Trade Me Places

My family has been in town six hours, two of which I managed to avoid by pretending I had to stay here while they swam at the hotel because the recalcitrant brother was lost and might at any moment call and need directions.

In the time that they’ve been here, we’ve discussed why my house is so dirty, whether my toilets could be cleaner, if I’m doing enough to keep the tub from clogging, why they have to wait for me to do the dishes, whether it’s okay to put Diet Dr Pepper on the laptop, why they have to play shitty video games and can’t they get on the computer instead, whether I’m going to the doctor enough or at all or whether it’s rude for me to refuse to talk to them about it, doesn’t matter, they will explain to the kids how I should be going to the doctor twice a year since I refuse to discuss it, whether I’m overdressed for CiCi’s Pizza, if I have quarters, whether they can take my car down to the Brewhouse, whether they can’t just stay here, if I’m doing enough to prepare just in case I lose my job, whether I’m doing enough to make sure the Butcher gets his act together, whether I’m gaining weight, if I seem to be losing weight in a way that suggests I’m sickly, why I don’t buy the same lightbulbs they do, whether they should bring me their old lightbulbs, if there’s anything to drink in the fridge, why my neighbor’s wife left him, if she was indeed his wife, what Mexican dish has cheese and butter in it, whether you’re supposed to eat the corn husks on tamales, if it’s okay that the littlest nephew only wears muscle shirts, why he can’t sit next to me in the van, and so on.

Emotionally, it’s a little like standing in front of a firehose when someone turns it on.  Or like standing on stage and having everyone just hurl whatever they can think to say about you for better or for worse up at you.

It makes me feel just about done with people, let me tell you.


I’m going to bed.

If You Want to Ride It, Got to Ride It Like You Find It

I finished my guide to Illinois for Mack’s kids and put them together a kick-ass CD of songs that remind me of Illinois for them to listen to on the ride.  I’ve got “Authority Song” and “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp, “Rock Island Line” by Leadbelly, “City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie, “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson, “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” by Duke Ellington, “Illinois Blues” by Skip James, “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes, Jeremiah (I guess, I don’t know how you hippies made sense of that name), “Route 66” by the Rolling Stones, and “I Ride an Old Paint” by Carl Sandburg.

I was surprised to find that listening to “City of New Orleans” made me cry.  I think it just reminds me of my grandfathers and how the railroad allowed a lot of the men in my family good livings to provide for their families and how that kind of career is passing away, if not gone.

I can remember when I was little, taking my Grandpa Bob to my music teacher and telling him, excitedly, how we’d learned to sing the “Rock Island Line.”  He worked for the Rock Island, first in Chicago and then, for all my life, out in Rock Island.  Once, we even got to get up in the engine.

He was a good grandpa, Grandpa Bob.  He would take us to the park to play baseball or go sledding in the winter and he always seemed genuinely delighted with us.  He was outdoorsy and had intended on being a park ranger.  He even went to college before the war down in Mississippi to learn forestry.

Ah, well, I guess it doesn’t matter.

I was looking on wikipedia about “The Rock Island Line” and it says the following

While it is claimed that the song refers to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, the song is considerably older than the first recording, and from some of the lyrics it can be interpreted that the “railroad” referred-to is actually the Underground Railroad, a slave escape route.

While there were other points where underground railroad routes converged further south, these were not as safe as Rock Island, Illinois, since pro-slavery sympathies were higher further south, such as at the confluences of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri rivers at St. Louis.

By contrast, anti-slavery sentiment was higher in Rock Island, and freight and passengers headed North could continue on up the Mississippi River, or could continue north-east up the Rock River, or could travel east on the Rock Island railroad in early years. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the lyrics specifically mention that the railroad entered New Orleans, a point never served directly by the Rock Island Railroad, and that code words used on the Underground Railroad pervade the song’s lyrics.

Isn’t that cool? But it seems entirely plausible that the song was written about the actual Rock Island line.  The Rock Island was, as early as 1905 attempting to buy track or right of way that would reach New Orleans from Little Rock.  Before the Civil War, the Rock Island was a small railroad that ran from Illinois into Iowa.

I’m not a slaveholder, obviously, but it’s one thing to posit that songs like “Steal Away” or “Follow the Drinking Gourd” might have been secret Underground Railroad songs, but, if you have something called “the Underground Railroad” and you have your slaves singing about taking a railroad from New Orleans–a railroad that, at the time, doesn’t go to New Orleans, and is located in the free North–and the gist of the song is how the engineer claims to be carrying one thing but is really carrying another, it’s hard for me to believe that that’s not too close to obvious.

I mean, shoot, in that case, why not just come out and sing “I’m running away this evening.  I’m running away up north.  I’ll take what I can carry, but don’t look here for me no more”?

Like Uncle Walt, I Contain Multitudes

Lil’ Pasture* tried to call me out yesterday.

I would caution, however, that this system only works when there is a benevolent, homogeneous ingroup in charge. Something that wouldn’t be possible if other aspects of her ideology were carried out.

For there to us an us there has to be a them. It just doesn’t seem in keeping with enlightened progressive feminism, in my view, even on a provisional basis.

Donna Locke, in the comments, tries to school me about immigration:

Our legal-immigration system is in a mess because we are taking in and trying to process far, far more people than the system or we can handle. That should be a clue, an alarm, to any thinking American. Our traditional immigration levels, preceding the past 30 years, were far lower. The current massive numbers have defeated our traditional assimilation model. That is why we see everything repeated in Spanish now, and it includes more than the loss of our common language. The problem is not our immigration system. The problem is the numbers that are coming in and overwhelming it.

Then, y’all, Glen Dean is boo-hooing that we Lefties are calling anti-immigration folks xenophobic, racist, and nativist:

Do Mike and his friends, like commenter Ginger, really believe that every one who opposes illegal immigration is a hate filled racist? If they do believe that, no wonder they are so angry.


After hearing this story yesterday, I reacted like most people. A very bright young student, a track star at TSU, and a future law school student, was killed yesterday by a drunk driver. That alone is enough to leave you bothered. Every life is valuable regardless of one’s potential, but it especially hurts when an all American girl like this has her life cut short. Maybe we are wrong to seemingly put more value on this young lady’s life than others. I don’t know, but that’s not the point. The point is, a young person was killed by a drunk driver.

Y’all, seriously. Is it any wonder that, when someone like Mack comes along and just cuts through the crap, my reaction is so over the top? Thank god someone is just willing to say it like it is.

Let’s just take a side-track. First, I’d like to say how much I love and how handy it is for me to have a bunch of different translations of the Bible at my finger tips, but also how frustrating it is when you have a piece of something, say a Psalm, memorized and you go to look it up and it’s not how you remember it and so you have to spend ten minutes you’d otherwise spend on a perfectly good rant trying to find the exact translation you want. In my case, Psalm 62, English Standard Version, “For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I shall not be greatly shaken.”

Isn’t that nice? I was looking for the next part, “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” because I was going to work it into my rant about how ridiculous building a wall between here and Mexico is**, but I don’t think it really fits. Still, I didn’t want to not mention it, because Biblegateway is so damn cool.

Okay let’s get back to the points I want to make.

1. Glen Dean

The Random House dictionary defines “nativism” as “the policy of protecting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants.” The American Heritage dictionary defines it as “A sociopolitical policy, especially in the United States in the 19th century, favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants.” and “The reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.”

Glen Dean says, “Every life is valuable regardless of one’s potential, but it especially hurts when an all American girl like this has her life cut short. Maybe we are wrong to seemingly put more value on this young lady’s life than others.” [Various emphases mine]

Glen, hello, that is the text book definition of nativism–putting more value on this girl’s life BECAUSE SHE IS AN AMERICAN/favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants. That is it. What you’re saying is nativist.

Calling you out on that makes people like me seem angry? Whatever.

If anything, we’re exasperated that y’all don’t seem to have the ability to type “” into your browser before you start complaining about being called nativist. I mean, not to skip ahead, but look at what Donna Locke says–“The current massive numbers have defeated our traditional assimilation model. That is why we see everything repeated in Spanish now, and it includes more than the loss of our common language.” Now look at the second American Heritage definition of nativism, “The reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.”

I can’t spell it out for you any more clearly. Donna Locke is a nativist. She advances the idea of the perpetuation of native cultural traits (“traditional assimilation models,” “our common language”), especially in opposition to acculturation (she doesn’t like seeing everything also in Spanish now).

Are all nativists xenophobic racists? No, but y’all have a long history of walking arm and arm with them***.

2. Donna Locke

Donna, for starters, you’re operating under the premise that our immigration system is somehow not troubled by the same bureaucratic nightmares of other government agencies. As nm and gandolph mantooth explained yesterday, it’s a nightmare that doesn’t work well for anyone.

You’re an intelligent woman and so I know you get this and so I am loathe to spell it out for you again, but here goes. The system is broken. They can’t even get as many new people as we need in the country into the country with anything approaching competancy. People who are in the system cannot navigate the system because the system is a nightmare.

This has nothing to do with the people who are here illegally, because they are, by definition, here illegally and therefore not in the system. We could have four billion people here illegally and they would be no strain on the immigration system because they have, by definition, bypassed the immigration system.

So, that is one issue. The immigration system needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed in such a way that people can move through it efficiently, that the numbers of people who come in are equal to the needs we have, and that people who are criminals–like Victor Benitez, when they are identified–serve time (if they’ve committed a crime here) and then are deported.

Right now, though, Immigration cannot process the number of people we need in the ways that we need them. That also must be reformed. If we need a great many unskilled workers, then Immigration guidelines must be changed to let those folks get here with relative ease.

And, if we’ve encouraged folks to come here in ways that circumvent Immigration, because Immigration would not let them in in the first place, we owe it to them to help them get right with the Law.

Right now, we have a situation where there are, for all practical purposes, no slots for unskilled workers and yet businesses all over this country have said, “Well, if you can get here, you can have a job.” There is no legal way for them to take those jobs. And yet those jobs are being offered to them.

We can either start shutting down American businesses who offer jobs to folks who cannot legally take them (and good luck with that) or we can acknowledge that our Immigration system is so broken that, even normally law-abiding businesses must circumvent it in order to do business and fix the system and make a way for folks who are here to be here legally.

This is especially important because many of them have children who are U.S. citizens and we have an obligation to them, if not to their parents, to watch out for them (see, even I can be slightly nativist).

But, second, Donna, and perhaps more importantly, I come from rural America. And I have lived in little towns where church records were still kept in German or where grandmas still spoke Italian. I have lived near enough to Chicago to tell you that there are high schools in Chicago that have English, Spanish, Polish, and Greek signs that point you places. There are neighborhoods in Chicago where you might never hear English all day.

And it can be a little weird, to be in a country you know is ostensibly English-speaking and walk into stores and have to wait for a seven year old kid to come and translate your needs for you.

And I’ll even admit that it can be scary.

But it’s not the end of the world. It’s also exciting and vibrant. And, if you’ve ever been to Chicago on, say, St. Patrick’s Day or over the 4th, to see all these different folks come together to celebrate and enjoy each others’ company, it’s awe-inspiring.

It makes me proud to be an American, that we can be so different and yet all fit under the term “American.” Not because we’ve all assimilated; not because we all speak English; but because we’re all here.

That’s it. That’s all it takes. Just show up.

If that doesn’t inspire Whitman-esque love for this great place, I don’t know what will.

What I want to say to you is that the future you fear is coming. You might be able to hold it off for a little bit, but it’s coming.

You can either continue to be afraid or you can learn to embrace it. But I honestly don’t see how, without resorting to being something that is truly un-American, you can stop it.

3. Lil’ Pasture

You’re so cute. What can I say? I have a couple of visions of how the world should work and those visions don’t work together. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, just means I’ve thrown my lot in with the poets and the angel-headed hipsters.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops.

*I try, out of respect to him, to remember not to use his immigrant name.

**I mean, seriously, first, who’s going to build the wall? Second, we’re communist Germany now? You’d think all those Reagan-lovers would be a little nervous about acting like a bunch of communists, but I guess not.

***Again, I know, y’all don’t believe in history or being obligated by it, but I don’t know how else to explain to you our reticence to assume that nativists aren’t motivated by racism or xenophobia.