On my way home from work a few days ago, I pulled up behind a white pickup truck full of tools on the outskirts of Aurora, Colorado. It purported to be a work truck, although by the look of its immaculate paint and the pristine tools it was carrying, it was hard to imagine that the occupants did much actual work. What really caught my attention, however, was the sticker placed conspicuously an upper corner of the rear windshield. It read: "You’re in America Now; Speak English or Get Out!" The sticker struck me as particularly apposite at the time, since I happened to be on the phone with one of my good friends, and we were speaking to one another in — God forbid! — Spanish.
These trite stickers, and myriad others like them, have become extremely popular ever since the Bush-Greenspan-Paulson-Obama-Bernanke-Geitner gang managed to all but annihilate the American job market. For the man who has lost his job and has no education in economics, it is extremely tempting to heap curses and blame for much of his plight on the so-called "illegal" immigrants he sees working all around him. He sees foreigners mowing lawns all over town, cooking meals in virtually every restaurant he patronizes, and installing every roof in his borough, and he reasons that his current plight is due primarily to the fact that these foreigners "steal" jobs that otherwise would be his for the taking. The biggest insult of all, to his mind, however, is the fact that these foreigners don’t have the courtesy to speak his language when they immigrate to the United States, and yet they still manage to find and "steal" jobs from English-speaking Americans like him!
Now, it would be one thing if these xenophobic, bitter, envious, and economically ignorant men confined their vitriol to simply announcing to the world that they hate foreigners working in America — especially non-English-speaking foreigners — and left those of us who are not raging racists or ignorant protectionists alone. We could then ignore their ill-mannered rants and pity them for their inability to understand the economics of the labor market, or to compete in the economy against uneducated and non-English-speaking foreigners. (It is truly astounding that these men can’t compete against half-literate immigrants who don’t even speak English, a fact that reflects rather badly on the public "schools" these men wasted years of their lives in.) Men have a right to believe in whatever idiotic ideas they can pack their brains with, and I have no right to try to force these men to learn about the economics of labor markets. It is quite another thing, however, for these men to run to Big Brother to beg him to smash all of the businesses who employ "illegal" immigrants, and it is completely intolerable for these men to run around town telling us what language we can speak!
I don’t care what your particular gripe is, I will not be told by anyone what language I can speak or who I may or may not employ with my business. Anyone who thinks he has a right to interfere with my life in that intimate way can go straight al infierno!
I am just as much an American as anyone else living between the imaginary line south of Texas and the other imaginary line north of Wisconsin, and I will speak whatever Goddamn language I wish. If I want to speak only Turkish and employ only Turkish-speaking immigrants, then I will, and you can go straight to cehennem if you don’t like it. If I want to speak only Arabic and employ only Arabic-speaking immigrants from Iraq, then I will, and you can go straight to الجحيم if you don’t like it. I will not be told what I can or cannot say by anyone claiming to be an "American," least of all by some unemployed, hyper-patriotic, monolingual moron. If you have a problem with men like me, then start your own company and try to put us out of business. Don’t go whining to Big Brother to smash us like a cowardly, snot-nosed little preschooler.
Better yet, you could really put us in our place if you got off your lazy asses and showed us business owners that you are just as competitive in the labor market as you assume you are. Pick up a hammer and tool belt and come tear off a roof with me in the blazing summer sun for ten dollars an hour and see if you really can compete with those remarkably efficient and hard-working immigrants. Buy yourself a commercial lawnmower and see if you can mow eleven hours a day, seven days a week for eight dollars an hour, like those tough and cheap immigrants. If you can do it, you are welcome to a job with my company. If you cannot, or you are too proud and spoiled to work that hard for such small remuneration, then you will know for certain that those immigrants didn’t "steal" a job from you, they out-worked you for it. You were the Chrysler of the labor market, as it were.
It is a simple and obvious fact that American business owners don’t choose to employ "illegal" immigrants just to irritate unemployed Americans. They do so because the immigrants are able and willing to do jobs either more efficiently or more cheaply than prissy, overeducated, and under-skilled Americans, many of whom don’t know the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver. American business owners would obviously prefer to hire English-speaking and "legitimate" (according to government bureaucrats) workers — especially business owners who don’t speak a lick of Spanish. They just can’t find Americans who are willing to bleed and sweat all day tearing off a roof, for example, at a wage that would be reasonable. Nor do American business owners set out to learn and employ a different language in order to irritate smug and overpaid American union men. They learn another language in order to effectively hire cheaper and more efficient workers in order to make your roof cheaper, your landscaping cheaper, your cooked meals cheaper, and your new concrete driveway cheaper. And this is how your repay them for making the things you buy cheaper, by smearing their linguistic entrepreneurship, because you were too lazy to learn another language yourself?
The best solution of all would be for you to stop blaming "illegal" immigrants entirely for things that are not their fault. It’s not the "illegal" immigrant’s fault that Greenspan created a housing bubble that induced millions of Mexicans and Hondurans to immigrate to the United States in order to work in the overheated and unsustainable housing market. It’s not the "illegal" immigrant’s fault that the U.S. government’s borrowing, printing and spending has almost fatally injured the private American job market. It’s not the "illegal" immigrant’s fault that the U.S. government pays out massive amounts of welfare to "illegal" immigrants and to myriad other groups of lazy, incompetent or otherwise economically parasitical classes of people. Why not blame the slick criminals in Washington who are ultimately at fault here, instead of wasting your ire on poor Juan who mows the neighbor’s lawn?
So, I implore you, stop wasting your time and precious energy fighting poor "illegal" immigrants, when you could be fighting that gigantic sucking, murdering, and wrecking machine in Washington. When times get tough, like they indubitably are today, it is important to prioritize one’s actions. Fighting an ugly, jingoistic, and ultimately doomed battle against "illegal" immigrants should not rank high on today’s list. And neither should telling other people what languages they can speak (who the hell do you think you are, anyway?).
Turn your attention instead to the war-making, tax-eating, propaganda-spewing, money-printing, economy-wrecking, busy-bodied rats in Washington, and leave me and poor Juan alone.
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.