If I’m not writing, which is sadly usually the case, I’m usually ranting on Twitter. I can hear you now – duh, Dan, we know, we found this blog via Twitter. Still, it is difficult as hell to get Storify tweet storms to cross-post here, so I won’t bother. Come for the lede. Stay for the tough love for younger veterans.
An update to my post from last summer. http://wp.me/p1AJQQ-dz
It’s annual inspection time for us, with both cars’ inspections expiring in the same month. I told my mother-in-law I was going to take the cars to Mr. Kim in College Point, and she gave me some wonderful news: Mr. Kim, his partner, and even Beto their undocumented helper, had moved into a brick-and-mortar in September. I took my wife’s car first. The drive is jarring when you consider where Mr. Kim had previously been. Huge oak trees line the thoroughfare, then you pass Kissena Park and almost a full mile of green. Turn left at a side street and you’ll see a former gas station with a two-bay garage, and parking for future jobs where the pumps had been.
Mr. Kim comes out into the rain to greet me. As before, I greet him with a short bow and addressed him as Jungsa-nim, or Staff Sergeant. His face is leaner, which he attributes to the long hours he spent setting up this shop. He claims that I’m one of his first customers at the new place, but six cars parked outside the bays gives the lie to that statement. I ask if he has time for me, and he just grins and waves me inside the office. The same photos and certificates are on the walls, this time drywall painted nondescript cream, not raw plyboard. His old rank insignia is now pinned to the door frame; several ROK Army and White Horse Division hats line the windowsill. His desk, whose top is plied with small parts, printouts, and dirty gloves, sports a new computer. The repair bays are just as pristine as his old shop in College Point, if a bit bare because he had to sell most of his trove of parts to help finance the move.
Like the last few times, I either squat or sit while he works on my car, and pepper Mr. Kim with questions. His partner found the place on Hey Korea, a kind of Craigslist for the Korean community. I remembered driving past when this was still a run-down Gulf station with gas about fifteen cents higher than its competitor across the street. Which, if you think about it, likely contributed to its demise and cheap sale. The biggest expense, Mr. Kim says, was removing the gas pumps and repaving the front to make it conducive to park waiting cars. To afford this, he has used some of the money he’d set aside for his son’s college tuition, but is confident he’ll make that back in the two years before the boy graduates high school.
As he moves from bay to office, outside to smoke, then back again, you can see that Mr. Kim is happy. His posture is straighter, not slouched from bending under car lifts for years; his eyes are no longer closed partway in the beginning of a wary grimace. If he’s happy, then Beto, his undocumented helper, is on cloud nine. He has a car – not new, more a Frankenstein of various Toyota pieces pulled together to make one marginally running car – replete with an inspection sticker, registration, and insurance. I get the sense that this, more than anything else, cemented their odd master-apprentice relationship. They still speak in an odd melange of Spanish and Korean, which now contains a personal banter I didn’t hear in College Point.
I can’t help but think that this is the American Dream in its purest form: two Korean emigrants and an undocumented Mexican immigrant, moving out of an industrial wasteland to this garage at the edge of the suburbs. If anything, the move seems to have given them new purpose. Beto says he hopes to move into his own apartment soon, having saved enough to move out of the two bedroom flat he shares with up to four other undocumented immigrants. Almost shyly, he adds that maybe one day he might be able to start a family.
“Mis hijos serán legales.” My kids will be legal.
From Wikipedia: An unperson is a person who has been “vaporized”; who has not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence. Such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs, and articles and the original copies destroyed, so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record. The idea is that such a person would, according to the principles of doublethink, be forgotten completely (for it would be impossible to provide evidence of their existence), even by close friends and family members. Mentioning his or her name, or even speaking of their past existence, is thoughtcrime; the concept that the person may have existed at one time and has disappeared cannot be expressed in Newspeak.
That’s me – an unperson. That is, in the unlikely event that Trump, Paul, Walker, or Santorum are elected President next year, and follow through on their shared promise to effectively repeal the 14th Amendment. 40-some years ago I benefited from birthright citizenship as the son of two legal and hard working immigrants. Funny thing, this citizenship, especially here in the US. It isn’t Heinlein’s world, where it must be earned, though if that standard were upheld, I daresay I’ve earned my citizenship a thousand times over; here it’s easily and readily conferred, literally a constitutional right guaranteed by the very amendment these presidential candidates want to delete. Moreover, it is a human right.
These days I often wonder what scares these men so, and by extension, the people who support them? Was Pat Buchanan ahead of his time, then? Are they simply afraid – terrified, even – of the decline of the white America they used to know? Or is it, judging from the ethnicity of all the Republican candidates save Piyush Jindal (himself a recipient of birthright citizenship) and George Pataki (part Hungarian, hence not a member of the WASP Republican set), pushback against that dreaded “other?” This goes far beyond any Republican fear and/or exploitation of African Americans (see Southern Strategy or Atwater, Lee). The bogeyman is now brown or yellow, bringing disease and crime into our great nation, so burdening the health care and education systems that we must defund everything from the Department of Education, Planned Parenthood, Medicare, Obamacare, the list goes on.
“They’re taking our jobs,” I read almost daily. Whom, Congressman King? Are your mythical illegals with calves the size of cantaloupes marauding through the job market like modern Visigoths? Or are we now supposed to be terrified of Mexican STEM graduates who will take well paying tech jobs away from lily-white Silicon Valley? And which jobs are “they” taking, precisely? The last time I saw a white person washing dishes was in a restaurant in Portland, Maine, probably only because I noticed a dearth of Latinos willing to take on such menial work. Find me a white person, then, who is willing to pick produce in Watsonville, California, for minimum wage (or, far too often, less than minimum wage). Find me a white person who is willing to wash dishes in a restaurant like the one I manage, where my guys clean after hundreds of people’s meals per night? No?
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump famously stated when he announced his candidacy for the presidency. To rebut His Hairness, using the small sample size of my Latino immigrant employees, none of them are rapists. They didn’t bring crime from El Salvador, Peru, Honduras, Ecuador, or Mexico; if anything, they came here to escape it. None of my guys use illegal drugs; even if they did, they know I have a zero tolerance policy and act accordingly. But Trump was right about one thing. They are good people.
“For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime.”
So what, then, can we do? Let’s take away the very thing so many people cherish, their citizenship! Let’s take away the constitutionally guaranteed right to be a citizen in this country because someone was born here. Gosh, Congressman King, that’s a swell idea, let’s fight the brown hordes, here’s 27 white people who agree with your base appeal to the lowest racist denominator. There’s a little hitch with your plan, though. How, unless you carry various “papers” like Soviet citizens did under Brezhnev, does one prove citizenship? Is it skin color, as seems to be the prevailing sentiment? Or would any white person who didn’t speak perfect American English be lumped in with the “other?” Is it religion, as
the American Taliban evangelical Christians would want? What, then? How many generations of one’s family must prove legal residency in the US to prove worthy of being bestowed citizenship by the People’s Jumhuriya of Americastan? Two? Three? Does one need to provide a ship’s manifest from when it docked at Ellis Island in 1885?
Here’s a simple solution, besides the obvious resurrection of the Chinese Exclusion Act along with its inevitable expansion to include most of the rest of Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. Count the “other,” whomever they may be, as simply three fifths of a person. It worked before, why can’t it work again, right? God knows, you wouldn’t have to jerrymander congressional districts nearly as much anymore, and non-whites like me would get put into their place. I understand that Republicans’ definition of “other” in the context of this post changes frequently, but I digress from the intellectual backflips that cceptance of this would require.
After all, I wouldn’t want to seem uppity.