Jose Antonio Vargas (2018) Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

I’m not American, nor undocumented. I’m not a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. I’m a British citizen, born in Scotland who voted for independence in the recent referendum. I’d qualify for an Irish passport on my father’s side and probably my mother’s too. Neither of them was born in Ireland. A product of the great diaspora, when the population of Ireland halved from around 12 million citizens, and then almost halved again. President John F. Kennedy’s grandparents made it to the land of the free: America. He wrote a book about it, A Nation of Immigrants, which did not touch on the bootlegging, gunrunning and sharp business practices his father used to get rich. The moron’s moron, President Trump’s grandfather emigrated from Germany. His mother, I’m sad to admit, was born in the Scottish islands.  

 A generation ago, there was a mass shortage of housing in Britain (sound familiar?) private-let landlords had signs: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs. Scotland is a nation of dog lovers. And not many blacks lived here, and that’s not changed much. So it was a straightforward, No Irish, but that needed qualification. The Northern Irish Protestant varieties were warmly welcomed. It was the Catholic variety of Irish nationality that were called unpatriotic and a threat to the Protestant religion. Jose Antonio Vargas reiterates a maxim: We were over here because they were over there.

Terra nullius, Ireland was an empty land, apart from the indigenous tribes. Long periods of invasion across the Irish Sea, from Oliver Cromwell onwards, religious bigotry were combined with acts of genocide, the first country to feel the might of the British Empire before it had an Empire. The six counties of Brexit British Ireland are the last vestiges of colonialism in which Irish Catholics were moved from the land in much the same way they deposed American Indians and sent them to the unliveable rocky outlets. The grievances against King George III inherent in The American Declaration of Independence were much the same as those fighting for Irish independence. A country and its people should be able to define and defend its borders, but Irish insurrections were quickly put down, whereas in America, the common people won. Where people came from mattered less than the cause for which they were fighting. The Statue of Liberty enshrined this notion with the mantra: Give me your poor huddled masses. Varga notes the first documented case of a minor arriving unaccompanied was a little girl fleeing the famine, and arriving on Staten Island.

Vargas’s Dear America is a polemic written for the world’s migrant population.  He tells us the statistics, 258 million in 2018 and counting. He’s one of them. Which is another way of saying he’s one of us.

He tells us on the flyleaf how this came about.

‘My name is Jose Antonio Vargas. I was born in the Philippines. When I was twelve, my mother sent me to the United States to live with her parents. While applying for a driver’s permit, I found out my papers were fake. More than two decades I am still here illegally, with no clear path to American citizenship. To some people, I am the ‘most famous illegal’ in in America. In my mind, I am only one of an estimated 11 million human beings whose uncertain fate is under threat in a country I call my home.’ 

In Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 pilots in the 256th US Army Air Squadron, such as Captain John Yossarian fear their commanding officers are out to get them more than they fear the Germans they are ostensibly fighting. But he had to admit the devilish beauty of Catch-22. He’d be crazy to fly more bombing missions, but if you applied for an exemption not to fly that proved you weren’t crazy enough.   

Jose Antonio Vargas, aged 37, who has lived in America for 25 years as an undocumented immigrant falls into the category of those illegals that should be banished for at least three years if they’ve lived in the country without proper documentation for six months. If they’ve lived successfully in America longer than six months, for a year or more, the banishment lasts ten years. Vargas needs to return to the Philippines and apply for American citizenship in ten years, which will not be granted because he’s already being living here as an illegal, which is illegal. But he notes the American government still expects undocumented workers to pay federal taxes and there’s an official form ITIN which brings in billions of dollars every year. Ranging from $2.2 million in Montana to an estimated $3.1 billion in California.

Kurt Vonnegut, Wompters, Foma and Grandfalloons touches on this generalisation overstretch which applies to poor people in general and immigrants in particular. Rich men control the master narrative of The Little More Theory of Life:  

‘It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can’t get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. And it strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture that we have an expectation that a man can always solve his problems. There is an implication that if you just have a little more energy, a little more fight, the problem can always be solved.’

Conservative Home Secretary, Priti Patel, whose parents Sushi and Anjana arrived from Uganda in the 1960s, admits that under the current system they wouldn’t be allowed into Britain, which is fair enough, but illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed into Britain because they haven’t went through the proper channels, but there is no other way of getting into Britain other than being, for example, a multimillionaire oligarch. The Windrush Scandal also showed the tip of the immigrant iceberg and what in America is called ‘expedited removal’. Deporting immigrants before they can come before a judge that will hear their case. Priti Patel’s attack on the judiciary has been well documented.

I was surprised that President Obama (‘Deporter in Chief’) outgunned Bush and all other American Presidents, or that Hilary Clinton—scion of children’s charities—didn’t include children of immigrants in her beneficence. She wanted to send them back so as not to create a legal precedent or, in other words, to create waves. This reminded me of the scandal sheets, both joking and serious, about Priti Patel’s apparent idea to employ wave machines to keep out immigrants like her parents. But they didn’t arrive in boats. They arrived by plane. Vargas notes that most illegal immigrants arrive in America the same way. Despite the hype and ‘build the wall’ right-wing propaganda, they continue to do so. And like him, they’re not Mexican, but Asian.  

To protect us from who? asks Vargas. He exposes the hypocrisy that the most rabid and right-wing Republican states rely more on immigrants to pick their crops and take care of their children and old folk and process their food than others that require more skilled workers. At the bottom of any food chain, real or metaphorical, the immigrant can be found—as we’ve also found with our NHS, with the alleged Boris’s Brexit bonus of £350 million a week going back to pay for services was just another piece of propaganda swallowed by the tabloids and sold for mass consumption.   

While at the top of the food chain, the winners, not surprisingly, are the already wealthy. The cost Vargas suggests is ‘astronomically absurd,’ and getting more so. He quotes from a 2014 article published in Politico (remember this is prior the moron’s moron, Trump)

‘the US government spends more money each year on border and immigration enforcement than the combined budget of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and US Marshals…more than $100 billion since 9/11 going to private, for-profit companies.’

Dear America, I know you well, from films and televison. From Casey Jones to Champion the Wonder Horse. From Mork and Mindy to the Fonz, in Happy Days. From Shirley Temple to  Laura Ingalls to Farah Fawcett and Charlie’s Angels the only part of you that wasn’t white was the Wonder Horse. Dear America, you won World Wars. You were the richest nation on earth, but China has galloped alongside and is overtaking you. Your reaction to Make America Great Again is an old trick from the old country. Blame the other. Blame the immigrant. Blame the poor for being poor. Jose Antonio Vargas still lives in America. He didn’t keep his head down. He called you out and got away with it—for now.  

America’s Mussolini: Donald J Trump.

benito with hair.jpg

Hyperbole: hyperbole

hʌɪˈpəːbəli/Submit

noun

exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

synonyms: exaggeration, overstatement, magnification, amplification, embroidery, embellishment, overplaying, excess, overkill.

Pre-Trump becoming the 45th American President and post-Trump, taking up tenure of office and becoming United States President, is not will Donald J Trump, last the four-year term, but will the world? That may seem like an exaggeration, overkill, embellishment, exaggeration and other synonyms associated with the American Benito Mussolini. This is one of Gay Talese’s characters, an apologist, writing in his diary in Paris around 1937 and giving his description of Mussolini as a dictator, before the pact with Hitler, but could equally apply to Donald J Trump:

Mussolini…a man with more bark than bite, an egotist, with perhaps a neurotic need to gain other people’s attention; yet he thought the Duce could be reasoned with, must be reasoned with…only a dictator could have restored order.

Trump’s soundbites suggest that one of his strengths is his ‘unpredictability’.

Benito Mussolini, aged 39, was the youngest premier in Italy’s short history (as an independent nation) but like Trump, he had come out of nowhere to lead the party and lead the country. The tone of business leaders in Italy’s demands (listed below) has a very modern ring. They could have come from and most have been enacted by state governor and Tea Party supporter, Vice President, in waiting, Mike Pence, who some commentator’s see as a moderating influence on America’s Mussolini. Think about that, moderating influence.

  1. Smaller state bureaucracies
  2. Fewer strikes
  • More tax concessions
  1. Less zeal towards the breakup of large estates
  2. Termination of rent control
  3. Reduction in unemployment benefits
  • Fewer annoying enquires concerning surplus war profits
  • Fewer annoying enquires concerning tax evasion.

 

Reading this you’d think we’ve went backwards in time to the 1930s and world is no longer as safe as it was pre-Trumpeter, with shocks and aftershocks still to come. Ask yourself one question: What legacy do you think President Trump will leave the world?

Trump has ripped up political consensus and confounded the same pollsters that, state for state, confidently predicted Obama’s first and second term of office. How did Trump do it? One word, populism. ‘I put lipstick on a pig,’ said Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghost-writer for the Art of the Deal.   http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all Here we are again talking about excess. Let’s throw in some other synonyms: overstatement, embroidery and the moth-eaten cliché, tapestry of lies, attention span of a gnat, the narcissism of well, Donald Trump. He bought the rights to Miss World and now he’s won the biggest beauty contest of them. When he says that something is true, he believes it too, Schwartz tells us.  Try on the term crooked Hilary—repeat ad nauseum, until it produces bumpers stickers and posters and then repeat again, until a lie becomes the truth and an association with Hitler— even although 95% of mainstream media backed Clinton to win this campaign it was not enough. Trump instead relied on digital leverage and the power of Facebook and Twitter. Donald Trump has double the number of Twitter followers compared to Hilary Clinton. And he had an army of Twitter followers he employed to tweet that he had won Presidential debates before, during and after the antagonists had finished debating. Newsfeeds about Trump being a misogynist groper and potential rapist were played down as simple dirty tricks from a propaganda machine aligned with an elite group led by crooked Hilary. Trumps other outbursts in Twitter land were understandable and supposedly taken out of context.  Trump, of course, questioned President Obama’s right to be President and famously followed the line of the Birther movement and asked him to produce his birth certificate. Black lives matter, but only to black people. The Irish famine brought millions of Irish to the new world. There were calls to ship them back in their coffin ships. Wops and Eyeties, particularly from the darker skinned natives of Southern Italy led to immigration restrictions in the 1930s. Build a wall with Mexico to keep out the rapists and thieves is a familiar tune. Do not ask how many millions the billionaire and President of the United States has stolen by avoiding tax payments. Only stupid and the poor pay tax. Feed into the disillusionment of globalization, job losses and wages rolled back to levels predating 1970; the tens of millions of Americans that start the day in debt and finish their day in more debt was, and remains, a powerful force for change. Fly the flag. Play the Trump card of nationalism. There’s nothing new here. Read any extract from Robert Tressell (Noonan’s) The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist  and remember the author’s contempt was not just for those who blamed society’s failings on anyone but themselves, but went to church and prayed away the degradations of the other. Ban abortion. Ban gays. Ban. Ban. Ban. Gun control. Forget that. This from a nation that jails a higher percentage of the population that any other nation including China, Russia and all other nations added together. Putin sent his congratulations to President Trump. Marine Le Penn called it right with her statement ‘their world is collapsing ours is being built’. The echo chambers of Twitter fed Facebook pages in which a digital nation relies on to frame its news. Most folk don’t leave the silos of their Facebook pages and makes the lie a truth others need. In simpler days, when everybody grew their own food in the back garden and read the bible for fun, bullshit wasn’t spun into gold, well not always.

 

coming soon trump house.jpgNow Trump has gone nuclear and has the codes, the panic room has been taken out of the White House and moved to the rest of the world. Hyperbolic, of course, but it would make good television and boost Trump’s ratings and make him seem like a strong leader. ‘I’d nuke Isis’, Trump told us.

Forget NATO, Trump has called it ‘obsolete’. Forget those outside of America, places like Ukraine and Georgia; they can take care of themselves. America has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and can and will negotiate from a position of strength. Plan B. Nuke them.

Obama Care. It’s poor people so nobody really cares. The market will provide.

Forget the international trade deals, particularly those made with the new superpower in the block, China. America and Trump, the terms are interchangeable, will negotiate from a position of strength, which, of course, means, not negotiating and showing how unpredictable he can be.

Trade wars and the race to the bottom.  China now stands in the position that America did before the beginning of the first world war. Putin is Russia’s strong man. The EEC the world’s largest market. Winners and losers? Spin the globe. Place your bets.

The Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control worked on the assumption they had an agreement global warming was taking place and globally we need to restrict our use of fossil fuels. Donald Trump doesn’t. Neither does his Vice President Mike Pence. Bought-and-paid-for fossil-fuel scientists have modeled a better world. A safer world.  It’s the equivalent of tobacco companies telling smokers another fag won’t kill him. Let’s not expect politicians, or people that have not read a book since forced to in the classroom, like Donald J Trump boasts, to  understand inconvenient facts. If he listened to inconvenient truths crooked Hilary Clinton would be sitting in the White House. The four horsemen of the apocalypse just saddled up. More hyperbole, I guess, I hope.