I’ve usually got my head buried in the sand when it comes to Immigrant Talk in American politics. It upsets me too much. Anti-immigrant bullshit is a personal insult to me and my not-white kin. The Donald can shove it all up his ying-yang.
But once in a while anti-immigrant sentiment rears its ugly head in unexpected places, like on my Facebook feed. Someone posts some anti-immigrant meme and, before I can shove my head firmly back in the sand, my eyeballs convert those stupid pixels into information that travels through my automated reading pathways and into my cognitive core. There’s nothing I can do to stop it. My (bilingual from birth) brain is THAT GOOD.
It happened to me today. Someone posted up a meme that said, “California offers their driver’s license exam in 32 different languages, which is 31 languages too many.” I’ve seen it before, but it got under my skin today.
I shook my head in disappointment and tried to run away from my beaten-down inner grammar nazi… to no avail. California is a state, which is neither a person nor a plural; so the meme should say “its” rather than “their.” Ugh. I tried to stop myself from thinking about the superfluous “different,” but I couldn’t. I sassed at the meme-writer silently in my mind. What if California offered the exam in 32 similar languages. Would that be okay? Or 32 of the same languages? And anyway, which one language does the meme-writer want left behind? The one he or she is butchering?
This all passed very quickly through my LIGHTNING-FAST (bilingual half-immigrant) MIND. Then I made a very bad mistake by scrolling down. My eyeballs once more picked up written words my brain did not need to see or comprehend, but it was too late. Information streamed into my gray matter. Immigrants don’t take pride in the USA. They come here to SUCK the welfare system and tax-funded assistance dry. We are being flooded by non-English speaking immigrants! And so on. All of which has little, if anything, to do with the question of whether a driver’s test should be given in a language other than English.
To be clear, the diatribe didn’t refer to “illegal immigrants” but to “immigrants.”
Well DAMN. Who knew?
Who knew that my mom and her family came here to suck the welfare system dry? All those years of hard work, paying taxes, becoming American citizens, not getting welfare… They were kidding themselves. Hosebags all, my Korean family.
My grandmother became an American citizen in her 80’s. It was an extraordinary moment of pride for her, but she took the test in Korean. She didn’t move to the states until her late 50’s; learning a new language at that age is really hard, if not practically impossible. The fact that grandma probably knew American history better than most American-born high school grads? Whatever. LOSER. NO PRIDE IN THE USA. WELFARE-SUCKER. No speakie English? No goodie American!
Who knew that the lovely Mexican family living down the street from me is sucking our taxpayer system dry? They moved here a few years ago because the dad has an executive-level position at GE or some other major corporation around here. Their kids go to the same public school as Jesse and Nick. The mom barely speaks English, but she does her best to get by. She is an absolutely delightful woman, pleasant and kind, who volunteers time at the school whenever she can. Whatever. Immigrant public school LEECHES, just another drop in the flood.
Who knew that the Italian, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrant professors I know from Anthony’s workplace are sucking our system dry? I thought they were hard-working people, earning income, paying taxes, buying houses, purchasing goods and helping drive the economy — you know, doing that immigrant thing. I thought they came here for an education and jobs. Nah. I know why they came now. To SUCK THE USA DRY. I bet they even use made-in-the-USA roads to commute to work. Welfare suckers.
The emotions I feel when I hear broad-stroke anti-immigrant talk require a vast array of adjectives to describe fully. I am insulted, affronted, angry, exasperated, outraged, mystified, even contemptuous. Do people who make these broad, hateful statements even understand how offensive they are?
Xenophobia is so last century. The following statements should be trite asides, truisms everyone knows to be true, part of the magic mythology of America, the rainbow thing that makes us a nation full of ever-changing potential. Repeat after me:
immigrants make our country stronger, not weaker.
Diversity makes our country stronger, not weaker.
Bilingual and multi-lingual children (and adults) have more opportunities, not fewer.
Open arms make us stronger, not weaker.
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Wait. That giant lady out east with that enormous stinking flame? She’s from France. Send her back.