Two Sides to Every Story

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip where Calvin’s world suddenly becomes neo-cubist. The reason for this is that he got into a minor debate with his dad and began to see both sides of the issue. Eventually, it allowed him to see both sides of every issue. The problem with this is that it provides too much information and paralyzes Calvin. The only way for him to restore his movement is to reduce his viewpoint to the singular perspective once more. He does this and, in the final panel, Calvin walks by his dad and says, “You’re still wrong, Dad.”

I think one of the reasons I really like the Calvin and Hobbes strip is that it’s intelligent. Sure, it has its silly storylines, and it should. It’s a comic, after all, not a philosophy course. But Bill Watterson uses the strip to air out his own struggles with life, so the strip often ends up dealing with some very serious subjects.

In my research for Pipeline, I had to deal with the illegal immigration issue. It doesn’t figure large in the plot, but authors always have to know more than ever ends up in the book, so I looked into it and continue to do so.

The problem with this, as Calvin found out in his debate, is that it’s now harder for me to make any kind of definitive declaration about the subject—outside of saying that there’s no easy answer. If that sounds like I’m being wishy-washy, I’d beg to differ. While I don’t claim to know everything to there is to know about the issue—I’m not sure if that’s possible—I feel like I know enough to know that it’s not a black and white thing.

I’m not going to attempt to cover even every facet of the subject that I know—even that much is too much for a blog post. But I feel like I need to at least illustrate what I’m talking about by just touching on some things.

First, I detest—yes, I’ll use that strong a word—the use of the term undocumented worker to refer to these people. I don’t want to go all the way the other way and call them wetbacks or mojados (the Spanish derogatory term for them), I refuse to candy-coat things. And if you want to just outright piss me off, go ahead and utter the phrase, “We shouldn’t criminalize illegal immigration.” For starters, as far as I’m concerned that phrase tells me you’re not listening to what you’re saying. The operative words there are criminalize and illegal.

It’s already criminalized. Duh!

So, no PC terms here. It’s illegal. I don’t care if you agree with the current immigration system or not, it’s illegal.

Secondly, don’t lump me—or anyone else—into your preconceived groups. Making statements like, “You’re anti-immigration,” is disingenuous, to say the least. I’m not anti-immigration, o r anti-immigrant. I’m anti-illegal immigration.

Look, when we live in a world where pretty much every other country in the world will throw illegal immigrants into jail so fast it’ll make their heads spin, all this crap about not treating illegal immigrants as the lawbreakers they are is utterly ridiculous. If I go to Mexico illegally, they’ll throw me in jail in a heartbeat. And, if I expect to immigrate to Mexico, their laws say I have to learn Spanish.

But…the Mexican government sucks shit. There’s no other way to put it. Corruption riddles it from top to bottom. When you’ve got the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP) assisting the drug runners in getting their product across the border, with the full knowledge and blessing of people as high up as the Mexican Attorney General, then there’s something wrong.

Given such a situation—where earning seven or eight bucks an hour is a fortune to someone used to earning less than that a day—I can understand, fully, the desire to move norte. I would too. And, yes, the American immigration system probably leaves something to be desired. It’s a government program. It goes with the territory. And if you think it’ll ever get fixed in a way that’ll satisfy everyone, you need a reality check.

So: if it takes so long to become a naturalized, legal citizen of this country, rather than subjecting yourself to the rigors and danger of sneaking across the border—where the coyote guiding you across is far more dangerous than the Border Patrol or our legal system will ever be—why not fix your own country? Or at least appeal to our government to help you fix it? I mean, jeez, if we can hop halfway around the world to attempt to remake the Middle East into our own image, why can’t we do the same at our own backdoor? Especially when Mexicans, in general, are far more friendly to us than Middle Easterners are.

Mexicans didn’t fly planes into the World Trade Center.

Again, that’s just scratching the surface, and I don’t want to get carried away here. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed what I’m trying to say, which is that I’m aware of many of the conflicting aspects of the larger issue.

Mexico is a beautiful country, and the culture is fascinating. Mexicans do perform jobs that many Americans refuse to work at.

As a rule, the illegal immigrants sneaking across the border are desperate. They can’t feed their families back home on the kinds of wages Mexicans make. Education is poor or nonexistent in many parts of the country.

And the concept of a middle class is foreign to these folks. There’s just no such thing. It’s very much a system of haves and have-nots, and the haves seem to be doing everything they can to keep the have-nots from every improving their status.

As for racial inequality, the blue bloods there—who also happen to make up most of the haves—are very prejudiced against the rest of the population. To have Indian blood is a shameful thing down there, and you can insult a Mexican pretty fast by suggesting he has Indio blood. I was surprised when I learned this from a friend of my daughter’s who helped me with my Spanish phrases in Pipeline. I sent her that term just to make sure I had the right word and she said it was right but, like cholos, is often an insult.

If you want to read a book by someone who had his worldview changed quite a bit, pick up Border Crosser by . He is a self-described liberal journalist who went through something of a sea change in his outlook toward the border. In particular, the fact that he found the platitudes of the women working for Humane Borders to be laughable is very revealing, to say the least.

I bring this book up because I have to say that I’ve reached the same conclusion he did: we might want to start learning Spanish, because we’re being invaded by a third-world population and they’re going to equal our numbers soon if something doesn’t change. What that change needs to be, I don’t know. I’m sorta paralyzed on that aspect of it all because I can see too many shades of gray. Viewing it in black and white isn’t quite possible for me.

Illegal immigrants are a problem. There’s no denying or candy-coating that. They sap resources and probably steal jobs in some places. On the other hand, illegal traffic across the border has been happening for at least a hundred years. It’s not like it’s a recent problem, and you’re damn sure not gonna make it go away with some kind of comprehensive policy. The world doesn’t work that way.

Complicated? Yeah. But, that’s life.

There are two sides to every story.




4 thoughts on “Two Sides to Every Story

  1. JesiMarie

    And there are some places int he world where, if you’re an illegal immigrant, you’re never heard from ever again.

    I think that’s the way we should go. And not just with the Mexicans, but ALL illegals. Be they British, Canadian, or Swahili. They come here without documentation and no one ever hears from them again,

    No, I never said I was a good person. lol

  2. Russell

    And don’t forget those that sneak in from outer space. You can find several of those in “People of Walmart” email. I know those folks can’t be from this planet.

    A guy I work with from Guatemala who became a naturaized citizen a couple of years ago. We helped him study for the test. Most college graduates in this country could pass the history/geography part. I’m not sure I could, and I went all the way through the twelfth grade! He made it and we’re very proud of him.

    1. gilmiller Post author

      Yeah, I worked with a guy at Superior—a Mexican—who went through the legal process. Took him ten years, and he had to know more history and civics than I think I ever learned.


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