Category Archives: Immigration

Thanksgiving, Squanto and Hope

How can you not like the story of the Pilgrims?  They came to America to find freedom, we remember.  Religious freedom.  They were “separatists,” believing that the True Church must separate itself from the corruptions of the world, in particular the Anglican church and its state-supported status as an established church.  They were known as “non-conformists,” as in non-conformity with

1911 depiction of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn.

1911 depiction of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn.

the state and with the book of Common Prayer as its guide.  As in, “Hey, one of us needs to watch for the sheriff.”

First they went to Holland, where there was greater religious freedom.  Amsterdam was a bit much for them, so next they went to Leiden.  All was going well until they realized their children were speaking fluent Dutch and fitting in a little TOO well.  They couldn’t go back to England—only jail and more trouble with the state awaited them.

So, after a lot of political and economic negotiation, they struck a deal to go to the New World.  They set sail with two ships, but one had to turn back.  Only the Mayflower made it.

During the trip there were divisions between the Pilgrims, who called themselves the Saints, and the others on the trip, designated “Strangers.”  The Mayflower Compact was struck just to keep harmony among the differing groups.

There was great illness on the ship—at least one died en route.  They left in September, went off course, and landed far off their destination—in November.  Cape Cod in November can be, well, brisk, to say the least. Read the rest of this entry

BREXIT and the Flopidemic of Slurrds

The Brexit vote in the UK set off a global panic. In part, because we assumed that people in England, if not the rest of the United Kingdom, would always think about a decision and be sensible. They would never vote without knowing what the implications of that issue might be. Apparently, we’ve been wrong.

The first problem is the word “Brexit.” It’s a combination word, and I think that is why Europe is coming apart. We are not using enough words now. Words were a way, in the olden times, like the 1990s, to actually describe something in detail and debate it. Think of the most powerful places to communicate now—non-existent “platforms” named, ironically, “Twitter,” “Instagram,” “Facebook” and “YouTube.” Four major media with only 27 letters total between them. We don’t use enough letters and words anymore.

The Brexit, we are told, has great impact for the POTUS election and thereby SCOTUS appointments. And I don’t really know what I just said.

Because we now use pictures instead of words—after all a picture is worth a thousand, so 20 pix is 20K, right? The core problem is the flopendemic of Slurrds (for old people, this means, “a flood and epidemic of slurring words together.” Get with it, Geriatrics).   Brexit is the chief example. Brexit sounds like a breakfast cereal. When I went to England years ago, there was a cereal called, “Wheatabix.” I am sure confused many voters. “Exit from cereal? Read the rest of this entry

Faith Amid Many Faiths

Religion is in the news every day, and sometimes the way politicians and news reporters talk about it

Other Faiths

shows an enormous ignorance.  Religious faith as the media and politicians talk about it sometimes bears little resemblance to the daily lives of billions of faithful people across the world. We live not only next to Muslims, but Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and many others.  Sometimes this diversity is seen as a threat.  But how do we respond?

Most Christians are not hateful or uncaring to their neighbors. But in these fear-driven times, some truth is a welcome friend.  In this study, we will learn a little more about two “neighbors” with whom we share similar ancestry through Abraham—Islam and Judaism—and how Baptists can draw from their heritage to find a way to a more thoughtful and faithful interaction with others.

First, we are affected powerfully by what I have come to call “un-socializing media.”  The web has made powerful and wonderful goods to be available to the planet.  Unfortunately, it also provides terrible temptations and problems.  I’m not simply talking about terrorists and pornographers being able to spread their poison, though that is bad enough.  But the damage of half-truths, uncritical forwarding and the anonymity of the internet enables people to “express” things better left to the Read the rest of this entry

Breaking News Update from “What If…”

(Another Imaginary News Update, to be repeated 97 times on Imaginary CNN when there is nothing else to talk about)–

In a late-breaking development in the Native American Immigration Crisis (read the original story here http://garyfurr.org/2012/07/16/what-if/

Canadians illegally in the United States today gathered simultaneously at IHOPs across the country, as they believe that they are diplomatically immune spaces.  In a giant Skype call, they decided that should the Native American effort to oust Europeans proceed and threaten them as well that their strategy will be to return to Canada on a single day, forcing a crisis in the Great North.  The emigres hope that it might result in an emergency deportation back to the United States.

Stay tuned.

In other news, Stephen Colbert was ordered by the Supreme Court to no long market his show on the Comedy Network since a recent survey indicated that the majority of Americans could not tell that he was kidding.  Most discouraging was that the percentage of elected officials who thought he was “a serious journalist” exceeded the general population.

What If…

Indians Sue for Possession of the U.S.:

Ask for Return of Lands and Deportation of

Euro-Americans

Squanto called “a sell out”

(Imaginary Press Release)   The immigration crisis in the United States took an unexpected turn today when Native Americans launched a lawsuit to deport all European descendants from the US back to their homelands.  Following the recent Supreme Court decision on immigration, leaders representing all the major tribes gathered together at Little Big Horn to announce an impending lawsuit.  They are seeking a lawsuit to remove all European Americans whose ancestors emigrated to this country illegally during the past 300 years, claiming that they had illegally squatted on tribal land, brought a plague of drug and alcohol abuse, took jobs that unemployed Native Americans could do, like being CEOs, equipment managers for basketball teams, and investment bankers, and ruined their livelihoods by killing off all the buffalo.

They are asking the court to uphold their legal request that requires all Europeans to carry identification cards and wear moccasins except in extremely cold weather.  They also have suggested that Reservation police be able to check identity and arrest Senior Adult Caucasians at Casinos if they have probable cause to think they are here illegally.   The Europeans must return all stolen lands and go live on a reservation while their cases are being deliberated.  If deported, they will go to the end of the line, which is said to be in Iceland and that they may come back in ten years.

Red Cloud and friends

Descendants of Cochise, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Geronimo have hired the Manhattan firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, famous legal counsel for NPR’s “Car Talk,” to lead the dream team.  They will be joined by lead attorney and member of the House of Representatives Chief Enormous Bull as they argue their motion.

The motion blames Squanto for helping the Pilgrims, who kidnapped him and took him to England while his tribe was wiped out by Pilgrim diseases.  Squanto, they contend, did not have authorization to permit them to land in the first place.  The Indians had planned to build an enormous wall around Plymouth Rock but construction had not begun when the immigrants arrived and began squatting on the land.

In a related move, the Geico Cavemen said they would file an injunction blocking the Native American motion as their ancestors likely preceded them and should also be removed.  While their numbers are small, they have considerable insurance assets to leverage for a long legal fight.

Neither group has said specifically if the motions would apply to all Caucasian Americans, or would only affect those whose ancestors actually took Indian lands.  Both groups said they would be willing to negotiate a settlement, and neither had interest in taking Manhattan back, and said that Arizona could remain as a reservation for whites until arrangements to move in with relatives could be made.

Cavemen expected to enter the dispute

The American Bar Association said it looks forward to the years of billable hours that this action implies.  Leaders in China said whoever wound up with ownership of the country would be responsible for its current and future debts.  Europeans announced a counter-suit denying the return of the descendants until they could prove that they would be good citizens and not a threat to security.  Mexican drug cartels protested the removal of their largest customers citing exorbitant shipping and transportation costs.  Meanwhile, Alabama and a dozen other states said they would begin deportations immediately, whether there was a country to take them or not.  In the absence of a place to go, white people will be given large flat barges stocked with bottled water, Spam and saltine crackers, cable television and country music CDs while they wait until a country will receive them.  The suit has specified that those being placed on the reservation will travel by Greyhound bus along the Trail of Tears.

A spokesman for the Euro-Americans protested the move, citing the damage it would cause to families and especially children, and members of Congress met through the night and said because of the urgency of the matter that Immigration reform could be ready as early as Tuesday.  The President said he would rush back from vacation to sign the bill, which would resolve the situation.  “This affects millions of voters…er, people.  We have to fix this.”  Observers say it may be the fastest action of this magnitude that the Congress has ever achieved other than declarations of war, voting on raises for Congress, and motions of appreciation for professional athletes.

To Kill A Mockingbird…50 years later

Here in Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of our great treasures.  You can still go to Monroeville, Alabama and see a live re-enactment of the story every year by the local citizenry.  You start out in the yard, then move inside the courthouse, and it is eerily reminiscent of the movie because Hollywood built a replica of it for the film.  When I went with friends a few years back, I felt a flash of shame and pain when the n-word was uttered while African American locals up in the balcony were in our presence.  I was embarrassed.  So we’ve made some progress, I guess.  As a child in North Carolina the word was uttered around me thoughtlessly, as a part of an unquestioned culture of resentment and vulnerable entitlement. Read the rest of this entry

A Political Glossary for Newcomers

I offer this to students from other countries here on visas for college and to politically uninformed citizens to help them understand the current debates going on in our country.  GF

Entitlements—a word that once referred to “something earned or deserved, or given out of mutual agreement and covenant and generally accepted and validated by law.”  Lately it has devolved to a more primitive association to refer to another as “a deadbeat.” Today in politics it has a very strict meaning, as in, “money given to someone I don’t know and don’t really care about or from whom I can derive no direct benefit.  Therefore, it is waste and should be gotten rid of.”  In recent years it has become clear that the Entitlement People, whoever they are, do not spend money, buy groceries, pay bills, or eat at restaurants and therefore do not participate in the economic life of the nation.  They tend to sit at home, collect their benefits and checks, cash them and either buy cigarettes or send the money directly to China. The Entitled (I will henceforth refer to them as TE) use up valuable resources that could pay off the national debt and other important problems which they themselves created had they simply refused to accept the money the Congress voted to give them.  The simplest distinction will help the reader.  “Entitlements are what someone else receives as a benefit that they don’t deserve because they are not in my family.”

Term Limits—an imaginary concept that revolutionaries espouse until elected.

Immigration Crisis—see also, “Terrorists, Arabs, Foreigner, Muslim, Job-Gobblers.”  Bad people who come to the good country where we live, which the Native Americans gladly handed to us when our ancestors arrived, and negotiated same in solemn treaties which said, in effect, “Maybe you European people can stop the porous border issues we have around here.  We gladly give you control of all our land and resources if you will relocate us to barren and worthless areas and fence us in, where we can later develop casinos.”  In Alabama, this also refers to the flow of undocumented persons from Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee flowing into the state.

The Government—a word very close in pronunciation to “government,” which simply means the “the complex of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out.”  For newcomers to America, it is important to NEVER use the definite article.  When an American says “The Government,” they are, actually using profanity.  It refers specifically to their current group of elected persons and is not to be used except in violent discussions in which more than one person yells simultaneously and no one listens.  In this latter sense, it can never refer to anyone with good motives or intentions, only an amorphous and callously selfish group of piggish persons who pilfer through the public treasury to enrich themselves.  There is great debate among scholars about whether the nearly universally truth of a stereotype, in fact, makes something no longer a stereotype.

Political facts—an oxymoron referring to the emotions I have about people who feel differently than me, expressed as objective information but usually having more to do with where I live, what I do for a living, how close to retirement I am or other contingencies that shade my perspective.  Antonym—“serious dialogue with someone who disagrees with me.”

Common good—a euphemism for “we win, you lose” or, something that makes 50.01% of Americans feel that we are on the right course in an opinion poll.

Blogosphere—the collective wisdom of self-expression on the internet on things political, generally something the founding fathers would approve but also which carries the same dangers of a space suit without an oxygen tank or gluteal ventilation.  The current writer is certainly part of the blogosphere but recommends that readers be sure to read a real book at least once a week to counter nosebleeds and intellectual hemorrhoids  that can develop in the blogosphere.

PAC or Political Action Committeesee “Let Your Money Work for You:  Political Opportunities for the Discerning Investor” and “How to Win Friends and Influence Elections While Slandering People”

Fault—noun:  the giant crack in the good earth of America we are about to fall into while our leaders blame each other.  Verb—What a President or a Congress does to explain the current mess, similar to tennis, “They faulted their predecessors for their vote on the pay raise for themselves.”

Pork—Benefits to someone else’s congressional district that are the reason we have a massive debt to China.  [antonym: “Ice Tea money” An article posted in 1994 (real!) said, “Lawmakers Hope ‘Ice Tea’ Will Quench Their Thirst For Special Projects.  January 08, 1994 By Sean Holton Sentinel Washington Bureau.  Leave it to Congress to fight highway congestion with a multibillion dollar program that sounds like ”ice tea” but tastes like a pork milkshake.  On Friday, scores of lawmakers from Florida and other states lined up for federal ”special projects” money to be doled out this year under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (abbreviated ISTEA, and called ”ice tea”).  Ice Tea is what our senator brought in.]  Pork is what they do in New Jersey.

Debt Ceiling—An infinitely adjustable mortgage that can only be purchased by the Congress which, unlike homeowners, is actually more payable the higher it goes.  Until homeowners can print their own money, this is likely to be a very restrictive real estate instrument.    Wall Street financiers are looking into a way to bundle America’s global debt as they did home mortgages and sell them to Pakistan and Venus.  This is promising because it is tied to an actual asset, the septic tank at the Capitol Building which, apparently, has an endless methane supply that could run the global needs of earth for two millennia.

Helping “The Help”

In the theater on Saturday to see “Tree of Life,” we watched the obligatory previews and saw with interest that a film version of “The Help” is coming in August.  Allison Janney was one of the actresses I recognized, and heard enough to know this would be another butchered movie attempt to capture Southern accents.  Anyone NOT from the South cannot hear the hundred subtleties in Southernspeak.  We do not all sound like Foghorn Leghorn (“Ah, SAY-uh, ah sey-uh Miss Priss-ay”).

In the case of Mississippi, parts of Alabama and south Georgia you would be pretty close, but a little off is worse than way off, the linguistic equivalent of losing a baseball game on a balk in the ninth.  You think, “they don’t know us, don’t know anything about where we live, who we are.  What’s the deal?  Most of ‘em still think we’re unchanged from the barking dogs and fire hoses and Atticus Finch.  It’s as though the South is invisible.

According to Wikipedia: the movie “The Help” is about Aibileen, an African-American maid living in Mississippi in the early 1960s who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families.”   There is a storyline about a campaign to get the white residents of Jackson to build separate bathrooms in their garage or carport for the use of the “colored” help.   Characters with odd Southern names like Hilly and Skeeter are here, as well as Aibileen, another maid who has been through 19 jobs because she speaks out too much.  A lot more develops, but pick up the book or see the film.

I started thinking about real life versions of “The Help” many times.  As a minister you go and sit in people’s homes a lot, especially when things are going badly.  Death, divorce, children run amuck, that sort of thing.  You go as a holy man or woman and sit there, listening, trying to lend some presence to some terrifying absence.  It can be anywhere:  in nursing homes, assisted living or elegant suburban homes.  The help, especially down south, some long-time worker for the family, inevitably comes in and brings me a glass of tea or says hello or dusts around us.

When my wife worked in welfare reform she got to know a lot of women who worked as domestics—cooks, maids, caretakers for the elderly, sitters and raisers of babies.  Often they worked for more than one family to put food on the table.  And if you wanted to know what was REALLY going on, talk to these women.  It helps explain reality television, I think.  Often I think, “Why on earth would you say that with cameras rolling?  How can you be sincere and still know your being taped?”  I suppose you just forget after a while and then, out it comes.

My wife Vickie used to say, “People forget and talk in front of their maids like they’re not there, and don’t realize that everything in their house is known.”  Another way to put it is that these people become invisible.  We stop seeing them, being aware of them, taking account of their presence.

I wondered recently as I thought about a really BAD immigration law passed by the Alabama legislature:  “WHAT were they thinking?”  At first I focused on the legal, financial and constitutional issues—how will we enforce it, who will pay for it, and so on.  My question was, “Am I my brother’s Big Brother?”  Absurdities occurred—will we build a wall like the Israelis to keep the Floridians and Mississippians out?  But there were also somber thoughts—a lot of law enforcement may ignore it, but some might abuse it on people too scared and vulnerable to speak up.  And also frustration that the federal government, whose real job it is, has failed to do their job.  This is not a state issue.  But let’s not go there.

Mainly I have been thinking about the help.  The help are people who clean toilets and wash dishes and dig gardens and mow lawns and help build houses.  They mop hospital halls and work long hours without complaining.  And when they work their fingers to the bone for subsistence wages, we’re only too glad to let them do it.  Then, when the bottom drops out of the Dow and we’re scared, we started passing laws that have a nice, authoritative sound to them.  “Let’s stand up and do something.”

I called the governor’s office before this became law and told his staff I strongly opposed this law—unaffordable, unconstitutional, unenforceable.  But mostly, if truth be told, I was thinking about the Old Testament and Jesus and all those passages in the Bible about the way we treat strangers and foreigners in our midst.  There isn’t one passage in the Bible that says, “When they’re down and out, draw the line and shove ‘em out.”  Find it if you can.  No, it says, “You were strangers in Egypt.  Don’t forget it.  Don’t oppress widows and foreigners and orphans.”  In other words, “Don’t tread harshly on people who can’t fight back.”

I am embarrassed by this law.  We can do better.  Nothing in it about the people already here or treating them with respect and hospitality or how to go from where we are to where we could be or even a mere way to authorize those already here to stay as guest workers.  We didn’t even offer them a ride home.  Just jails, fines, and, worse, the rest of us being tattlers to pull it off.  It’s not that hard, it seems to me, to figure out.  But that didn’t seem to get in this law.

A lot of our newcomers pretty soon become business owners and contractors themselves.  They work hard and pull themselves up.  I’ve met people who were doctors or dentists in their former country but work in menial jobs here because they are not “qualified” and they don’t complain.  It’s a familiar story—like the 24 million immigrants who came into this country between 1860 and the 1920s—some of whose descendants sit in nice homes griping about immigrants.

Most of all, I feel like we got in the living room and made a decision affecting our maids and yard workers and day laborers and restaurant workers and lots of women and children.  Many of them are legal and sometimes their families are not.  It’s a mess, I admit.  But we got in the living room and came up with a half-baked solution that, like those bathrooms in the garages in The Help will look absurd a few years down the line.

We committed the two great sins for Southern Christians.  We were rude to strangers  and we talked about things that affected the help’s lives as though they weren’t even there.  And now our teachers and law enforcement folks and business owners are asked to fix it by becoming an enforcement bureau, ratting out first graders who don’t know anything about why they are here.

I’m for homeland security—career criminals don’t belong here, terrorists need to be stopped.  I hate the ocean of drugs pouring over our borders as much as Mexico hates the avalanche of guns pouring over theirs.  But maybe if we stopped talking about our help like they aren’t even there we could make distinctions between people who make us better and those who don’t.

We had the wrong kind of discussion and we ended up with a Rube Goldberg law.  We can do better.  We should do better.  I pray we will.