Immigration Monday Thanksgiving Edition
Immigration Monday Thanksgiving Edition

November 19, 2007.

“As long as the poor, who number about forty to one in our country (Mexico), do not enjoy accepted advantages, and cannot eat without heavy work, the fate of the nation shall be unsure and precarious.” – José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi



Thanksgiving—what more American holiday is there? It’s easy to be cynical—after all, we’re famous for over-eating and then sleeping fatly in front of TV sets as athletes play football and then we go back to the groaning board again for seconds or thirds. But it is a strange kind of prayer, this day. Old pagan religions would have recognized a harvest celebration. Romans would have gorged and vomited so they could gorge again. We sing the earth and its bounty, we eat like bears for winter, we reconnect to our family before the dark and cold take some of them from us. We say grace, some of us, but we EAT grace as well. Our very gluttony is a ritual in these darkening hours of the year. Our guts sing praise to whatever God or Goddess or gods we revere.

Let’s see—turkey, “illegal immigrant”- provided: raised, slaughtered, plucked, packaged. Check. Green beans. Check. Sweet potatoes. Check. Mashed potatoes. Check. Fruit salad. Check. Wine? Grapes! Check. Asparagus. Check. Onions. Check. Tomatoes in the salad. Check. The salad! Check. Sugar. Check. Apples and pumpkins in the pie. Check. That most American treat, cranberries…check!

If you’re having Caesar salad, by the way, it was invented in Tijuana. Just thought you’d like to know. Corn came from Mexico. Potatoes came from South America. But the game’s on, dude, so have a Corona and chillax.

There are a lot of people talking smack about America today, and let’s face it, they have reason to be angry or critical. Still, it is important to think about what America means. What is it? To me, it’s the place where Borders bookstores ask us to spend an extra dollar so they can buy books for needy kids—and we do it! It’s the place where our upper middle-class high school adopts needy kids that hide their hunger from the rest of the school, and we make them baskets and buy them gift cards and the school secretly delivers Thanksgiving to these families so they are not outed or shamed. It’s the place where Southern California Americans, even though they are angry over immigration, provide Christmas for Mexicans in Tijuana. It’s the place where the headline in today’s CHICAGO TRIBUNE “Metro” section says: STUDY AIMS TO AID LATINO IMMIGRANTS. Sub-head: SUBURBS URGED TO INCREASE OUTREACH.

You won’t see headlines like that in Mexico very often.

Why do you think people come? It’s about the money. Right. But it’s about something deeper and more profound, my friends. It’s something more profoundly American. (What!?! The cynic cries. There aint nothing more American than money!) No. They come for Thanksgiving. Not the day—the act. To be able to give thanks.

You should kiss the ground every day and ask the earth what you can do to make your country greater.

I am thankful I am not in a desert gulley tonight, staring across the border and hoping to outrun the Border Patrol trucks. I am thankful I am not driving those trucks. I am thankful my family is not starving in a village no one cares about. I am thankful I am not responsible for writing laws to govern the border. I am thankful my daughters have not been taken from me and sold into sexual slavery.

Baby, it’s cold outside. Snow is coming. But here I am, safe, warm, writing. I am not digging ditches or picking tomatoes. I am not living five to an apartment, trading nights on the mattress so I can fry burgers. I am not in holding pens. I am not getting stomped by skinheads or hunted by Klansmen. I am not in prison. I am not hungry or afraid. No death squad will come down the street in Naperville, Illinois.

Still, Americans seem unhappy.


“If people want happiness so badly, why don’t they attempt to understand their false beliefs? First, because it never occurs to them to see them as false or even as beliefs. They see them as facts and reality, so deeply have they been programmed. Second, because they are scared to lose the only world they know: the world of desires, attachments, fears, social pressures, tensions, ambitions, worries, guilt, with flashes of the pleasure and relief and excitement which these things bring. Think of someone who is afraid to let go of a nightmare because, after all, that is the only world he knows. There you have a picture of yourself and of other people.”
--Anthony De Mello, THE WAY TO LOVE.

Can you release the nightmare? Did you go look at Pastor Von’s postings last week? Do you want to be grateful? Thankful?

I remember when ACROSS THE WIRE came out, some book sellers told me they kept it for clients who came in looking for self-help books. They’d tell them, “Read this.” How can you not be thankful, America?

I might get fire-bombed for this, but what if you tried, just once, being thankful for the invisible slaves of Gog and Magog who clean your stains out of your toilets, who sweat on your lettuce and tomatoes and chile peppers and oranges and apples and cherries and asparagus and cauliflower. What about that woman with the downcast eyes who strips your sheets off your motel bed, or the kid who beheads your chickens and cows, or the brown man who grinds up the slaughtered pigs to make the sausage in the pizza his cousin cooks for you?

That man you hate makes it possible for you not to pay $6 for a can of peas.

That family you fear keeps Mexico from exploding in armed conflict. Imagine your 2,000 mile border on fire. A shooting war. Revolution. Where will border security be then? Didn’t happen, did it?


Wait till they get home.

Let us pray.




You must find today’s (Nov.19, 2007) CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Big story, top of page 3. The USBP’s testing ground for border fences in San Diego is examined. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Fence Lab. Look it up on the internet. “This is the only humane border fence being constructed” in the world. See why they say so. (You know I don’t love the fence, so you can imagine my delight in leaving some of my particular nightmare—see above.)





AOL news reported today that hate crimes in the USA are up 7.8% this year. So far in 2007, there have been 7,722 hate crimes in our country.



Americans are angry. Americans are worried. Americans are frustrated. Americans are afraid. Americans are at war. Americans are under attack. Americans are losing their retirements, their mortgages, their children, the value of their dollar. Americans are unpopular. Americans are confused. And in this sorry state, we gather to enjoy Thanksgiving. We take our day off and try to cobble our psyches and souls back together.

There has to be someone to blame for the state of the country. The Viet Cong are gone. The Soviets are gone. We’re trying to work up some juicy animosity with North Korea. Maybe Iran. Castro is almost dead. Damn it—that French president actually likes us, so we can’t be insulting to France anymore. There must be an Other we can focus on. There must be someone to blame! Someone who is foreign, non-white, sneaky, not Protestant, not English-speaking. Someone who wants SOMETHING FOR NOTHING! Unlike us, of course. We didn’t want a whole continent, right? We were legal—you hear it all the time. We came here legally! But, come to think of it, there are all those ILLEGALS. We can blame them.

Manifest Destiny is awesome when it’s pointed west, but it’s a bitch when it swings north.

When I lived in Boston, I enjoyed the freest and most invigoratingly American period of my life. I mean, traditional, Revolutionary, American. When was a Tijuana-born, San Diego raised, half Mexican son of poverty and despair going to go teach Expository Writing at Harvard and wander Bean-town’s streets with money in his pocket? Not gonna happen—but it did happen. I used to joke that I had been raised on frijoles, and now I was eating baked beans.

Can you imagine my profound shock and awe to go to Old North Church and see Paul Rever’s Lantern? Can you imagine what it was like to stand on the site of the Boston Massacre, or peer into the murky green/brown waters of the Boston Tea Party? To stand in Emerson’s house. To go down Tory Row and visit the Revolutionary homes there. To see Plymouth Rock. The Old North Bridge. Concord. Salem. To swim in Walden Pond.

Is there a more pure version of the American dream? I think not. Born in a small “clinic” above a drug store on the road to the dog racing track in downtown Tijuana. Raised in the ‘hood, in a little apartment block that passed for So Cal’s projects—ghetto with palm trees. Moved to a working class white neighborhood where we became lower middle class. First to go to college. Several years doing missionary work in Mex. Off to Harvard! And, oh yes, I seem to be a writer now with a couple of best-sellers. Movies about to happen. I live in the woodsy suburbs outside of Chicago in a big house with a big yard with big trees, three cars, two dogs, a cat, a parrot, three kids, and a big fancy fabulous bed where my wife and I can frolic. This is it: The American Dream.

Thanksgiving is not entirely a festival of gluttony and football for me. It’s actually, you know, time for thanks. Thanks for America.

The folks who don’t appreciate my “message,” whatever that message is—maybe, STOP BEING AN IDIOT—think I’m one of those America-haters. A traitor. Soft on security! (I always thought that was especially brilliant, since this is the Viagra age, and the men who can no longer muster an erection are very busy on the radio and TV searching out anybody who might be “soft.”) Even, Lordy, Jay-sus—irreligious! A sinner. Se-lah.

I can only ask one question: ARE YOU KIDDING? Because you must be kidding. If there is any American who kisses the soil of this nation, it’s me. Me, man. And you know what amazes me about this country? Liberty.

Maybe I’m a libertarian.

A libeanertarian.

Not serve God? Again, are you kidding? (Once, a good, kind and very smart atheist, after reading HUMMINGBIRD’S DAUGHTER, said to me, with real pain, “Please don’t make me believe.”) Man—I thank God every night and every morning. You see, unlike the pundits, I have smelled the stink of the Tijuana garbage dump wafting up off dead bodies of hopeless, helpless, oppressed human sacrifices to the true gods of the good Christian border—Moloch and Baal.

I said it here first: the Born-Again Molochians rule the border.

I have peered into human intestines ripped asunder by relentless poverty. I have buried people who died on the altar of NAFTA and border security and the Mexican Malaise and poverty. Unlike the good conservative media guardians of the USA, I don’t take drugs, I don’t have mansions, I don’t make millions (yet). And when I do make millions, it won’t be earned by insulting and attacking and cynically rising to power on the backs of those poor, huddled masse that bleeding heart liberal Statue of Liberty is always whining about. That would include American poor people.

Shee-it, that Statue of Liberty. She’s so castrating! No wonder we need Viagra and 32 hour erections! Women! Can you believe how soft women are? That freakin’ Statue and Hillary Clinton and Oprah and Mary Oliver and Nancy Pelosi and that stinkin’ blindfolded Justice chick at the courthouse! Thanks to the beaners we have to contend with the Virgin of Guadalupe now? (Well, at least they gave us Shakira—nudge-nudge, wink-wink!) They truly are un-patriotic. Thank God for Anne Coulter.

What we need is crop-dusters flying over the border, spraying pure Grade A testosterone on the desert—just pump the man-sauce all over the line and butch it up. C’mon, border—Man Up! Viagra-nauts unite! America’s real problem is Erectile Dysfuntion! When the atomic missiles went soft, the whole damned country started to droop. Get it up, boys!


Smite the soft.

How about we find a way to extract bio-fuel from illegals? Feed Latinos into grinders and extract bio-fuel from them. They keep having babies. What if we feed every other baby into the grinder? Hell, they could keep half of ‘em. We could utilize the old, too. To hell with social security—they are patriots, those old-timers. If you convinced them it would save America, they’d sacrifice themselves so we could keep driving.

Oh, sorry—I was having a Jonathan Swift moment.

You know I like the WWJD thing—Who Would Jesus Deport? How about this one I heard last week: WWJD—What Would Jesus Drive? That made me laugh. I want to be groovy and new age, but I’m American enough to admit I want Jesus to drive a Mustang Shelby 500 GT. But, you know, He’s the Lord—so he could make it a hybrid.


Give thanks for the USA. Give thanks for your life, even if it’s insufficient to your needs or your dreams. Mine was. You must give thanks because this is the place where you can change your circumstance and arrive at the level—or near it—of those dreams. You can’t tell me it’s not possible because I am testament that it is.

Imagine what strange psychological transformation would happen in Mexico if they had a Thanksgiving Day celebration.

You have a roof, you lucky dog. You have a floor. You have a table. You have a chair. You have a TV. You have a glass window. You have heat. You have a blanket. If you’re reading this, you have a computer, or access to a computer. You can read. You have electricity. You can’t (yet) be taken away by men in an SUV to a torture center for reading this.

You can do what you want, when you want. You can drive from here to Colorado and no troops will search you, shoot you, or bother you. You have food, and if you don’t have food, some soft Americans will be in church basements and community centers missing their football games so you can have food on “Turkey Day.”

You have lawns. You have toilets. You have free elections. You have TV. You have Brandon Flowers and The Killers. You have Brooooooooooooooce! You have my mighty fighting Illini and Juice Williams! Dude, you have The Undertaker and Ric Flair!

You have a peaceful border with no war or terrorism or snipers or sappers.

Tell me you don’t love Times Square. Tell me you don’t love Fenway Park. Tell me you don’t love Yellowstone. Tell me you don’t love Eudora Welty. Tell me you don’t love Dodge Challengers. Tell me you don’t love Crazy Horse. Tell me you don’t love Big Sur. Tell me you don’t love Shaker furniture. Tell me you don’t love the Badlands. Tell me you don’t love bison. Geysers. Clint Eastwood. Meryl Streep. John Steinbeck. Jack Kerouac. The Rocky Mountains. New Orleans. Geronimo. Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill. Tell me you don’t love Richard Pryor and Jimi Hendrix and the blues and jazz and rock and roll and Elvis. Come on, America! Can you add more? You know you can.

The only possible response to being American is on your knees. Just once a year. Even if you can’t possibly imagine a God out there. One token act of humilty among the pounds of turkey and ham and pie would be healthy. It is good for your heart.


That is the true American Way.

Maybe we ought to go serve turkey to the Minutemen and the coyotes and then all of us just go home.


Let us start again.


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