Sunday, April 25, 2010

Arizona immigration law: a lame attempt to preserve a lifestyle

Seth Meyers said it perfectly on NBC's Saturday Night Live last night:
"The last time I heard 'show me your papers' was in a WWII movie...and it was Adolph and his fascists. " Hilter's family, Meyers suggested, ought to get some kind of residual payment from the new Arizona immigration law.
The law itself is criminal and it will never survive constitutional scrutinty.
It can't possibly hold up.
Those who passed it had to know that.
So, it makes me wonder.
Just who supports this new law.
And why.
My husband and I lived in Arizona for nearly five years.
I gave birth to our first two children there.
Our time in the Wild West allowed me to make a few observations. Among them was the difference between those who honestly wanted to resolve the issue of illegal immigration, and those who wanted to keep the cheap labor flowing, but still look good politically.
The proposals from the first group involved such things as day visas and huge fences and tighter borders and more aid to Mexico and naturalization of those who had already illegally crossed into the United States. But these solutions pose a huge problem to second group.
You see, this second group relies on illegal immigrants for perfectly manicured lawns, clean houses, well-reared children, cotton harvesting, mining, truck loading, painting and all kind of tasks they decline to do themselves.
These people don't have to decide whether to hire a housekeeper or a lawn maintenance crew or a nanny. They can have it all because illegal immigrants will work for next to nothing, work as many hours as they can and never, ever talk back.
Most won't dare even ask for a glass of water.
But the folks in that second group can't come right out and argue that.
They can't say, "Keep the illegals coming and keep them oppressed. And don't give the legal Mexicans immigrants or the citizen Hispanics any power because they might want to protect their kind and wreck the whole thing for all of us."
They have to pretend to do something.
To protect their lifestyles and their reputations.
And this is it.
Under this new law, anyone who cannot prove citizenship will be arrested.
Do you think the cops will stop us white folks?
Of course not.
African Americans?
Maybe, but probably not.
The black population in Arizona is slim and poses no political threat.
And illegals tend to go where they have realtives or friends. They are no large populations of illegal Kenyans or Germans or Russians or Chinese in Arizona. What would bring them there? Why would a good cop stop a white guy or a black woman on suspicion of illegal status?
No, this law is clearly and openly geared toward Mexicans.
With this new law, the people of the second group can stand on their balconies and watch as the legal, illegal and citizen Hispanics who had the misfortune of taking their kids for a walk, running to the store or grabbing a bite to eat without their passports or naturalization papers or visas on hand are arrested and say, "Look. Look what we're doing. We're fighting illegal immigration."
And this is what they've done.
This is the reality:
They've made Arizona a threatening place to live for Hispanics who are legally living in the United States, reducing the chances that they will settle or remain settled in the state and, eventually, take political control.
They've given the appearance that they are tackling the problem of the immigration overflow when they know, full well, that nothing has changed on the border. Mexicans will continue to cross the border illegally at the same rate because it's still worth the risk.
Mexico is still dirt poor.
Mexican health care is still lousy.
Border security is no better.
The desire for a better life, for money to send back home, remains.
And so, most important, they've ensured that ...
their desert lawns will remain plush and green;
their tiled houses will remain dust-free;
their children will remain out of sight while they sip gin and tonics or glasses or merlot or marguaritas poolside under  misters.
Nothing will change.
They think.
But they've forgotten one things.
This showing of papers didn't work for Hilter.
We won.
And we will win again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Twin moms and the psychology of rudeness

The irony was too much.
I was reading a post on an online forum for parents of twins when my 3-year-old identical boys started watching Ni Hao Kai Lan. The theme of the children's show on Nick Jr. was politeness, always finding something nice to say.
The theme of the forum thread was how to avoid unsollicited advice from moms of singletons. Some posters were kind, but frustrated. However, a few expressed in many words that outright rudeness was not only appropriate, but the right of every twin mom.
One poster told of an incident in a department store in which she commented on someone's twins. The mother replied with, "Yes, they are twins. Now leave us alone." The poster was forgiving of her because the other mom didn't know she had twins herself.
When I responded that rudeness is never okay, I was shot down.
So I paid closer attention and this is what I found:
_ Some women enjoy rudeness.
_ Even more so, they enjoy bragging about their rude exploits.
_ Rudeness is addictive.
_ Rude people eventually drive others anyway,
_ Rudeness is like crack-cocaine: it is often practiced by people who are depressed, angry or have low self-esteem. It gives its practitioner an immediate sense of euphoria, but then it brings her crashing down. The only solution is to keep doing it and doing it over and over to re-live that euphoria, knowing that she will eventually self-destruct.
Twins attract a lot of attention, especially when they are babies or infants. So twins offer moms many more opportunities to be rude. Yes, it can be frustrating to walk into a store for a quick errand only to be stopped two or three times by people who oggle your babies, but that's why you build in "oggle time."
I always either gave myself a few extra minutes to run errands or reduced my agenda to only the most vital errands. More often, I hired a sitter for the important stuff or waited until evening when my husband was home.
And it helps to try to have some perspective.
Maybe even some sympathy or empathy for those who approach us.
Most are simply struggling to make conversation.
And most are in awe of twins.
That's a good thing.
I have healthy twins and two healthy older children.
I am forunate.
Very, very fortunate.
And twins seem to make people happy.
Why would I not want to share them with the world?
Why would I want to be rude?
There were times when I was tempted, like when the clerk from Dillard's kept jumping in front of my stroller and stopping me every time I tried to get around her; or like the time an acquaintance kept calling one twin "the fat one;" or like the time the older gentleman at the mall insisted over and over that my twins were not identical.
But I stopped myself.
What good would it do?
Another clerk finally helped me out of my Dillard's situation.
I haven't found a reason to speak with that acquaintance since.
The older gentleman? Well, what do I care what he believes? I smiled, told him I had to get going and walked away.
As for this whole thing about advice from singleton moms, what's wrong with it? Singleton moms have plenty to share about feeding babies, getting them to sleep, making baby food, the best diapers, milestones, etc. Why can't those moms just listen and pick and choose the advice that applies to them?
Why be rude?
Those women did not want to hear it when I wrote that rudeness was unacceptable. Perhaps, I took the wrong approach. Maybe what I should have written was, "Turn on your TVs. Ni Hao Kai Lan is on."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Distance and the evolution of friendships

A friend and I were chatting the other day when I mentioned a woman I had been close with for many years. First, I described her as one of my closest friends, a friend for nearly two decades. Then I corrected myself. We're not so close anymore, I said.
Not since I moved.
My friend's reaction: So when you move, they're not your close friends any more?
For a moment, I was taken aback. My husband and I are hoping to relocate in the near future and I certainly didn't want this woman to feel like I would place any less value on our friendship simply because of a geographical change.
Not at all.
But these changes in intensity have not been my choice.
They were, simply, an inevitable effect of moving.
It is a lesson I have learned over the past 11 years as we have dragged our belongings back and forth across the country from New York to Arizona to Cinncinati, where we live now. Each time we moved, I felt that huge void, that loss of the immediate physical presense of my good friends, the people I could count on when I was bummed out, excited or just plain bored.
And each time, I vowed to maintain that intensity from afar with phone calls, emails and occassional visits.
I succeeded at first, especially when we all had young children and craved that adult conversation. There is nothing like a good phone call with an old friend when you are cooing with a baby who cannot converse in return.
But then something happened.
Our babies got older and we were stuck in the house less often. They became little people, engaging us in fascinating conversations about bugs and dinosaurs and Swiper the fox. Suddenly, I noticed that my old friends had less and less to say. Uncomfortable pauses became more frequent. The time between calls grew. The calls were shorter and the emails less detailed.
The babies were one factor.
The other was simple logistics.
In my previous communities, I was just one among of a network of friends. When I left, I damaged those networks--some more than others--but the rest remained intact. I left my friends in the hands of other friends, in familiar surroundings with communities that were familiar to them, open and welcoming. Though I know they missed me, the gaps I left were quickly repaired.
I had left them with everything, but me.
But when I settled in my new communities, I was on my own. I had to cultivate new friendships from scratch, learn my surroundings, learn the cultural temperment of the areas and gain acceptance, in some sense, in the communities. I had to built a network from scratch or find a place in a new one.
It was difficult and it was, at times, lonely.
In the beginning it was easy to tap into those old friendships.
Too easy.
But it wasn't easy for my old friends and it wasn't healthy for me. Maintaining intense friendships from afar requires a great deal of energy and a denial of that which is physically present. If I focused all of my efforts on the old friendships, I left little for the people who were new in my life.
I had to reduce my dependence, especially since they had done that long before.
That does not mean that I love the old friend we discussed any less. I would still do anything for her, fly out there to be with her in a crisis, call her with news of any major event in my life. She still means the world to me and our years of "best" friendship can never be undone.
It means simply that we no longer share the details of our everyday lives, what I like to call the minor big things. I don't call her when all the kids are sick and I need to vent. I don't call her when my kids reach particular milestones, when I'm thinking about whether to cover my emerging gray, when I am annoyed about a particular situation in my life.
And I no longer get upset when she fails to share those things with me.
I did not lose friends. The nature of my friendships simply changed and I welcomed new people into my life, like her, the woman I was chatting with. And I have no doubt I will remain connected with this newer friend for many years to come regardless of the miles between us. We met through a mutual passion for writing, something that can be nourished from afar, no matter how quickly our children grow.