Fear and Loathing in Utah Valley
Snide Remarks #348
"Fear and Loathing in Utah Valley"
by Eric D. Snider
Published in The Daily Herald on March 2, 2003
A few weeks ago, the Daily Herald asked as one of its poll questions what Utah should do about conserving water. One of the responses from a woman named Barb was that we should close our door to immigrants. It seemed like an odd solution to the problem, but I got the impression that's her solution to every problem.
What should we do about confusing state liquor laws? No more immigrants. How can we maintain peaceful relations between the various religions of Utah? No more immigrants. How can we make "American Idol" less boring? No more immigrants.
A lot of Utahns don't like foreigners. Well, not dark ones, anyway. The European ones seem to get along fine, especially the ones who settled Utah 150 years ago. Many of those pioneers still live here, reading this newspaper and making angry phone calls on a daily basis.
Foreigners from Mexico, though, have a harder time. They face prejudice, a language barrier and an overwhelming dearth of good Mexican restaurants. They must deal with attitudes like the ones expressed by the anonymous illiterates who populate the HarkTheHerald.com message boards. When the Immigration and Naturalization Service raided a Provo company last week and hauled off 120 suspected illegal aliens -- using Gestapo-like tactics in the process, including confiscating witnesses' photographs of the event -- the news story at HarkTheHerald.com was flooded with comments from people applauding the "inforcement" of the laws against those who are here "illegially," to cite just two examples of the special version of the English language used by these people. (Ironically, many of these people object to Mexican immigrants because they don't speak English.) One person even questioned whether the "hispanic-speaking" attorney representing the company was legal or not, since he had a Hispanic name.
Then there's the tragic matter of the Mexican girl who was given a bad heart and lung transplant in North Carolina, resulting in her death. Some people commenting at HarkTheHerald.com -- as always, under the cowardly cloak of anonymity -- have indicated that since she was an illegal alien, she didn't deserve the transplants anyway, much less the second round of transplants that wound up not saving her. After all, if you had sneaked into Mexico illegally, you wouldn't be entitled to medical care! (Nor would you want it. Have you SEEN Mexico?)
It is when I read things like this -- not to mention the other standard complaints about immigrants taking hand-outs from the government, stealing our jobs, committing crimes, and so on -- that I'm glad there's a language barrier. If I moved to a foreign country whose citizens were going to do nothing but ridicule me -- e.g., France -- I would intentionally NOT learn the language, just so I wouldn't have to know what they were saying.
It's interesting the way we divide up our foreigners. There has recently been a good deal of French-bashing, due to France's refusal to join America in the war against Iraq. It's all very silly, of course. No one should be surprised or offended that snivelly France doesn't want to fight; furthermore, most Americans AGREE with France on the Iraq thing. So why do we mock the French? Because we enjoy it, and now we have an excuse for it.
What's interesting is that it's OK. It's socially acceptable to make fun of the French for being snobby, foul-smelling and strange, or for anything else you care to attribute to them. But say anything like that about someone from Mexico, and you're a bigot. Why the difference? I don't know. Maybe we feel bad for Mexico because it's a poorer country than France. Maybe it's because the French are always ripping on us, so they deserve some of it back. Maybe it's because the Mexican people tend to be warm, loving and hard-working, while the French are insecure, cheese-sniffing alcoholics. Whatever the reason, while I'm entirely in favor of making jokes about people who are different from us, I have to draw the line at actually hating them. I realize I'm taking a strong position here, being anti-hate, but you'll notice I'm willing to sign my name to it anyway.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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