-wing political commentator Juan Williams was fired from his post at National Public Radio Wednesday night for a remark he made which was perceived by many to be insolent and politically incorrect. During an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Monday, Williams, O’Reilly, and Mary Katherine Ham debated about the dubbed “The War against Islam.”

“Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said. “But when I get on a plane, I gotta tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

That last sentence, unmistakably, was what cost Williams his job. His remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices,” NPR wrote in a memo that explained the firing. From one point of view, several left-wingers expressed outrage at Williams. From another, conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin called for NPR’s funding to be cut as a result of Williams’ termination.

But were Williams’ remarks also inconsistent with American mainstream standards and practices? Did he cross a red line that few daring Americans cross? Did he set himself apart from the fray–admitting a type of innate racial skepticism and distrust that is unique to his own conscience? I think not.

Williams’ inborn action of profiling that is now being tossed around in a very public arena is the same action that happens in the minds and souls of Americans every day. This basic xenophobia doesn’t only take form in airports (for people of Arab descent), it also seeps through in legislative and cultural trends. The Arizona immigration law, while it has nothing to do with Islam or the Middle East, exemplifies a quintessential American concept: we are afraid of the unfamiliar.

Juan Williams got fired for violating a supposed cultural taboo. But the cultural taboo is only a facade. Racial profiling is like gossip–society claims to frown upon it, yet everyone does it.

Sure, America is still the “city on a hill,” and in many respects a beacon of light to the rest of the world. But this exclusionist notion of categorical American supremacy needs to end. We use racial and ethnic profiling as a subconscious exertion of our ultranationalism.

And if racial profiling is a passive action, there’s a coherent method of combatting it: a commanding awareness of our actions.


An uneasy mixture of a corporate ego and political corruption have finally caught up to Meg Whitman. In the past week, it has come out that the California gubernatorial candidate employed an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper for several years. Whitman and her husband, Griff Harsh, claim that they were completely oblivious of any sort of notion that their housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, was an illegal immigrant. They claim that the only found out about her immigration status in 2009, and promptly fired her.

Whitman and Harsh, however, received a letter from the Social Security Administration in 2003, which indicated that aspects of their housekeeper’s paperwork did not add up. The couple ignored the letter, for the most part, aside from running it past Diaz. Harsh wrote “Nicky, please check this” at the bottom of the letter and gave it to Diaz. For the next six years, the steadily employed her (at very low wages. Meg Whitman is a billionaire).

Am I against illegal immigration? Am I against employing illegal immigrants? Do I think that there are major flaws in the United States immigration system? Do I think that what Meg Whitman did was right? None of these questions are relevant.

Meg Whitman is running on a platform that is firmly upheld by her plan to make illegal immigration tougher and to send those immigrants back to their home countries. One of her principal proposals is the “Economic Fence,” which would supposedly protect against the employment of illegal immigrants. The following is from the website:

“Meg believes that the federal government and California need to work together to establish a system that allows employers to better verify the immigration status of their workers. The “Economic Fence,” an enhanced e-verification system, will help keep employers honest and will be a major deterrent to illegal immigration.”

Her website also says that she wants to “deploy the resources of the National Guard” to keep people like Nicky out of California. She wants to “prohibit driver’s licenses” for people like Nicky (how did Nicky get to Whitman’s house?) She wants to“conduct workplace inspections of suspected business.” Really!

Hypocrisy at its best. May God save California.

27 days, 13 hours, 38 minutes, 48 seconds.

A Disruption of School Affairs

A friend of mine lives in a particularly conservative city in south Texas; a city where 41% of the population is of Mexican descent and about 61% is Hispanic. When Arizona’s SB 1070 passed, my friend and twenty of his classmates organized a school-wide campaign to push back against the new law.

They taped up posters around school that displayed huge pictures of eyes on them with the subtext, “We See You, Latinos.” They put up mirrors around campus and underneath them, wrote, “Do I Look Illegal?” The whole thing was unmistakably caustic and sardonic; it was a powerful statement, the likes of which this school had never seen.

The high school’s administration ended the protest. My friend, along with two other students, got suspended; but not for displaying their political ideology, the administrators claimed, or because it broke with popular opinion. They suspended them because the protest “disrupted school affairs.”

That same day, during school hours, the school gym was being demolished by a crane. But that didn’t “disrupt school affairs.”

“(There shall be) no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Tell me, does the first amendment not apply to minors?

That’s Your Birth Certificate? I Don’t Believe You.

I was talking to a Republican friend of mine a few weeks ago. Roughly a week had passed since the Arizona immigration law had become legislation and we were vigorously debating it. I was irate and told him that the law was unjust and chauvinistic. He couldn’t seem to understand what my problem with the law was. He was so intent on its “effectiveness” and how rational he thought it was; “If you’re an American citizen and can prove it– you’re fine!”

A few days ago, in Northern Illinois, a man named Eduardo Caraballo was taken into police custody after he was suspected of being involved in a robbery. When his mother came to bail him out, the cops wouldn’t let him go. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took him into custody on the hunch that he wasn’t a legal citizen.

Caraballo was born in Puerto Rico– a commonwealth of the United States– and maintains US citizenship. He supplied the feds with his birth certificate, ID, and social security number, but they kept him in custody over the weekend. They weren’t sure the he was a citizen. Apparently, there wasn’t enough evidence.

Maybe it was human nature, or maybe it was just an excuse; but, if for no other reason, this is why Arizona’s immigration “reform” is nefarious and highly unethical. It doesn’t work. Its motives are skewed and it empowers people to debilitate those who share their rights and privileges.

Arizona SB 1070 law is deeply rooted in conservative acrimony towards all things different and embodies a type of xenophobia that the world hoped to have done away with more than half a century ago.

It doesn’t work.

(Ed. note: He’s Puerto Rican-American, and they were going to deport him to MEXICO!)

Painting them Blue

The Republican side of the gubernatorial campaign in California is, in several ways, a great work of fiction. Steve Poizner (who is gaining ground) and Meg Whitman have spent a considerable amount of their funds on creating balls of mud to sling at each other. The campaign has gone from, “Who can prove him/herself the more qualified candidate?” to “Who can make up the most creative lie about his/her opponent?”.

On the small-scale, each of these raging conservatives is trying to paint the other candidate blue, framing them as liberals. Sure, that’s a way to stimulate the GOP base, but let’s be frank: neither of them are anywhere near liberal– fiscally or socially.

On a larger scale, they are literally lying about one another; especially Poizner about Whitman. In a new ad, the Poizner campaign says, of Whitman’s immigration stance, “She supports Obama’s amnesty plan.” But on her website, it says the following:

The woman’s a full-hearted Republican! Let the world see that, so that she loses the general election! Also, check out this ad from the Poizner campaign. It’s disgusting that it’s all come down to lies and unreasonable conjectures.

He’s Reached the Dark Side

To me, John McCain’s story is a sad one. As the Arizona GOP’s primary draws near, the difference in the polls– between McCain and J.D. Hayworth (his GOP contender)– have begun to close drastically. An April 17th poll concluded that Hayworth is within five points of catching up to McCain (and most political strategists would conclude that McCain’s chances of winning the primary are slim).

During the campaign, there was some truth to John McCain’s constant “maverick” rhetoric. He had been, at one point, a truly open-minded and progressive Republican. But as time has come and gone, he’s felt forced to move further and further to the right. His state is really a hot-spot right now because of its sudden ramp-up in anti-immigration law, and has triggered radical responses from both sides of the spectrum, all across the country.

In 2006, at a point in time when he was revving up for presidential race and really trying to appeal to the conservative base, he had still not compromised all his values. With Sen. Ted Kennedy (the Liberal Lion), he proposed a bill (S1033) that would– in time– put illegal immigrants on the road to legal citizenship. Yet, now, in a sad, desperate attempt to get one, last term in the Senate, his ideology has weakened.

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