Fear and Loathing in Utah Valley

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.

I was being sarcastic when I called being anti-hate a "strong position," but it turns out I was right. Many people objected to my position and came out strongly pro-hate.

When this appeared at HarkTheHerald.com, as if to prove my point, it immediately received many badly spelled, poorly reasoned comments from people who espoused all the ideas I was making fun of.

Is it possible that someone could be this clueless? Don't forget what some readers have begun referring to as Snider's Law: If you ever have to ask yourself, "Are people really this stupid?," the answer is always yes.

Even Barb herself, mentioned in the first paragraph of the column, responded. She wrote a lengthy post, discussing in detail why she was right and I was wrong. Read it and see if it doesn't leave a Nazi-ish taste in your mouth:

Mr. Snider -- I think that I am the 'Barb' that you referenced in your article. Please be assured that I have no 'fear or loathing' for legal, illegal, or regugee immigrants unless they are criminals or carry TB or leprosy [400 U.S. cases 40 years ago, 7,000 KNOWN cases today, mostly in immigrant communities.] Let me respond to each of your comments.

[1] Eric: "It seemed like an odd solution to the problem" Barb: In the Western U.S. it is well known that water = survival [personal & economic] With a finite supply [subject to wet/dry weather cyclers]the unescapable fact is that People = consumption and more people = more consumption. [Yeah, but I think my point was that maybe there are other, more practical ways of reducing water usage.]

[2] I won't respond to his attempt at irony that I would think restricting immigration would cure everything from warts to wasting disease]

[3] Eric: "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" . Barb: First please consider the difference between 150 years ago, when our nation was still largely unsettled, there was no welfare, & the economy was maily rural, with little education required to earn a living. As to a bias towards people with dark skin. Leave playing the race card to Jackson, Eric he's much better at it than you. [If pointing out that people are more prejudiced against Mexican immigrants than European ones is "playing the race card," then so be it.]

[4]Regarding the INS raid at a safe factory, illegals wi/o papers should not be working there, and legal immigrants are REQUIRED BY LAW to carry their papers with them at all times. If you think that the ownders of the factory did not know that many of their workers were illegal, let me refer you to the ongoing Tyson Foods trial. [Of course, in the column itself, I didn't say anything about whether those who were illegal should have been deported. All I said was that the raid was done improperly.]

[6] Re: the Mexican whose heart-lung transplant did not save her life. You will note that her parents came ONLY because of her illness, but now will bury her here, because if they leave to bury her, they might be prevented from returning to the U.S. There are long-standing medical humanitarian waivers for immigrants to use. The parents either did not know of them or were coming for a different reason than their daughter's health. [What I said is that people don't deserve to die simply because they are illegal aliens. If Barb truly disagrees with me on that, I wish she'd come out and say it in plain language.]

[7] Have I SEEN Mexico? Yes, I have, but what does that matter? I haven't seen many perfectly aweful poverty-stricken nations, but either, but it is not reasonable to assume that our nation can take in all the poor people who want to come here. We can't take enough of their poor to improve those nations, but we can for sure ruin our nation with unrestrained legal and illegal immigration.

[8] Please ask the blue-collar middle-class worker in CA if illegals are taking their jobs. Carpenter, mason, plumber, roofer, painter,etc. are rapidly becoming jobs that Americans won't do - or more to the point can't afford to do at steadily undercut wages.

And finally, Eric, I won't put my entire name, phone or e-mail, because I don't want to be subjected to the hateful remarks and spam attacks that would result. [Welcome to my world, you anonymous hateful coward!] I know from experience, this is not a xenophobic guess on my part. If you cant see the connection between an immigration-driven population that will double in most western states and triple in others, and the water wars that are just starting to heat up, then you see a xenophobe behind every logical argument and I there is no hope of an intelligent conversation on the subject. [I agree with the last part.]

I received this voice mail the next morning. It came in at 11 a.m., when I would normally be in the office, so it's not someone who was avoiding me by calling at strange hours. Her voice was very angry, so I'm kind of glad I missed her:

Yes, this is a person that was born and raised in Provo going on 51 years ago. I'm disgusted with your opinion. I'm tired of them employing people like you. I don't know where you're from, I doubt you're from Utah County [What gave it away? My not being a narrow-minded bigot?], but why don't you go back? [I ask myself that question every day.] And better still, give all the Mexicans that are illegal, don't even deserve to be in the country, let alone take away our jobs, give them your job, because they'd do a better job than you would. [I can't even begin to address the logic of that statement. They don't deserve to be here and take our jobs, but I should give them my job, because they would do better at it, even though they shouldn't even be here? What?] You know what? We're all tired of being laid off and then you come into Utah County and tell us what we can think? [I don't tell anyone what they CAN think; only what they SHOULD think.] I don't know if you're LDS or what you are, but who are you, you self-righteous person?

People in Utah Valley are very charming.