Opinion » Street Talk

Where did you come from?


It's so hard to figure out which crimes I'm supposed to be against and which I'm supposed to be for these days. Sure, there's the murder and the rape that will always be gauche, but I can't manage to get a handle on where I'm supposed to fashionably fall on some of the less heinous crimes.

I'm pretty sure that it's "in" to support the state and not the feds when it comes to medicinal marijuana. And speeding, of course, is practically a right as opposed to something that puts a point on your driving record--not that I'm advocating it, mind you, especially if any CHiPs are reading this. I'm an A-OK law abiding citizen, Ponch, so don't go targeting the Shreddermobile just because of this little ol' column.

Wait, wait. That was tacky, right? Because if I'm for speeding, I should just be for speeding.

I'm hopeless, as you can see. Aside from the big felonies and death-penalty clinchers, I'm like a leaf on the wind. I could blow either way. So maybe you can help me figure out this whole illegal immigration thing.

I started thinking about it--I mean really thinking about it--back when Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist came to Atascadero in late January to talk about how much he wanted Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee to be president.

Huckabee didn't seem to benefit much from that endorsement. Last I heard, the former Arkansas governor was clinging as hard as he could to the nomination as it slipped away faster than an eel slathered in K-Y jelly. I don't know how he'd explain the personal lubricant under his nails, but he'd only have to if John McCain slipped on that eel and poked both his eyes out with his thumbs.

But presidential politics are for the pundits, and I'm more of a muckraker by trade. I'll let the big boys and girls talk about the boys and girls running for the top office.

Jim Gilchrist, if you missed his visit, is known around the country as someone who opposes immigrants of the illegal variety. Yeah, yeah, so do a lot of people, but Jim actually organizes groups to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border under the aegis of the Minuteman Project. He counts the number of undocumented people living in this country at more than double what the federal government estimates, and is working to stop "the most unprecedented invasion of the United States of America in its 231-year history."

I used those quotes, by the way, to reference text from Gilchrist's national chapter recruiting campaign. Even people who live hundreds and hundreds of miles away from Mexico can join the fight to protect the border, though they don't get to suit up in camo and stalk the line. The closest locals could get to doing that without getting too far away from home would be the San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara County border, but I'm sure that there are a few people in town who think that's just as good. Mexicans come from the south, after all.

I suppose that you can oppose illegal border crossings from wherever. Geography has never been a bar to action. There are Texans who militantly hate Canadians. I'm sure there are. I don't like Italian food, though I've never been to Italy. It's easy if you try.

A couple of weeks after Jim's visit, locals announced that they were swinging their own branch of the Minutemen.

Someone named Paula James is heading up the Central Coast Minuteman Civil Defense Corps--Central Coast being used here in its broad sense to include just about everything south of Paso Robles and north of Santa Barbara.

I can't stand it when people refer to a whole chunk of the middle of California as the Central Coast. I've got nothing in common with your average, workaday, snooty Santa Barbaran. Come to think of it, I've got nothing in common with your average, workaday, wannabe-snooty Paso Roblan, either. But people who don't live here still think that I'm exactly like everybody else who lives here.

That's not really a big problem. But what is a big problem is how militant groups--even ones that advocate nonviolence in their approach to making sure America stays America--tend to attract the sort of people who can't make the distinction between strawberry pickers who came here without a passport, green card, or Visa, and gubment-wrecking terrorists. Or just anybody with skin darker than a summer peach.

Gilchrist likes to make it clear that he's into security and truth and American ideals. There's an article on his website in which he notes that a couple of his grandchildren are half-Mexican, which, of course, mitigates all of the incidental racism. He's even designed his own coins that say, "Operating within the law to support enforcement of the law," though I doubt they're legal tender.

But here I am, snipping and sniping like I've got some beef against Gilchrist or Paula, when I should be taking up arms--metaphorically, of course--against the people who take the movement and use it to fuel their own hatred of minorities. They're out there. I've read about them on the Internet, so take that with a grain of salt or two.

So I guess I figured this one out for myself. Illegal immigration seems to be one of those crimes that's safe to oppose. The weird bit here is that I also find myself opposing how it's often opposed. The whole "build a giant wall between us and Mexico" doesn't really do it for me.

Now somebody tell me what I should think about cheating on my taxes.

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