The Tortilla Curtain

The other day, I stopped and got gas and I've been thinking a lot about it ever since

The scene: In the morning at a 7-eleven in a northern part of San Diego – about 25 or 30 miles from the border with Mexico.
    In the shade of a tree in the parking lot, a about a dozen “day laborers” –  I’m guessing mostly Mexican and mostly here in the illegally – are gathered, waiting to see if there might be work that day.  It’s not an uncommon sight near where I live, and I can think of several other places that these guys could be found with regularity.
    About 10 feet away, on the sidewalk are four or five Caucasians.  They’re dressed in military-style fatigues (though I doubted any had actually served – they looked a little worse for wear), and they have a large US flag and a number of signs.  One reads: “Secure Our Borders”  Another: “Deport Illegals” and of course: “God Bless America.”

My reaction: At first I am puzzled – in that “are these guys serious?” sort of way.  I look on for any sign of interaction or antagonism between the two groups.  They are studiously ignoring one another.  While the car is filling, I walk in their direction a little to get a better look at the signs.  One of the flag-wavers sees me taking notice and gives me a thumbs-up.  I stop, pause and shake my head.  “I don’t agree with you.” I say.  His thumbs-up turns into a gesture of dismissal and he turns away.

I wasn’t sure how to feel.  I’m no fan of illegal immigration, but yet I don’t really have anything against the guys standing in that lot trying to get a day’s work – doing crappy hard-labor (landscaping, construction, etc) that most Americans are not real excited about doing and for a lot less than most Americans would accept, even if they were so inclined.  There’s a big part of me that admires it.

    My mixed feelings about illegal immigration aside, the one thing that I knew was that what the flag-wavers were doing wasn’t my idea of America – shoving the flag in someone’s face and proclaiming that this is our freedom – not yours.  I thought it was classless and confrontational and we can do better.
    But then when I got home I thought maybe it WAS my America – because what I witnessed was a great demonstration of the First Amendment in action.  Two diametrically opposed groups peacefully doing their thing and/or saying their viewpoint.

Either way – the border may be a big topic in Washington, DC – but we see the effects of it here everyday in Southern California.  I suggest that anyone interested in the topic read TC Boyle’s book “The Tortilla Curtain” – it’s a good and entertaining read and captures many of the disparities of wealth, class, and culture in this part of America.

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5 thoughts on “The Tortilla Curtain

  1. I'm glad you spoke up and said you didn't agree; it would've been easy to just shrug it off and not say what you thought.
    Regardless of my personal stance, that is very cool that those two groups could peacefully occupy the same space.

  2. No easy answers on this issue are there? I'm hoping today's elections are as peacefully settled – without litigation and cries of fraud. I'd like to continue seeing peaceful transitions – or not – of power, just like you witnessed peaceful protesting. I saw a bumper sticker here in the City Different yesterday: "I'm already against the next war." I dislike so much the anger simmering under the surface in America today.

  3. Nice observations from everyone. Personally, I think the immigration brouhaha of late is somewhat of a manufactured political issue, to polarize voters. Not that anyone asked for it, but my opinion is that it would be much easier and cheaper to enforce current laws through employers — i.e., bigger fines for companies that don't check social security #s — than to line the border with walls and guards, or to criminalize illegals already in the country. I think the Escondido ban on renting apartments to illegals is ridiculous and am wondering if that will be overturned soon.

  4. Hapa — I think you're right. I remember the feds raided a
    company in TX a few months ago — but that must not have been very
    popular, b/c I haven't seen them do that recently. The border
    fence is one of those bad ideas that somehow gets through
    Congress. There was an interesting tidbit in Slate the other day
    that said one of the big ironies of this election is that by punishing
    Bush by sending Congress back over to the Dems, voters will give Bush
    the one domestic thing he's been pushing for — amnesty. Ironic,
    eh?

    Smeutaw — as for the anger — I think its deep-seated on both sides of
    the aisle. In fact, a split between the Congress and Executive
    branches might do something to force some bi-partisanship, which has
    been sorely lacking since the 2000 election debacle.

  5. I see these guys every time I stop for gas, too, as there's a Home Depot right across the street from my usual gas station. Good for you for voicing your own opinion – definitely is our America, and I think you and I may come from the same side of the issue here.One reads:
    “Secure Our Borders” Another: “Deport Illegals” and of course:
    “God Bless America.”But….gah. The God Bless America bit gets to me. Hold your signs up, peacefully protest, whatever, but do you really need to bring god into it? I mean, ok, "Secure America" would even be better. But that's my own rant, for my own blog, some other time I suppose.

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