Translate

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The UCI "Intifada" Update and clarification

In the last few days, I have reported on an anti-Israel demonstration at UC Irvine hosted by the Muslim Student Union (MSU). I have described the presence of an individual carrying a sign stating " Death to Israel-Death to America", and dressed as an Arab with his face masked.I also sent a letter to the campus nespaper condemning the above display.

Since then, I have been contacted by 2 UCI students who inform me that the person in question was not a Muslim student, rather a counter-demonstrator masquerading as a Muslim. One student sent me photos of the person (which are linked).

If this is true, then I must acknowledge the truth and help clarify the situation. If indeed, this person was masquerading as a Muslim then this is also a dispicable and irresponsible act and must be condemned regardless of who he was and what his motives were. This sign could have ignited what was already a volatile situation. My fellow teacher who crossed paths with this character has no idea who he was, but felt threatened and immediately got the hell out the area. It may have been a spoof, but this person did not see it as such.

So who was this individual? Well, one photo shows him being questioned by the campus police-who apparently let him continue! That is free speech on our university campuses! Hopefully, he was ID'd by the police, and the question can be resolved as to his identity (hopefully).

I have sent another letter to the campus newspaper with this information. The MSU was guilty of many things during this outrageous demonstration last week, but if they were not part of this sign, that must be clarified and acknowledged in the name of fairness and accuracy. My other comments about their choice of speakers stand.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

UCI "intifada"- response to Chuck

First of all, Chuck, thanks for the comment. I'll try to take your points one by one.

Sorry you don't trust the source. In law enforcement, anything that came from a snitch had to be fully corroborated because it could not be trusted on its own. If the word came from a fellow cop or agent, I took it to the bank. (I know what you're going to say to that.) I completely accept the eyewitness account of a fellow teacher.

You say that it is not possible for our adversaries (the terrorists) to destroy our country under any scenario. Of course, I agree with you. The Soviet Union could have because of their arsenal. The terrorists don't have that arsenal-but I think we can all agree that they are trying to get their hands on those types of weapons. Think of Iran, run by a bunch of lunatics, whose president openly talks about "wiping Israel off the face of the earth". We know they are working to develop these weapons. Think of Pakistan whose president (our ally) could be assassinated any day. What happens if the crazies take over that country-with its nuclear capability? I am trying to make the point that within the next few years, it is entirely plausible that some sort of dirty bomb or nuclear device could go off in an American city.

You draw a comparison with our actions during the Cold War, a topic I know a thing or two about. There is an important distinction here. The Soviet Union, whatever its evils, was not run by irrational people (at least not after Stalin). Yes, they had the ability to wipe us out, and we had the ability to do the same. Thus, two powers, run by sane rational people kept the peace rather than engage in mutually assured destruction. The problem here is that these terrorists are not so rational. They (folks like Ahmedinejad and Al-Quaida) don't care if they go up in smoke along with the rest of the world. They would relish martyrdom.

As for the Al-Quaida types, they killed 3,000 Americans in one day. Maybe the next attack will kill tens of thousands- how many are you willing to tolerate? If they get the right weapons, these numbers could be reality. Not enough to "wipe us off the face of the earth", of course, but again- how many would you accept?

You want to grant Geneva rights to terrorists? Who is eligible for Geneva rights? Uniformed soldiers fighting in an army representing a nation which also observes Geneva rights-that's who. Not people who aim to indescriminately kill civilians, women children etc. and torture and mutilate their prisoners. Do I support Gitmo? You bet. Do I support the government listening in on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas calling their "friends" in the US ? Absolutely.

Cheney- I know he got those deferments during Viet Nam, and as a veteran I say-shame on him. But I still support what he has done as Defense Sec and VP. (calm down, now) He is trying to defend us from more terrorist attacks.

So there! Now take a deep breath of that fresh Tennessee air. You'll feel better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The UCI "intifada" my response to Ahmed

My article last week on the anti-Israel demonstrations at UCI has provoked a response from Ahmed, a UCI Muslim student who objects to my criticism of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and their speakers.


The first point raised by Ahmed was my use of the word "anti-Semitic", which Ahmed feels I confused with "anti-Zionist". Ahmed, I know the difference between being anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. As you well know, Arabs are also considered Semitic people. But as you also know, the term "anti-Semitism" is popularly used to refer to anti-Jewish feelings. Do I think "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Semitic are identical? No I don't, though I think some use the former as code for the latter.


As for the event "I did not personally observe", as a retired law enforcement officer, I know full well what hearsay is as opposed to personal observation. I made it clear in my original blog that the account of the person holding a sign reading: "Death to Israel-Death to America" was given to me second hand- but I trust the source since it was a fellow teacher. Who was the person holding the sign? We don't know since the person's face was covered by a head scarf. (Maybe you know.) But regardless, don't you understand how such a sign could be so offensive-even on a university campus? Believe it or not, there are some people on this campus who love America and take great offense at such a sign. If I linked this incident to the MSU, it was because it happened during an MSU-sponsored event. By the same token, when the MSU brings in speakers like Malik Ali and Ward Churchhill, then I will make the obvious connections.


I freely concede that the Middle East situation with Israel is complicated and there are two sides to the issue. I only want what is the official position of our own government- a 2-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace if not immediate friendship.


However, I must tell you that I am very sensitive to the issue of anti-Semitism. This comes from my own life experience. When I was a young man your age, I was a young Army soldier stationed in Germany, in a town just outside Nuremberg, the so-called "shrine of Nazism", in the late 1960s. Nuremberg was the site of the Nazi party rallies, the Nuremberg laws and the post war Nuremberg trials. In the years since, I have visited places like Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald. Indeed, I have become sort of an amateur scholar on the Third Reich. I am also old enough to remember anti-Jewish feeling in this country-even from my own father- and I don't want to see a resurgence because of events in the Middle East.


Ahmed, I understand that you are trying to defend your religion. You not only should, but you must defend your religion. However, there is no need to defend Islam from me or other Americans or non-Muslims. Our country has a great tradition of religious tolerance. Muslims like you need to defend Islam from those who are using Islam to promote a campaign of hatred, violence and terror-all in the name of God. We really want to believe that this is all an aberration being carried out by a small group of fanatics that are rejected by mainstream Islam. I am sure you will agree that Islam today is facing one of the greatest crises in its history. I would hope that young people like you will bring it through this crisis.

But if the MSU continues to bring in speakers who bash not only Israel, but America as well, then what are we to assume? The MSU is not helping its cause by bringing in inflammatory speakers.


Final point, Ahmed. Unlike so many university teachers, I am not in the business of trying to teach my students what to think about the world. I consider that to be the tactic of the left. I teach my subject and keep my personal opinions out of the classroom. But when I see my own country demeaned on campus, I will speak out in the other campus forums.

I hope this puts it in a little more light, but make no mistake- I stand fully behind what I said.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tension at University of California at Irvine


Oakland-based Imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali speaking at UC Irvine


I work part-time at the University of California at Irvine as a teacher of English as a Second Language. All in all, it is a very pleasant place to work. The academic focus of the university is science, pre-med and engineering. I don't know the numbers, but I would estimate that at least half of the student body is composed of Asian-Americans. At the risk of stereotyping, these kids know why they are in school-to get an education and prepare themselves for a successful career. They seem to enjoy their college experience and cause no problems on our campus. Indeed, UCI has, over the years, avoided much of the craziness that has characterized so many other universities around the nation, where left-wing politics and anti-Americanism abound.

Unfortunately, in recent years, UCI has been experiencing considerable tension between Jewish and Muslim students, principally over the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. While it is understandable that these two groups would have differing opinions on the issue, recent activities by the Muslim Students Union (MSU) have taken on not only an anti-Israel tone, but an anti-American one as well.

No other issue at UCI has caused more political demonstrations and friction than the Israel-Palestinian one. What is troubling is that the UCI Muslim Student Union has consistently invited inflammatory speakers to campus,such as the Imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who regularly makes anti-Semitic (Jewish), and anti-American comments in his addresses. On at least one occasion that I can speak of from my own eye-witness account, Malik Ali's appearance was advertised by MSU banners with such headings as: "Racism-The American Creed". On another occasion last year, the MSU disrupted a speech by writer, Daniel Pipes, who was giving an address on campus on Muslim terrorism. As they marched outside the auditorium to continue their demonstration outside, demonstrators were overheard to state that while they were using only words, their brethren in the Middle East were acting in deeds. (I am paraphrasing.)

Another radical speaker who has appeared at UCI is Washington DC-based Imam, Abdul Alim Musa, a former Oakland heroin dealer who converted to Islam in prison. He predicts that Islam will one day take over America. Like Malik Ali, Musa believes that suicide bombers are "heroes".

During the past week, the MSU held an anti-Israel week marked by a series of rallies, in which speakers such as Malik Ali and the loony America-hating Colorado University professor, Ward Churchhill appeared. Not only was Israel bashed, but our own country as well. One of my fellow teachers was walking by the activities on Thursday (May 17th) when she almost bumped into a demonstrator with his face covered by an Arabic scarf holding a poster reading: "Death to Israel- Death to America".

This is what they call free speech on American universities campuses. Proclaiming death to America on our own soil! And what is the reaction of our university administrators? This is free speech. They also maintain that-in spite of Jewish students' complaints of harassment and intimidation- that UCI is safe for Jewish students and everyone elso as well. The leadership of this university needs to wake up before we experience a tragedy on our campus.

In the midst of all this, the Orange County Register reported last week on an on-campus confrontation between a Muslim demonstrator and an apparent FBI surveillance agent leading to questions as to whether the FBI was actively investigating the MSU's activities.

What the MSU does not seem to grasp is that the American public-at least since 9-11- is asking itself about the true nature of Islam and the attitudes of our Muslim Americans-in other words, are they trully pro-American in the face of this Islamic terrorist movement-or are in they in sympathy with the "Jihadists"? While not attempting to stigmatize all Muslim-Americans in this regard, scenes like those that occur at UCI are leading many to drew negative conclusions.

I can understand why Muslim-Americans may not share the historical American sympathy for Israel. I am certainly no expert on Middle East history and politics, and I can well imagine that Israel's hands are not 100% clean vis-a vis the Palestinian issue. I am sure that Palestinians have legitimite grievances. But in the face of 9-11 and the clearly-stated desire of Muslim radicals to destroy our country, our way of life and our people, demonstrations of the sort that are occurring at UCI are sending a very troubling message to the rest of us.

As for me, I don't know if the FBI is investigating the MSU or not- but I sure hope so.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New links


After much work figuring how to set up links, I have succeeded in setting up two links to subjects in which I am interested. One is a website for the Papiamentu creole language of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. I have studied Papiamentu and written a history of the language (The Story of Papiamentu- A Study in Slavery and Language (University Press of America, 2002) The other is for the German town of Erlangen, a university town near Nuremberg and co-hqs of the Siemens Corp. Erlangen is special to me because it is where I spent almost 3 years in the 1960s as a young US Army MP. I have been back many times, and in 2005, published a book on the history of the city, the first non-German language history written as far as I know.
(Erlangen-an american's history of a german town, University Press of America, 2005).

I hope you find them of interest.

Papiamentu, Kompa Nanzi and Brer Rabbit










(L-R) Nanzi (or Ananse), the African Spider - Brer Rabbit



I am attaching this to my blog. It is an article I wrote for caribseek.com. I also wrote on this topic in my 2002 book; The Story of Papiamentu-a Study in Slavery and Language. Papiamentu is a creole language spoken in Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.

Kompa Nanzi and Brer Rabbit - Two Tricksters and Their Fates by Gary C. Fouse

The creole language of Papiamentu enjoys a distinguished status among the creoles of the world. The native language of some 300,000 people in Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire (and their diaspora -largely in the Netherlands), Papiamentu is not only established in written form, but also is the subject of a long-standing controversy over its origin. Linguistic researchers have still not been able to come to agreement on the question of whether Papiamentu resulted from the contact between the Spanish conquistadors and the Amer-Indian residents of the islands beginning in 1499 (polygenesis theory), or resulted from an Afro-Portuguese pidgin that originated on the west coast of Africa as the African-Atlantic slave trade developed. (monogenesis theory).
Though Papiamentu is at an advanced stage of development among creoles in having a written form (differences in spelling exist among the three islands and standardization is still in progress) another interesting aspect of Papiamentu’s history is the oral tradition which, like other Caribbean creoles, traces its roots back to Africa. One of the great oral traditions that African slaves brought with them to the New World is that of the trickster tales. These are tales that, in Africa, were told by the griots, or story-tellers of the various villages. The central character, depending on the part of Africa involved, was a spider, rabbit or tortoise, a small, weak animal that used its cunning to escape dangerous situations ( generally of its own making due to its devious nature) at the hands of larger, stronger adversaries, such as a tiger, fox or bear. The figure that found its way to Curaçao- and hence into Papiamentu folklore- was Kompa Nanzi - the spider (Ananse in Africa). Other islands in the Caribbean received their own tricksters, such as Konpè Lapèn (rabbit) in St. Lucia. Even in other parts of the world such as the Seychelles, tricksters have appeared, in one case, in the figure of the rabbit, Soungoula, which is derived from East Africa. (Chaudenson, p 293)

In the southern United States, the trickster variant that resulted from slavery was Brer Rabbit, a character that was not only a figure of black slave folklore, but one that found its way into the folklore of the nation as a whole- at least until the 1960s. My thesis in this article is to compare the story of Brer Rabbit- and his demise- with that of Papiamentu’s Kompa Nanzi. In comparing the two figures, I would like to contrast the reasons why one figure disappeared (Brer Rabbit) whereas the other figure (Kompa Nanzi), while gradually losing his importance, has maintained his position as a part of local folklore.

Joel Chandler Harris, Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus

Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908) was a white journalist who was born in the southern state of Georgia in 1848. Growing up on a plantation, Harris, as a child, had become familiar with the trickster stories told by the black plantation workers, which revolved around the central figure, Brer Rabbit. Aside from Brer Rabbit, the other figures were other animals, such as Brer Fox, Brer Bear, Brer Possum and others. Much like Kompa Nanzi, the spider of the Papiamentu tales, Brer Rabbit was a free-wheeling character who had few admirable traits. As a result, Brer Rabbit had his share of enemies, such as Brer Fox and Brer Bear, who wanted to kill him and/or eat him. Through his cunning, Brer Rabbit was always able to escape with his life. One of the most memorable stories of Brer Rabbit was the story of the Tar Baby, a contraption made of tar by Brer Fox to look like a black baby. When Brer Rabbit encountered the Tar Baby while walking along a path, he attempted to strike up a conversation. When the Tar Baby refused to answer, Brer Rabbit became angry and, in attempting to strike him, became entangled in the tar- and thus, a captive of Brer Foz and Brer Bear. This “Tar baby” story was not unique to the United States, but existed in Africa and found its way in similar form to other New World places such as Jamaica.
In adulthood, Harris entered the profession of journalism and became a writer for the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. Harris appreciated the trickster tales he had learned from the black workers on the plantation and recognized them for what they were- an important part of American folklore. In the years after the Civil War, he feared that the stories were in the process of being lost. Thus, he sought a way to preserve them. To do so, Harris created the fictional figure of Uncle Remus, a kindly old slave who delighted the plantation’s children (both black and white) with his stories of the trickster, Brer Rabbit. As stated above, like Kompa Nanzi and the other Caribbean tricksters, Brer Rabbit had a penchant for always getting into trouble- usually due to his own questionable character. In addition, like Kompa Nanzi, Brer Rabbit did not bear the traces of a certain Godly component that had characterized the original Ananse figure that had originated in Africa. In short, neither character could truly be called a role model for children.

In 1880 Harris published “Uncle Remus- His Songs and Sayings- The Folklore of the Old Plantation”, which included “The Wonderful Story of the Tar Baby”. In 1883, he published “Nights with Uncle Remus”. In addition to the stories themselves, Harris used the language of the characters in quotes- which were in the vernacular of the slaves themselves who told the stories. For example:

“ ‘ Howdy Brer Rabbit,’ sez Brer Fox, sezee. ‘You look sorter stuck up dis mawnin’, sezee, en den he rolled on de groun’ en laft en laft twel he couldn’t laff no mo’. ‘speck you’ll take dinner wid me dis time, Brer Rabbit. I done laid in some calumus root en I ain’t guineter take no scuse,’ sez Brer Fox, sezee.”
Here Uncle Remus paused and drew a two-pound yam out of the ashes.
“Did the fox eat the rabbit?’ asked the little boy to whom the story had been told.
“Dat’s all de fur de tale goes,” replied the old man. “he mout, en den agin he moutent. Some say Jedge “B’ar come ‘long en loosed ‘im-some say he didn’t. I hear Miss Sally callin’. You better run ‘long.”

From “The Wonderful Story of the Tar Baby“. (Harris, p 25)

The question of the vernacular used in the stories would prove to be controversial, especially in the 1960s. Yet, as early as the 1880s, Harris recognized that language was an important issue. Aside from the tales themselves, he recognized that the actual language as used by the slaves was central to his purpose of preserving a cultural feature that he saw as disappearing. In his introduction to “Uncle Remus-His Songs and Sayings. The Folklore of the Old Plantation", Harris wrote:

“I am advised by my publishers that this book is to be included in their catalogue of humorous publications, and this friendly warning gives me an opportunity to say that however humorous it may be in effect, its intention is perfectly serious; and even if it were otherwise, it seems to me that a volume written wholly in dialect must have its solemn, not to say melancholy features. With respect to the folklore series, my purpose has been to preserve the legends themselves in their original simplicity and to wed them permanently to the quaint dialect- if indeed, it can be called a dialect-through the medium of which they have become a part of the domestic history of every Southern family; and I have endeavored to give to the whole a genuine flavor of the old plantation.” (Harris, p 3)

With the appearance of Harris’ stories, Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit became wildly popular to white audiences, becoming part of the folklore of a wider part of the population. In 1946, with the advent of television, the stories of Uncle Remus were put to film in the popular Walt Disney production, “Song of the South”. The film described life on a southern plantation, in which the white son of the plantation owners is enchanted by the stories of Brer Rabbit as told by Uncle Remus. The stories themselves were portrayed in the form of cartoons which included the black vernacular similar to that used in written form by Harris.

Times were about to change in the United States, however. With the advent of the Civil Rights era in the 1960s, America took a second look at its perceptions of black people, their vernacular and their status in American society. Harris and Uncle Remus were deemed to be an unacceptable reminder of slavery and the subservient position of black people-particularly in the American South in the post-Civil War era. The representation of black plantation vernacular was judged to be offensive.Disney’s film was also condemned as painting an idyllic portrayal of the plantation life of the South. Consequently, the film was “retired” by the Disney company. Today, it is still not possible to purchase it through regular commercial channels in the United States. As for Harris’ books, they began disappearing from school and university libraries- a victim of what today is called “political correctness”. Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit virtually disappeared from the American scene. Harris himself was dismissed by contemporary scholars as a typical product of his southern upbringing; someone who was condescending to black people and their vernacular- notwithstanding the introduction to his book (see above). Today, an entire generation of North Americans have never heard of Harris and his characters.

Kompa Nanzi

Due to the stronger African influence on Curaçao, Kompa Nanzi stories were more prevalent on that island than on Aruba or Bonaire though they did make it to the latter two islands as well. Like Brer Rabbit, the Kompa Nanzi stories did not die with the end of slavery (1863), yet only in the 1950s was there much attempt to put them into writing, most notably by Nilda M. Geerdink-Jesarun Pinto, more commonly known as Nilda Pinto.

Today on the islands, the Kompa Nanzi stories are not what they once were. Although they have not been deemed “politically incorrect” or racist as have the Uncle Remus stories in the United States, modern-day Antillean and Aruban children have more varied choices to compete with Nanzi, largely due to the influence of television and mass communication. Cartoon characters are readily available from a variety of sources.In addition, some local observers, such as the Curaçaon writer Frank Martinus, see Nanzi, with his devious character, as a negative role model for children. (Martinus-interview) There are those that believe that Nanzi is best left to naturally fade into irrelevance, which may indeed be the case. Other Antilleans, especially older Antilleans who grew up being told the stories, view the decline of Nanzi with sadness.

However, to fade into irrelevance is different from being swept under the rug. A comparison of Nanzi and Brer Rabbit yields interesting contrasts. Antillean objections to Kompa Nanzi have been largely based on his suitability (or lack thereof) as a role model for children. Objections to Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus were based, not on the deviousness of the former, but on the use of black English vernacular which some latter-day observers decried as an object of ridicule, as well as the characterization of Uncle Remus as a jovial, subservient plantation black man living an idyllic existence in the slavery/post-slavery era in the American South. What passed without notice in Chandler’s time came under critical scrutiny beginning in the 1960s. Of course, it is obvious to point out that the language of the Nanzi stories was not an issue on Curaçao as was the non-standard black English vernacular of the Uncle Remus stories in the United States. But what about the relationship between the two characters and slavery? As Aart Broek has pointed out, it is interesting to note that explicit references to slavery are not found in the Nanzi stories. (Broek, p 2) After all, the characters are animals. Similarly, the Brer Rabbit characters are also animals. Only Uncle Remus as the fictional story teller exists in human form. Yet, is there an element of protest to be found in the trickster stories after they were brought from Africa to the Americas by those that had been thrust into slavery- an element of protest that had not existed in Africa where the people were free? Was there an element of satire that was secretly being directed at the slave owners? If the trickster Nanzi’s victories over his stronger adversaries represent the triumph of slave over master, did the stories of Brer Rabbit, that Harris learned from black farmhands in Georgia, carry the same undercurrent of meaning?

Preserving Folklore

While some Antillean writers and poets have been trying to preserve Nanzi as part of an important part of Antillean oral tradition, Brer Rabbit remains a figure that remains forgotten. There is clearly a racial component to the Uncle Remus tales in the United States that does not exist with Kompa Nanzi in largely black Curaçao. Whereas, Nanzi belonged to the Antilleans, many North Americans regard the Joel Chandler Harris stories as something adopted by a white writer to entertain a white audience at the expense of black people, their language and their subservient status in that era. Another component that perhaps worked against the Uncle Remus stories was the fact that Harris was white; thus, his motives for writing the stories were called into question by critics long after he had died - in spite of his statements at the time of publication.

If Kompa Nanzi should, in fact, fade into oblivion over time, it appears that it will be due to a lack of interest on the part of succeeding generations of Antillean youth who have found other interests. It will also be in spite of the efforts of those in the Antilles who see the worth of preserving a native folklore that traces its roots back to Africa. On the other hand, in the United States, there are precious few voices wishing to preserve/bring back Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit. Even if Uncle Remus is deemed to be an offensive creation of a white writer, Brer Rabbit and his fellow animal characters were not. They represent a folklore that not only goes back to slavery, but to Africa itself. Is that not worth preserving?

Bibliography

1 - Chaudenson, Robert, Creolization of Language and Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.
2- Harris, Joel Chandler, Uncle Remus- His Songs and Sayings. The Folklore of the Old Plantation. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1883.
3- Interview with Frank Martinus on March 27, 2001 at Willemstad.
4- Broek, Aart, Nanzi: de spin en de uitdaging van het leven. Unpublished paper.

Content © Gary C. Fouse 2003 - All Rights Reserved

You may bookmark this web page, print it or e-mail it to a friend in accordance with the fair-use provisions of copyright laws. The text is intended solely for the use of the individual user. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the express written permission of the author or publication and the notification of the editors of CaribSeek Kaleidoscope.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The (Mexican) illegal immigration issue

The (Mexican) illegal immigration issue

Aside from international terrorism, this issue strikes me as the number one problem in the US today. Though we have so many nationalities among our immigrants, it is the Mexican immigration issue that stands out the most. I should state at the outset that I am personally touched by this since I have been married to a Mexican immigrant for over 30 years. My wife immigrated to this country legally with her family when she was 15 years old. Being married into a Mexican family has enlarged my insights into the people and their culture. My own opinion is that Mexico has the richest culture in all of Latin America. In addition, as one who speaks Spanish, I am a great fan of Spanish music. I understand full well why poor Mexicans feel the need to come to the US. I would do the same if I were in their shoes. Having said that, I have come to the conclusion that illegal immigration has to be stopped for several reasons.

The source of the problem

First, let’s concede the reason most people come here from Mexico. Economic survival. That is not to say that Mexico is a poor country. This is one of the biggest myths of all. Consider that Mexico has been blessed with so many natural resources, such as gold, silver, copper and especially oil. Add to that the thousands of miles of fantastic beaches on two coastlines and other architectural treasures that attract millions of tourists a year. In reality, Mexico is a rich country inhabited by many poor people. That is because historically and now, the country remains in the hands of a rich oligarchy that controls the political power and the wealth of the nation in its hands while being unwilling to provide decent education and job opportunities for its common citizens. ( It is called corruption, pure and simple, and any thoughtful Mexican will tell you that.) So when the poor of Mexico flee to the US to seek employment, the government is only to happy to see them go. That way, the folks, who in the past, would have posed a danger of starting a revolution are not around to begin with. In addition, the billions of dollars they send home has become one of Mexico’s biggest sources of income.

The present situation

So now, in 2007, the US finds itself with approximately 12 million people in the country illegally. (This number of course includes millions of people from other countries and regions of the world, many of whom came legally and have simply overstayed their visas.) What does this mean for us? On the one hand, many argue that it is good for our economy. Businesses enjoy the fact that they can pay lower wages. The consumer can pay lower prices for many services and commodities. Win-win situation, right? Well not quite. There are other costs that must be considered. In California, where I live, it becomes obvious . For one, school classrooms are overcrowded with children who do not speak English. This causes the quality of education to suffer for all pupils. When I attended school in Los Angeles in the 50s and 60s, we had plenty of Mexican-American kids who lived in our school districts. (People of Mexican origin have always been a part of the California landscape.) The difference was that they were generally either native-born, or legal immigrants and spoke English just fine.

Aside from the schools, anyone living in southern California knows that hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed with illegal immigrants who have no health insurance. The financial loss incurred has caused many emergency rooms to close.

In terms of crime, most of us concede that the vast majority of those who sneak across our border are otherwise law-abiding people who simply need to find work to support themselves and their families. Yet, if America is the land of opportunity for decent, honest people, it is also the land of opportunity for the criminal element. As a retired DEA Agent, I know that there is a criminal element in all nationalities (certainly including our own) that have come here and inserted themselves into the immigrant community-in most cases preying on the decent immigrants. The drug problem is one of the biggest examples, and drug traffickers are not exclusively Mexican.

Assimilation issue

Another issue that must be considered is that of assimilation. The modern-day multiculturalists may take exception to this, but I still subscribe to the old notion that immigrants should be welcome here-no matter where they come from, as long as they come legally, obey our laws and recognize that immigration and assimilation go together. My own experience with my wife and her family is a good example. My father -in-law came here legally to work some 50 years ago, leaving his family in Mexico until he was settled enough to bring them here. Later, his family, including my wife, came and joined him. They became very assimilated, learned English, got married and had their own children. Today, those children are married and parents as well. The family is now 4th generation Mexican-American, and while Spanish is still spoken, English is now the number one language. In short, this family is totally assimilated into American life, language and culture while maintaining its connection to the Mexican heritage. They are Americans. However, this process took time; it did not occur overnight. The problem is that everyday, thousands more poor people are coming over our border, starting at the bottom since they lack the education and special skills needed to go right to the top in America. I think you grasp the point. Assimilation will never catch up as long as this situation persists. In addition, if this persists, our Hispanic population will always be over-represented at the lower social-economic end of the scale- and Americans will continue (unfairly) to be called racists as a result.

Amnesty and the protest marches

So what do we do now? Obviously, we cannot round up and deport 12 million people. It is physically impossible. Congress today is debating the question of amnesty or “comprehensive immigration reform”- whatever you want to call it. Do we reward the ones who jumped into the front of the line, or do we close the borders and let those who are here continue to live in the shadows? Both sides are putting pressure on Congress. On the one hand, we have seen the recent mass demonstrations in the streets of our major cities demanding amnesty and legalization. In my view, these have been counter-productive and downright offensive to Americans. One cannot go to another country, march down the street with one’s own flag and demand this or that. I would never dream of carrying an American flag in the streets of a foreign city and demand changes by the host country government. I have lived in three foreign countries in my life, and I believe firmly in behaving as a guest in whatever country I happen to be in. What the newscasts who have covered those marches have failed to report is that millions of Americans are phoning, writing, faxing and emailing their elected representatives expressing outrage and demanding that no amnesty be granted and that our borders be effectively closed-not to legal immigrants- but to those who come illegally.

The terrorism factor

Another factor that cannot be ignored is the national security issue, especially in a post-911 world. We know that not only Mexicans and Central Americans are coming across the southern border, but other nationalities as well- Middle Easterners, Pakistanis and others. What is their motive for entering our country clandestinely across the Mexican border? The recent arrest of 6 Muslims in New Jersey is an example. Three of the arrestees are brothers who crossed over with their families at Brownsville, Texas when they were children. (Of course, there was no terrorist intent on their part at that time, but it illustrates that Mexico can be used as a transit-point for anyone.) And let’s not forget our northern border. Canada is a sieve-coming in and going out, full of so-called “political refugees” from suspect countries. It won’t be long before we have to address the man-power issue of the Border Patrol on that border as well.

Conclusion

No matter where one stands on this issue, it is obvious that for the past several decades, our government (on both sides of the aisle) have failed the American people just as the Mexican government has failed its people. It has now reached the point where no easy solution exists, but something has to be done. Severe employer sanctions and tight border security seem to be obvious ideas to be implemented. To me (as a former DEA Agent) border security is desirable if for no other reason than to slow the flow of drugs coming out of Mexico.

For me the bottom line is this: I have no desire to cut off legal immigration- I think immigration is great. However, every nation has the sovereign right-and the duty to control who enters its country. When a country fails to do that, it will cease to be a country.

I welcome your responses.

First blog


"Let's eat."


In this blog, I will be commenting on various issues of the day and throwing in my two cents worth. This will include politics, the international situation, education, our society, illegal immigration etc. My opinions come over the course of my 61 years of life and career as a Drug Enforcement Adminstration agent, teacher and writer.