Thursday, April 10, 2008

Penal Doesn't Work For Me

My friend Richard over at The Foothills Opinion Post had a funny fantasy post about a conversation between George Bush and Dick Cheney. George addressed Dick, with many a creative Dicklish nickname, about his well-thought-out and articulately-expressed (as always) solution to the undocumented worker problem in the US: ship all the illegal brown people to Iraq to replace our troops.

I'm surprised the real Bush/Cheney cabal haven't decided to empty our prisons of all the non-violent drug offenders and send them over to Iraq. Oh, I forgot, their buddies in the multi-billion-dollar prison industry would have a conniption fit if they lost all those bodies that represent a huge amount of ka-ching. (Is it just me, or do you think that incarceration shouldn't be a for-profit business? I mean, isn't that just asking for graft and abuse?) There aren't any lobbyists or corporations or politicians making money off the backs of undocumented Mexicans to defend them. So, those illegal brown people become a "problem," not all those cash-cow imprisoned people.

I'm pretty glad that I'm not illegally brown. There were times in my youth that I spent slathered with iodine-infused baby oil, stretched out for hours on greasy poolside chaise lounges, plastic floating rafts, and nude beaches in Greece filled with gay men. (I wasn't filled with gay men. The beaches were. Although, I'm not against gay men. Many of my closest friends are gay men. [I know some Negroes too. And Jewish people. And Lesbians. I've seen Transvestites, but haven't befriended one yet. Give me time.] I'm just not sure I would like to be filled by gay men, as it was quite enough to see them slathering iodine-infused baby oil on each other's asses. That was too much information.)

Anyway, I'm sure at least some of my brownification was faintly illegal. Especially if I had been smoking some of that great Mexican pot (which I only obtained from rich, green-eyed, Spanish-blue-blood, WHITE Mexicans, ok?). But luckily, I've outgrown such youthful desires as having an all-over deep coffee-with-cream designer (versus genetic) brownness, and drifting off into pot-infused, hippie, communist fantasies of overthrowing the government, or at least taking down the local Saks 5th Avenue, emporium of excess and free makeup bags with every perfume purchase. I'm happy to say that I no longer know people who sell pot (damnit) and I am searingly white.

Now, if only I were a searingly white man, I could rule the world. And meet people who sell pot, or at least heroin, especially if I'm working for the US government and paying off the poppy growers in Afghanistan.

But I digress, again. I am just one big, formerly-brown, now cancer-ridden, wishing I were high instead of watching my country crumble, digression.

Anyway. Richard's post made me remember my problem with all the bitching and victim talk I indulge in on this blog, because, well, we are all victims of the atrocities of the current administration. If not directly, by losing our lives or the lives of our loved ones to the war, then at least indirectly, by paying taxes that support this administration's disastrous policies. Or are we actually tax-paying and voting collaborators? Ugh.

It's hard not to stamp my feet, get all insulted and red-faced, and whine, "Look what they're doing noooooooowwwwwwwuh! How can they get away with that? Again? Where is the main stream press? Where are the Democrats? Where is the outrage? Somebody stop themmmmmm!!!"

All to no avail.

It would be more productive (and quite possibly more mature) if I tried to come up with some solutions to the problems that face our country today. Richard's post was a snarky joke, but at the root of it was an attempt at a solution.

But I have a problem with calling illegal immigration a problem, since I don't actually believe it is a problem, until some politician or fundamentalist nut case decides to make it a problem. (Or they have buddies who want to make bazillions building a wall along the border which will be completely useless, or supply an electronic alien monitoring system called a Virtual Border Fence which, so far, doesn't work.) But, let's pretend it is a problem, for a second. What exactly is the solution to this "problem" of unauthorized immigration? (I prefer that unauthorized term. The US government actually came up with it. It means that you either entered the US without authorization, or you had authorization but overstayed your visa.)

First, you have to wipe away the politicization of the issue. Maybe we can do that after the election? (I know, wishful thinking.) You also have to get some wet wipes out, and clean off all the false fear. The made-up story that there are a few Arab extremists walking through the Arizona desert, pretending to be Mexicans, on a mission to blow up the Carefree, Arizona town hall, or more symbolically, the sun dial. (If Osama is reading my blog, which by some people's assertions, is a fact, then if I can help you find the sun dial, don't hesitate to ask.) You might need some industrial-strength Mr. Clean (or as it's called here in Paris, Monsieur Propre, or Don Limpio in Spain, Mastro Lindo in Italy, Meister Proper in Germany, and Flash in England) to scrub off the stench of prejudice and xenophobia from this made-up issue. But I forgot. Mr. Clean wears an earring. He must be gay! How can some dirty rump rider be the leader of the cleanup crew?

Wow. This solution stuff is hard.

OK, so after you shovel all the horse and bull shit off of this issue, maybe we can take a mature, non-emotional approach, and look at the issue pragmatically. First of all, is it even possible to stop people from wanting to live in another country, something that has been going on since God made border crossings? (You see, if I say that God made borders, then that means they're legal. If I told the truth and said that man just made shit up about borders and who "owns" the land, then this already too long post becomes, well, more than already too long.) And if it's not possible to stop immigration, then what is the actual economic and cultural impact of illegal immigration, not only in America, but in the country from which the immigrants came? (I never do answer this question, but there are so many words below, that it kinda looks like I answered it.)

Let's pretend that, as long as the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that human beings (and certain species of cows, not including gay cows, or those shameless mixed-race black and white cows that decorate a certain computer company's shipping boxes) will want to jump over that fence. Some will have enough money to pay their way, some will not, but hope that they can make enough money to pay their way later, or at least have some kids who will be documented and grow up on the greener side of the fence and support their parents.

A tiny percentage (must I back this up with a statistic?) just want to jump the fence so they can go to sleep under their overly-large sombrero against a less prickly cactus, and otherwise goof off and suck the country dry of all of its cactus shade (and fermented cactus juice) and rape all the white women and never learn the language and build dirty bombs that will blow up the sun dial. Then those mother fuckers will inevitably clog up all the waiting rooms in all of the hospitals in America. I swear. I've seen it. Haven't you?

Just as an educational aside, we might want to expand our navel-gazing outside of our purported "Mexican problem" and look outside of the United States (I know it's hard, but try) and take a broader historical view than, oh, maybe last week, and you will quickly see that nomadic people have been moving around the world since 1000 BC (or thereabouts). As the shameful Arizona legislators and their clueless constituents continue to vote xenophobia into law, the Roma people, better known as Gypsies, suffer as we speak from the same kinds of prejudice and abuse perpetrated by supposedly sophisticated and worldly Europeans. Just a short train ride outside Paris, if you visit the Champagne region, you will see the Gypsy caravans out in the fields, because they are the primary source of migrant workers during the grape harvest season.

At least Arizonans haven't voted to sterilize the illegal immigrant women, like they were doing to the Roma women in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as late as 2004. Well, not yet. Give them time.

I'm sure there are as many Al Queda jihadists hiding in Gypsy grape picker clothes in the vineyards of France as there are bearded Shiite Iranian killers (let me be clear, these are killers from Iran, not people who kill Iranians, otherwise, we wouldn't care) hiding amongst the Mexican cotton-pickers in Arizona. At night, the baddies in France hook up their Mac Air to the satellite dish on top of their Gypsy wagon and beam important nuclear wine-making secrets to Osama's cave in Pakistan. The super-baddies in Arizona go to WalMart and get all their bomb-making paraphernalia. They don't stand out at all. They blend right the fuck in. Be afraid when you shop at WalMart. Be very afraid.

So, where was I? Spewing again, I see. I guess all this hatred of human beings just because they're different makes me angry. Go figure.

But, back to the solution.........................If you can't STOP them, then REGULATE and TAX them.

(Didn't I say this very same thing about legalizing marijuana? Is this a broken record? Are we still in Kansas, Toto? er, Mohammad?)

When I say that we shouldn't try and stop them, but we should regulate and tax them, I'm referring to both the people who wish to come to the US to work, and the companies that wish to employ seasonal, or less-expensive labor.

So...Create a guest worker program. The one Bush proposed wasn't that bad. (Although, as usual, he added a bunch of money for his buddies in the prison system, and he added biometric tracking of immigrants, which I think is fucking terrible.) But it's still full of penalization. It differentiates between the people who abided by US immigration law, and those that didn't and snuck under the fence. It requires that illegals have to go home first, and then come back. And it requires them to pay a fine. Both of these things aren't affordable by most unauthorized immigrants. So, we're back to where we started. With people remaining unauthorized because they can't afford the trip home or the fine. Bush doesn't think it's "fair" to let people who broke the law to be citizens without paying some fine. I think that if there were any real victims to this supposed crime, he might be right. But I'm not sure there are a bunch of immigrants out there that went through the legal process, who will get angry because other people could get in through a blanket amnesty. If they do object, well, then they're assholes.

Make it safe for people to register themselves as they enter the country. Create a legitimate industry that finds work for guest workers. By making this all above board, fewer guest workers will be enslaved or abused. (I know that some people don't give a shit about this, but I do.) Incentivize employers to utilize the legitimate guest worker program, versus taking risks with cheaper, but undocumented workers.

I didn't say PENALIZE, I said INCENTIVIZE. What does that mean? Maybe it means that guest workers will work for a lower wage until they become citizens. Not an abusively lower wage, but a wage that is somewhere in between minimum wage and current illegal wages. They'll be incentivized to gain citizenship in order to qualify for a higher minimum wage. If they have proven themselves at their job, and their employer likes them, then their employer should be happy to up their wages. If the employer doesn't up their wages and ditches them for a new low-wage worker instead, well, then they're small-minded, short-term-thinking, assholes. Maybe if we provided them with tax incentives for hiring people from the guest worker program, they could turn into lesser assholes.

Meanwhile, everybody's paying their taxes, like good boys and girls. And because they're paying taxes, they get health care.

So, what about the supposed problem that guest workers take jobs away from American citizens? I have never, ever believed this myth, but I'll play along. If the youth or poor or the poor youth or the elderly of America want some of the guest worker jobs, then they can register with the guest worker program and they have first dibs on those cotton-picking, burger-flipping, hotel-cleaning jobs, but at the standard minimum wage rate. If they are better than the less-expensive worker, because they speak English or have previous cotton-picking, burger-flipping or hotel-cleaning skills, then they might be preferred by and hired by the employer.

So, I just pulled all of this out of my ass. I have no idea if it will work. It's probably full of holes. But it's a start. I just think that above board is best, and incentivizing instead of penalizing is best. In general. In life.

Anyway, anything with penal in it has to be suspect. N'est-ce pas?


Rich said...

Wow. I feel pretty good about myself after reading your post today Lisa. You said some important and very well thougt out things to have pulled it from your anal region.

It hurts my ego somewhat to think that your ass is smarter than my brain!

Oh well, I'll just have to live with it.

Thanks for the mention, but more importantly thanks for the ideas you presented in your post.


Hungry Mother said...

Every 6 months, when I visit my skin doctor for a tune-up, I remember the baby oil and iodine. What were we thinking?

sctshep said...

If there is anyone better on the blogs I don't know who it is. You are fantastic. Now I agree with you on most things, but I truly believe that even if I didn't I would think you are incredible. You think well, you write well, you feel - period. What a combination. You are truly incredible. Keep it coming.

Omyword! said...

Hey you're welcome. Rich. Thanks for inspiring me to write. I still think there are a million holes in my ideas but the post was long and meandering enough as it is. Like...what happens when a guest worker loses his or her job? If we have, or don't have, universal health care, then does the guest worker get healthcare coverage? Does the guest worker have a certain period of time to find a new job before he loses his guest worker status? Or does he just go back and register with the guest worker "agency" to find a new job?

I need to think it through some more.

Hungry - I knowwwww. Since you're from PA, do you think this was just a PA thing?

Scott - you are very sweet to say that. Thanks so much. You have planted some seeds in my brain that are beginning to sprout!