Friday, June 15, 2007

Perhaps The Most Sensible Thing You Will Read About Immigration

Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She now writes for the Wall Street Journal, among others. An editorial she penned around Memorial Day (before the immigration bill was voted down by Congress) strikes, I think, a good balance between a genuine love for immigrants and the ways they enrich our lives, and the need to manage the situation intelligently. You may not agree with every last thing she says (I'm not sure I do), but it's nice to get away from the shrill rhetoric for a change.

An excerpt from the beginning:

Why do people want to come here? Same reasons as a hundred years ago. For a job. For opportunity. To rise. To be in a place where one generation you can be a bathroom attendant at a Brooklyn store and the next your boy can be the star of "Ted Mack's Amateur Hour," with everyone in the neighborhood listening on the radio, or, today, "American Idol," with everyone watching and a million-dollar contract in the wings. To be in a place of weird magic where the lightning strikes. Boom: You got the job in the restaurant. Crack: Now you're the manager.
Boom: You've got a mortgage, you have a home.

"Never confuse movement with action," said Ernest Hemingway. But America gives you both. What an awake place. And what a tortured and self-torturing one. Your own family will be embarrassed by you if you don't rise, if you fall, if you fail. And the country itself is never perfect enough for its countrymen; we're on a constant Puritan self-healing mission, a constant search-and destroy-mission for our nation's blemishes--racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, out damn spots.

I asked myself a question this week and realized the answer is "Only one." The question is: Have I ever known an immigrant to America who's lazy? I have lived on the East Coast all my life, mostly in New York, and immigrants both legal and illegal have been and are part of my daily life, from my childhood when they surrounded me to an adulthood in which they, well, surround me. And the only lazy one I knew was a young woman, 20, European, not mature enough to be fully herself, who actually wanted to be a good worker but found nightlife too alluring and hangovers too debilitating.

But she was the only one. And I think she went home.

Please read the rest of Noonan's article here, in which she suggests how we should approach the issue of illegal immigration.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Arnold. I really appreciated the article, Noonan had struck the right balance between head and heart as you described.

    I remember watching "Babel" a few months ago, and the Mexican housekeeper's reaction as she was facing deportation. It reminded me that whatever will be decided, it should not be forgotten that real people will be affected.

    I'm not a fan of a wall or an army policing the borders. It seems to me that it would escalate into some kind of pressure cooked situation. Although Noonan talks about the average American wanting to treat others humanely, unfortunatly, it doesn't always turn out as idealistically as we wish.

    As shocked as we learned about hatred towards Americans during 9/11, we might be shocked to learn about just how desperate the Mexican poor are.

    My dad was raised in poverty, and he always mocked us kids when we were small and said we were hungry at dinner time. He told us we had no idea what hunger actually was. This was a constant theme in my family. When I was old enough to think about it, I asked him what it was like. He told me it was a family of seven sharing a fish head--the only meat or protein seen for weeks--and the parents giving up their share. Years later, my uncles were joking about that fish head, about trying to decide who got the eyes, the best part.

    That's all I needed to hear.