Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Cure For Chronic Laughter

Every Wednesday I read Reg Henry's humorous take on life, politics, and current events in the Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette newspaper, and I am never disappointed. He is nothing if not consistent. Not one of his columns gets published without a gratuitous swipe at President Bush, and never does his humor succeed in falling flat and failing to make me laugh.

The only kind of amusement I get out of Reg's columns is the sport of trying to find the hidden Bush bash. (Whole columns about the president don't count.) He can sit down and tap out a seemingly innocuous piece about a childhood memory or his relationship with his dog, and he manages to work in a snide remark about George Bush.

Today he gets it over with in the third paragraph:

"What is it that politicians need in order to do their jobs in America today?"

At first I thought the answer was brains, but then I realized -- silly me! -- that many successful politicians from the president on down show little sign of gray matter.

People who don't agree with me are stupid! Simple, direct, and to the point. Reg certainly put us in our place, didn't he? And he did it with such humor.

In case you were wondering what the point of this column is, Reg humorously suggests that he should start a business providing scapegoats and stereotypes for political conservatives. Going into details about the particular kind of scapegoats his hypothetical business sells gives him the chance to go after other right wing types, like Rick Santorum:

Why, just the other day I had a U.S. senator -- I must be confidential about the names of customers -- who bought a whole pack of illegal immigrant stereotypes to use in his campaign. He comes from a part of his state that has few immigrants of any kind, but he forgot this because he lives in Washington now.

No problem. He was pleased as punch to have a stereotype to inflame the voters. Anyway, scapegoats have nothing to do with common sense or reality. They are simply the worst nightmares of the American people, who, lord love 'em, aren't much for thinking things through.

Putting aside that suggestion that the American people are stupid, and the Santorum residency issue dementia, does Reg really think that illegal immigration is something that is only relevant to border states? Let's look at this, shall we?

Last week, a man nearly drowned at the bottom of the municipal pool in the borough where I reside. The brave young lifeguards acted quickly to save the man's life before the authorities transported him to a hospital for further medical care. In a news story -- in Reg Henry's own newspaper, mind you -- about the heroism of the the lifeguards, an interesting fact about the near-drowning victim came to light:

County police say Mr. Lopez-Vilchis is an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

He had been at the pool with three other Mexicans who since have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services. The agency could not be reached and the other three men have not been identified.

It's an illegal immigrant. From Mexico. In Pittsburgh. Do you still think this isn't an issue in the campaign? Now, it would be easy to buy into a stereotype (not unlike the one that Reg Henry's hypothetical store sells to us stupid conservatives) and assume that these Mexicans were hanging around the pool because that's all they do aside from mowing the occasional lawn for beer money. It could be true, but I don't buy that (sorry, Reg!). There is a small but growing Mexican immigrant community just a few blocks up the road from this swimming pool. The newcomers have opened restaurants and groceries, they have gotten jobs in the area, and they are working hard to establish a community in the Beechview section of Pittsburgh. They support themselves and also send money to help out relatives back in Mexico. The men at the pool could very well have been brand new arrivals who were too anxious to come up and be part of the community that they neglected to go through proper channels.

In short, they certainly do have every right to try to become a part of our society -- as long as they do so legally. The Reg Henrys of the world would have you believe that we would want all undocumented immigrants deported, never to be allowed back again. It seems that Reg has bought his own stereotype of those who oppose his simplistic advocacy of amnesty for illegals. Are we stupid and bigoted? No. We just want the current crop of prospective Americans to do what previous generations of immigrants did, and obey the laws pertaining to becoming a U.S. citizen. What's so terrible about that?

Did I say that Reg Henry was humorous? Perhaps he is, in his own mind. I continue to await the day when he writes something that will make me laugh. But I'm not holding my breath.

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