What Steve Almond wishes Obama would say about immigration:

It’s hard for me to understand why Americans living hundreds miles from the U.S. border would devote so much fear and paranoia to undocumented workers. Here’s my guess: because deep down most of these fat, white, racist pigs know that they’ve done almost nothing to earn their good fortune. They just lucked out. They hit the geographic lotto. And it drives them crazy to imagine people who still believe in the American Dream, who would die to reach this country, to take a shit job for shit pay, simply to make a better life for themselves and their family. It’s a sort of patriotism they’ll never experience.

They’re SCARED. God, the conversations I have with these people. They’ve been raised from birth on tales of when the slavering brown hordes moved into the nice neighborhood and ruined it. I mean they’ve been told this stuff in stories and sung it in songs like other people heard Winnie the Pooh. It’s not just an article of faith for them. They’re actually more rational about the church. It’s the underpinning and justification for their entire existence.

It’s why they live where they live, because they’re not safe where they were. It’s why their kids go to school where they go to school, because the other schools are bad. It’s why they take the route they take to work, because certain streets are verboten. Their whole world is a land of imaginary barriers that might as well be ten feet of concrete topped with barbed wire, they’re that physical to them.

I first heard something years ago, when I was working among tribal racists and going home every day pretty much wanting to punch holes in walls because of the fucking idiocy, that made it understandable for me: Think of your favorite place in the world, the place where you felt happy, where you felt safe. Now imagine your parents have told you that that place is gone, and you can never go back, and here’s how it happened and who’s to blame for it. Imagine they tell you that story every day, feeding it to you like poison into your veins.

It is a story they have been telling themselves for ages, and the reality of the situation, that greedy unscrupulous real estate agents and lazy city politicians and avaricious urban planners created a situation in which people’s natural inclinations — to run from trouble, to not make noise about problems in the neighborhood, to do what their friends did — combined with other people’s selfish desire to profit, doesn’t even register. You don’t hear anything like the lullaby your mother sang you, and this was their lullaby.

I sometimes wonder what’s to be done. Before the Tea Party I used to think everybody could be convinced, given time and exposure to other adults with different ideas. I’m starting to think we just need to wait a few years for the worst fantasy of the wingnuts to come true, when all the old white racist jackasses are just outbred and die off.

x-posted to First Draft.


Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.