“Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear stained eyes”

Aside from it being an unrealistic waste of money and time, the main thing that irritates me about building a wall between here and Mexico is that it’s just so damn wimpy.

I mean, seriously, we want to put up a wall to keep out PEOPLE WHO WANT JOBS AND A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR FAMILIES.

AAAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!  No, not people who want jobs and a better life for their families!  Anything but that!  The horror!  The horror!

If I were an official social theorist–and not just playing one on the internet–I’d be better equipped to suss this out.  Why is it that so many people who are so invested in traditional gender roles and the manly protective men swaggering that goes with it are the same folks arguing that “we” (a we that presumably includes them) need a wall to keep Mexicans out.

Are we admitting that the kinds of manly men we’re pretending to be don’t actually exist?

I have to tell you that my working theory is that we’re ignoring part of what a wall is designed to do. 

Hear me out.  I might put up a fence between my neighbor’s lot and mine to delineate the property line, but that’s usually the secondary reason to do it.  People put up fences, primarily, to keep some people and animals out while simultaneously keeping some people in.

I think we all have a good grip on who’s supposed to be kept out by this wall, but I’ve never heard anyone speculate on who’s supposed to be kept in.

Are people going to Mexico really that big of a problem?  Such a wound to us as a country that we’d try to stop them?

No.

But, ah, you see what I’m thinking, don’t you?

This wall isn’t, psychologically, just about keeping Mexicans out.  After all, they’re just the folks who live next door.  They’ve lived next door to us for as long as we’ve lived here.  Our kids have grown up together.  Our kin has married their kin.  They’re not strangers.  Shit, we eat their food.

Talking about how much work it’d be to put up the wall is what got me thinking about it, that and the rhetoric of “they’re stealing our jobs.”

This is about keeping industry in.

Symbolically.

That’s why it’s so powerful beyond all reason–this notion of putting up a wall.  Not to keep some “them” and “their way of life” out, but to keep something we think of as “us” and “ours” from leaving.

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8 thoughts on ““Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear stained eyes”

  1. Yep.
    No really, it is about keeping them from Stealing What’s Ours, at least partly. It’s also about keeping people from Rejecting What’s Ours.

    One of my college composition assignments is to analyze and synthesize several points of view from two sides of a controversy. There’s a great online database to help them gather this data called CQ Quarterly, which (among other things) compiles pro/con lists of quotes from persons of influence.
    Long story short, one of my students wrote about immigration policy, and I skimmed through her CQ printout when she submitted her materials to me. Their immigration debate report basically boiled down to this:

    Anti-immigration: Our economy can’t handle the influx of human bodies! (they’ll steal our jobs.)
    Pro-immigration control: Historically that hasn’t been the case. Here are some facts and figures that demonstrate that moderate levels of immigration actually benefit the economy. More people create more jobs.
    Anti-immigration: Well, uh…. what if they don’t assimilate?
    (Sara, reading CQ: Assimilate to what? The white culture that people pretend doesn’t exist?)
    Pro-immigration control: Why would people go through all that trouble to get here if they didn’t want to be American?

    I hope my little send-up conveyed how quickly the material bases for argument get dropped, and the emotional arguments come into play on both sides. Actually, “they’ll steal our jobs” IS an emotional argument, since the facts demonstrate that economy is helped over all… besides which, a great many American jobs “stolen” by non-Americans are those which “real” Americans don’t want to do (like Sonia, the dishwasher at the food store where I work weekends) or can’t do (like all those brilliant scientists running around Philadelphia where I am).

  2. Pingback: Nashville is Talking » Punching a wall

  3. If I were an official social theorist–and not just playing one on the internet–I’d be better equipped to suss this out. Why is it that so many people who are so invested in traditional gender roles and the manly protective men swaggering that goes with it are the same folks arguing that “we” (a we that presumably includes them) need a wall to keep Mexicans out.

    Are we admitting that the kinds of manly men we’re pretending to be don’t actually exist?

    I don’t know why, but this reminded me of a conversation I was having with Breviloquence last night, about the myth of the one-man army, and the rise of the Everyman trope in comic books (starting, perhaps, with Captain America, but being reborn over and over again, finally being lampshaded with Lex Luthor’s Everyman Project in current DC), and the way “human” is coded in games in the same way that “white” is coded culturally, no matter their skin color (“humans” can generally wield most weapons, learn most skills, and are just sort of there. To do anything interesting, to have a culture, a language, a specialization, one usually needs to pick another race).

    But on the whole, yes, I do think it’s something of an admission of… hm, not just fear of the other, but fear of failure. Fear that what we’ve got here (culturally, economically, sartorially, whatever) isn’t strong enough to deal with change.

    (It also rather reminds me of the Zombie Apocalypse. That would be an interesting research project too, studying how our cultural anxieties play out in comic books, and noting the fall of human and largely humanoid adversaries and the rise of diseases, zombies, and non-humanoid aliens. The Other being talked about has changed in tenor and type, and that seems to be more or less directly linked to the way the books play out.

    … what was that you said about there not being such a thing as thread drift? =p)

  4. That would be an interesting research project too, studying how our cultural anxieties play out in comic books

    Magni, to continue your thread drift:

    Watch any Japanese monster movie from the 50’s or 60’s. What caused the monster to come to be? Invariably?

    A nuclear blast or accident.

    I think you’re onto something.

  5. I love the humans-as-default in video games to white-as-default in culture comparison. Very sharp. Also, kind of hilarious. Humans ARE very boring to play…

  6. But that’s not new, is it? I mean, I’m not a gamer (my idea of a really great computer game is Zork or something), but I remember human = white from the original Star Trek.

  7. But that’s not new, is it? I mean, I’m not a gamer (my idea of a really great computer game is Zork or something), but I remember human = white from the original Star Trek.

    That’s true, but they all pretty much happen in short succession. Star Trek: The Original Series was out from 1966-1969, and Dungeons & Dragons came out in 1974. MUD1 (arguably the genesis of the MMO genre) started in 1978.

    One of the pretty interesting things about ST:TOS was that it would have been more diverse, if studio politics had allowed it. Roddenberry was very much about the pushing boundaries in that respect. (Okay, in a lot of respects. He was a very charismatic man.) He put precisely as many ‘different’ characters in as he could, and had to fight for each one of them. (Can you tell I was into this as a kid? One learns a lot from cast members’ autobiographies. Nichelle Nichols’ Beyond Uhura was fantastically cool.) Those restrictions eased up as time went on, of course (Culminating, arguably, in the cast of DS9; humans come in pretty much every color, and so do aliens, and groups aren’t homogenous at all. Voyager, in that respect, was a bit of a step back.), but it’s true that for a lot of the time, human=white was pretty much assumed.

    (One wonders, though, just how much of that is the fact that TV and film work like that in general, rather than specifically as a result of the shift from “white” to “human” as the unmarked default. I think the two phenomena come from the same set of causal factors, but are two distinct outgrowths of it, rather than linearly linked.)

    … I am such a nerd.

  8. No, I wasn’t clear. I meant that human = default in the show, with Spock as the alien/POC in some very obvious ways. A question of what was (even for Rodenberry) marked and what was unmarked.

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