This is from today’s feed of The Daily Beast. It’s amazing how life is mirrored in literature and it’s even more amazing that these same attitudes have persisted since this country began. Last night Bill Maher recommended that anyone coming to this country with innocent hope should not believe anything they read on statues. Sad, but unfortunately true. And in this land of immigrants (oh how soon they forget) that systematically grabbed the land from the indigenous peoples, is still out there screaming and cursing at whatever the latest immigrants happen to be: the Germans, the Poles, the Irish, the Italians, the Latinos, the Children.
Did you notice that Creationist Ken Ham has declared that we should stop all future space exploration because any space aliens we might find haven’t heard the good news of Jesus and therefore are damned to perdition. So when Jesus returns and the world ends, all the non-Christians in the universe, including BEMS, will be destroyed … so why worry about them.
But right now there is a more pressing problem (opportunity?) with the influx of non-white, non-English-speaking, relatively poor but needy individuals fleeing from threats and violence in there countries of origin. And the fact that it was the United States, and especially the administration of Ronald Reagan, that set up these countries for violence and instability, is truly despicable. Here is another version of the so called Pottery Barn edict: “We broke it, so we own it.” Those refugees from Central America are are problem we created and we must find a solution other than to send them back to a country of death and destruction.
The bigotry and fear greeting busloads of Central American mothers and children is almost word for word what Steinbeck’s Joads heard 75 years ago. The angry protestors who made headlines recently when they confronted three busloads of Central American mothers and their children in Murrieta, California, reflect widespread fears that many now have about uncontrolled immigration. But we should also remember that as a nation we have dealt with such fears of newcomers before.
Seventy-five years ago in The Grapes of Wrath, his classic 1939 Great Depression novel, John Steinbeck depicted a similar confrontation between Californians and down-and-out arrivals to their state. The difference is that in Steinbeck’s book the targets of widespread anger were not immigrants. They were migrants from the Dust Bowl of the South and Southwest who had come to California when drought made their lives as farmers impossible.
“What happens when they come here with diseases and can overrun our schools? How much is this costing us?” a Murrieta protester was quoted as asking the town’s mayor this month.
In The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has an angry Californian use almost identical language to say of the Dust Bowl migrants, “They bring diseases, they’re filthy. We can’t have them in the schools. They’re strangers.”
While we’re at it, the recommended reading list is growing:
- The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
- The Jungle (Sinclair)
- The Iron Heel (London)
- 1984 (Orwell)
Just for fun, let’s remember that the upstanding citizens of Murrieta live in a town named after a locally famous Mexican bandit, Joaquin Murrieta, the Mexican Robin Hood. Okay, the truth is that Joaquin Murrieta had a reputation more based on a Dime Novel written about his exploits than on the facts of his life (which apparently was eventful) … unlike that other pulp hero who was totally fictional, Zorro.