Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tomgram: Mike Davis on Manifest Destiny, the Sequel

Recently, when the Saudi government announced plans to build a 560-mile electrified fence along its border with Iraq, U.S. officials were angered. According to Yochi J. Dreazen and Philip Shishkin of the Wall Street Journal ("Growing Concern: Terrorist Havens in ‘Failed States,'" September 13), they "communicated ‘unease'" to the Saudis, seeing their decision as a potential "slap in the face of the new Iraqi government." And remember, the people heading across the Saudi border from Iraq are far less likely to be carrying snipping shears and hoes than your basic set of bombs and RPGs.

Now, tell that to the House of Representatives which just passed a bill that included support for a 700-mile-long, double-layered fence on the Mexican border. Okay, it won't make it through the Senate and was essentially meant to embarrass the Democrats -- especially in southwestern states -- on the immigration issue as mid-term elections near, and it's not a slap in the face of Iraq, but still...

Our image of the West was once, "Don't Fence Me In." Of course, that song was written by Cole Porter, who never made it much west of New York City, and was most famously sung by Bing Crosby, son of Tacoma, Washington, resident of Hollywood (both on the west coast but not in the official "West"). So maybe it was all entertainment myth and someone should produce a new all-American song called, "Please Fence Me In."

Let me point out one problem though: Fences don't work if you've got your own plane. As Mike Davis points out below, no one is paying a whit of attention to the reverse immigration crisis in which Orange County Republicans (and other Americans of a certain age) leave their (illegal) Mexican gardeners behind to make sure the weeds don't push the plants out of the old California hacienda, and fly down to their property on Mexico's Baja peninsula. They are part of an overflow of largely unnoticed gringos heading south for Mai Tais and retirement. So consider the latest piece from Mike Davis, co-author of a new book, No One is Illegal, actual news about an overlooked reverse immigration crisis. Tom

Border Invaders

The Perfect Swarm Heads South
By Mike Davis

The visitor crossing from Tijuana to San Diego these days is immediately slapped in the face by a huge billboard screaming, "Stop the Border Invasion!" Sponsored by the rabidly anti-immigrant vigilante group, the Minutemen, the same truculent slogan reportedly insults the public at other border crossings in Arizona and Texas.

The Minutemen, once caricatured in the press as gun-toting clowns, are now haughty celebrities of grassroots conservatism, dominating AM hate radio as well as the even more hysterical ether of the right-wing blogosphere. In heartland as well as in border states, Republican candidates vie desperately for their endorsement. With the electorate alienated by the dual catastrophes of Baghdad and New Orleans, the Brown Peril has suddenly become the Republican deus ex machina for retaining control of Congress in the November elections.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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