Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Make Immigration A State Issue

I was pretty much indifferent to the idea of a Spanish national anthem until I read this bit, in the Hill:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a resolution yesterday calling for"'The Star-Spangled Banner' and other traditional patriotic compositions to be recited or sung solely in English. The resolution states that the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and other 'statements or songs that symbolize the unity of the nation . .should be recited or sung in English, the common language of the United States.'

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill, as did Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

The legislation is a response to a Spanish-language version of the national anthem, 'Nuestro Himno,' which was released Friday.

Alexander said on the chamber floor, 'I worry, Mr. President, that translating our national anthem will actually have the effect of dividing us. It adds to the celebration of multiculturalism in our society, which has eroded our understanding of our common American culture.'"
After reading that piece, I tumbled off the fence. Bill Frist is the most divisive figure in the Senate, with the possible exception of Mitch MCConnell. I've never heard of Johnny Isakson or Pat Roberts before today; but Jim Bunning is known to the heavens as a crazy motherfucker, and Ted Stevens is the most rappacious consumer of national tax revenues in the whole of the United States Congress.

So I read that article, and weighed those Republican Senators against the sweet Korean lady who dry-cleans my business suits. Against the wry Puerto Rican kid who serves me coffee. Against the Chinese family that keeps my local deli open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Against the aristocratic Indian girl from Bangalore who helped me write a postgraduate graduate paper on the relationship between Indian sacred texts and English common law. . . and I realized something.

If I had to, I mean if I had to choose a half-dozen people to kick out of the country, and I had to make my decision on the basis of who I thought best embodied American values. . . I'd keep the bright-eyed, diligent immigrants from my section of Brooklyn, and load Jim Bunning on the next Greyhound bus to Guatemala.

And, yes, I recognize that he'd do just the same for me. And that's my point. Jim Bunning and I have entirely different notions of who is and isn't a "real American", and the divide is most likely a reflection of the one between the culture of Kentucky and New York.

So be it. Why not make immigration a state matter, instead of a national one? Give national citizens and the bearers of green cards the run of the country, but let the states chart their own course within their own borders? New York might welcome those who Texas turns away; and the gain would be New York's. My great-great-great grandfather (Isadore Viner, of Austria, if it matters) disembarked from steerage not 5 miles from where I sit right now. It was the 1840s, and he was lugging a battered silver samovar on his back. That samovar, and some pots, and who knows what other portable tin and iron junk, were his only possessions.

I don't think I'm alone, among New Yorkers, in being grateful that the likes of Jim Bunning weren't waiting for him on the shore; or in wondering, with more than a touch of resentment, just who sent for him. My guess is: nobody. And that "nobody" had exactly the right idea.

These Republican assholes have a lot of nerve decrying "divisiveness" and "parasitism" by newcomers to this country. To a man, they all come from states that get more than $1.25 for every dollar of Federal taxes they pay. Let Ted Stevens take his sticky fingers out of my wallet, before he presumes to lecture me on how much illegal immigration is costing him. I'd rather pay for illegal immigrants' emergency room visits than his "bridges to nowhere"; and I'd rather hit myself in the head with a hammer than listen to these Republican blowhards spout off about how "divisive" they consider a song sung in Spanish.

Screw these people. They're trying to be nationalists, and they have no understanding of the nation they pretend they're representing.

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