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April 2010

Debbie Riddle and Texas Trespass Bill

Remember when we first explored Arizona's Bill 1070? We talked about whether or not we would like something this far reaching in the great State of Texas. Representative Debbie Riddle is now becoming known as one of the first politicians in our state to begin composing a document similar to Arizona's. I checked her out on Face book and Twitter; she doesn't look like an old white racist lady. She looks smart and neat, and maybe just a little tired of the drama coming from "hyphenated" Americans (her words, not mine)!

Mexican Americans, and anyone else from another country that wants to stay here, should carefully consider my advice:

  1. Don't go marching around Austin with your flag from your home country.
  2. Wear pants that fit.
  3. Don't even pretend you are affiliated with any gang or drug type people.
  4. Respect everything USA.
  5. Get a job that pays a real wage, and don't undercut your American counterpart.
  6. Learn the English Language.
  7. Spend most of your money right here in Texas.
  8. Get ready to produce credible paperwork, not stolen.
  9. Start an honest immigration process.
  10. Don't think America, or its citizens, are beholden to anyone.

Obama kicked immigration reform to the curb today.

Now all undocumented workers have something serious to worry about. The chances are that immigration reform will not come soon enough to save everyone who lives here without legal immigration papers. Many other states are going to begin legislation that mirrors Arizona's. I doubt if Obama condones the Arizona law, but I don't think he is completely against protecting the border. I believe he is extremely offended by the attitudes, the drug war, the terroristic threats, and that he is concerned for the safety of our nation.

We all miss the Old Mexico of several decades past. We miss the people. What happened to them?

I expect Debbie Riddle to take a lot of heat in the next few weeks. I bet she will get a truckload of hateful mail. But I am not convinced she is doing the wrong thing. We only have to look at the news to see the horrific violence right across the river. We don't want that to happen here. We are tight on jobs, funds, patience, and long on nostalgia and emotion. We are American citizens who are still in love with our ideas and our potential. We can't save everyone who needs saving. We can't even save some of our own. So, I ask again, "Do we want something like this in Texas?"

Will Texas Follow Arizona into its Own Bill 1070?

State of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is the roughest piece of immigration legislation signed since Oklahoma and New Jersey. You can read it in its entirety here

Governor Jan Brewer was proud to sign it, but I wonder what Texas will do now?

It depends on what we want. The citizens of Arizona were repulsed by the safe houses, human smuggling, drug cartel activity, and the attitudes of some alien immigrants. Remember when they paraded around the capital building swinging Mexican flags? The citizens of Arizona are tired of arrogant displays of foreign nationalism. The bottom line is that certain groups have worn out their welcome, and regular taxpayers are tired of cleaning up the messes.

So how many illegal immigrants will self-deport? Will they really flee to their home countries? Many of them are on their way to other US locations now. So do we want similar legislation in Texas? What does this mean to the regular everyday Texan enjoying the business of life? Will we be forced to carry our birth certificate or passport if we adopt our own version of 1070?

Page one of the Arizona Senate Bill will allow law enforcement to arrest anyone they consider an illegal involved in unlawful activity without a warrant. I really don't see a problem with this concept. What the opposition is complaining about is the fact that the illegal alien can now be removed immediately from the United States. Do we want that in Texas?

Page fourteen between lines 41 and 45 discusses the forfeit of your automobile if you are transporting an illegal alien. That is pretty rough. If you give one of your illegal alien friends a ride down to the market, and you get stopped, you could have a problem. Persons who transport illegals to employment or criminal activity are the real targets of this section. Do we want this in Texas?

Page five between lines 20 and 25 discusses picking up immigrants at labor stations. If you drive up to a Home Depot parking lot, and you nod to an illegal alien to get into your car to mow your lawn, your next date could be with a judge. Not only that, this package includes language that protects law enforcement from accusations of entrapment. Your cheap lawn job could be an undercover police officer. Would you have a problem with this in Texas?

Trespassing is the crime ala carte. If you are an illegal alien living in the boundaries of this country, then you are already trespassing according to Bill 1070.

A few years ago I would have been opposed to anything like this in Texas; now I am in conflict. I am sure many Texans and Americans are feeling this way now. We are talking about sharing not only our land and economic progress, but also our sacred institutions, documents, and hard won legacy with some immigrants who feel entitled without completing a legal migration. If people from other countries really want to share in our institutions (democratic government, social security, healthcare, highways and infrastructure, banking and technology, employment opportunities, Universities and public schools) then maybe they should respectfully begin a process of legal immigration. If they want to become a part of our great machine, then they should learn our language, respect our institutions, and enhance our workforce, and not run rough shod over the people who are born here.

Do we want something like this in Texas?

Steinbeck and My Time

Today I had to write a short little piece on the life of John Steinbeck, famous American author. Remember, if you will, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature. He did this in 1962, the year I was born. He died in 1968 after spending time in Vietnam as a war correspondent. What a man he was….someone who stood up for what he believed in even if it meant ridicule. The Grapes of Wrath, for which he won a Pulitzer in 1940, was banned by many public school boards. My own accomplishments are so meager compared to his. My writing is inhibited by public opinion and the need to make a living. Steinbeck simply didn't care. He wrote what he wanted, and he wrote it so that he could make necessary changes to the American landscape. People complained that Steinbeck was obscene, too base, and wanton with his words. He was the Bohemian of literature, a smoker, drinker, and handsome divorced male. Awe, to have known someone like that….

Now I am getting past my prime for meaningful literary discourse, and I wonder if I should just go ahead and write what I want? I would certainly be a cat on a limb if I did. But how can I sleep peacefully if I become the kind of coward I despise? Steinbeck wasn't skeeered of anything; he wrote with abandon, a man on a successful mission. He was offended by what he saw, and he simply mirrored it back to the society in need of his special "wake-up" call. What is truth anyway? When I read about Steinbeck's life, I always begin to cry. I remember sitting up on top of a mountain gazing down the long winding road before me. I feel that way now when I look at all of the years I spent traveling; my hands were too busy to write, but my mind was always thinking of a story. I guess I am going to have to do it; I certainly can't die this way.

Sometimes I am disappointed in the cowardice I perceive in other people. Their lack of goodwill is offensive. The constant lying, sniping, game playing, and childish jealousies of a place riddled in shame, a community of snivelers rife with textual possibilities. I could easily visit this community by ink, and leave it rank with the stench of absolute truth in metaphor. This is how Steinbeck handled the ethical and moral questions of his time. He took them out of the closet and displayed them in beautiful imagery. When you read his words, you sometimes must squint your eyes just to avoid seeing too much truth; almost like watching a scary movie, he leaves you nodding your head in agreement, and smiling in admiration. Yes, I certainly can't die this way….

Learning to Write

Everyone has something valuable to add to the public discourse. But how do you convince someone they can write? If you have decent rhetorical ability, and you aren't learning disabled, then writing is only a matter of transferring thought into text. My ten-year old son worries too much about grammar, spelling, and rules. He gets hung up on his words, and he is afraid to take any risk. Tonight over dinner, I discovered by using an excerpt and a question found in a worksheet, my son didn't know the difference between a symbol used as a literary device, and one used as a question mark. The students are required to write, yet, they have no tools to do the job. We covered simile and metaphor at home over a book written by composition theorist Mary Ellen Ledbetter. He learned how to use specific details, hyphenated modifiers, figurative language, humor, and the full circle ending. But when he has to write for his teacher, he is afraid, introverted, and prone to following the strictest of rules. He is not liberated by his prose; instead, he is imprisoned and miserable. If this is what is happening in fourth grade class rooms, then it makes sense that we have a whole generation of students who have no interest in transferring rhetoric into readable text.

Writing and reading develop best when students create a community that gathers to argue, constructively criticize, and laugh at their foibles. Only until students feel free and unthreatened can they open up enough to write decent and meaningful narratives. You can't forego the horse and jump straight into the cart. Writing a narrative is the foundation for more intricate essays: persuasive, comparison, process, and heavily researched. In one class I observed a student argue against writing a narrative claiming that if someone knew his birthday they would steal his identity. It was really the most ignorant of arguments, and I knew he had heard this somewhere at home. But I also knew that the school had no knowledge of composition; they would likely support this ridiculous claim. The state requires children in the fourth grade to know specific tasks concerning writing skills. I have yet to see one that does meet this requirement.

My child has to let go of his inhibitions, or he will never learn to really enjoy reading and writing. English art is about freedom of expression, debate, humanities, politics, and the ivory tower. Reading is supposed to inspire the student, offend, surprise, and create critical thought. To find the little academic you have to unleash his power. The teacher has to accept that she may be offended, confused, or angered by the student that thinks. My son is afraid to elbow his way to the bar, someone might object. For most students, it is a now or never situation. But if they do get a chance to enjoy the power of written text at some later point, they may find themselves in a basic writing class. It is here that men and women with pasts fraught with error meet together with things to say that simply cannot be unheard. Rather than learn to relent early in life, and have an early chance at literacy, they are condemned to a life with little academic meaning. It is in this kind of class you meet the survivors of a bad education. They attended schools and lived lives that were adult centered, rather than structured around what was best for the child. Rather than recess, they sat inside; rather than a vocabulary, they were confined to niceties; rather than a class that struggled and strained as a unit, they floundered in isolation. Students were allowed to interfere with other student's education and civil rights; discipline was a joke. It is here you find anger unleashed and whole groups of students that were underprivileged by the system; the birthdays were always celebrated with a name on the calendar. How nicey nice.

Symbols, Stephen Sudduth, and Facing the Lie

This Easter season we have been inundated with fat wide crosses littering lawns in the strangest of places. I like crosses; and I believe they are beautiful, simplistic, meaningful, and, placed in the right location, they remind us of forgiveness, humility, and truth: unity intertwined with an appropriate motive. This year, however, some of us should have foregone the temptation to symbolize our religious preferences…they fall far short of certain truths, and are misused and out of character on certain lawns and locations. The pretrial hearing for our local accused kiddie porn pervert is looming in July; and fodder for the defense attorney, JC Castillo, is fangled around by local citizens, who are unwittingly supporting the nastiest and cruelest crime. This travesty against little helpless humans seems rather muted in this quiet Texas town. I am disgusted by my fellow citizens and their lack of legal understanding or empathy with the small little victims. I do not want my child subjected to the politics of this horror via his school, or insensitive neighborhood cronies. I have told him enough. I have explained in the plainest language what I expect from the judicial system, and how I wait with gusto for what will surely be a joyous slamming of the prison gate.

We are having our local school board election, and I am confused. Not only is the cross misused this season, but so too is a political ad plunked on the lawn viewed around the world: a man kneeling on the driveway in handcuffs while his father fussed with the police. I disagree with this usage of our symbols from everyday life. They have meaning and influence; they chart our way into the future and lend credibility to people who are unworthy at times of their tangible presence.

Vans parked in prominent places: vans of all things. I dislike it. My mind leaps around to innocent little humans carted away to die in kiddie porn pervert hell. This crime occurs all over the world, often from vans. This makes me think of priests hiding their tendencies in robes flanked with symbols…yet, some of them nothing more than pedophiles. Not mafia men, or gangsters, not business people, or executives, nothing but trash in human flesh breathing valuable air, and hiding behind religion, academia, or whatever.

I haven't been privy to any regret; no apology from the root of this monstrosity. Yet, this crime is smeared in my face day after day, as I drive by the home where he lived. I pull up to my son's school each day with specific concerns and questions unanswered.

It reminds me of a hot October night. I am bothered by the filth below me. I am confused.