Humbug Square - Coalescing with Christians

When it comes to immigration, political labels don't fit

Dorian Gray, er, I mean Ralph Reed, was the star of the Georgia Christian(?) Coalition's 2005 Families and Freedom Rally last weekend in Sandy Springs. The boyish-looking (where does he hide the portrait that absorbs his corruptions and aging?) theocrat shrank into an ill-fitting blue blazer as he was introduced by Saxby Chambliss, the Stepford senator described as one of George Bush's most lockstep supporters.

Chambliss, also attired in a natty blue blazer (I'm going to have to ditch mine if this is the update on the brown shirt), informed about 300 loyalists that Reed had been ordained by Karl Rove, for "whatever position" the Christian(?) Coalition founder desired.

Reed, who debuted his candidacy for lite gubner to the Christian(?) Coalition, declared with a straight face that he was for a "more humane and caring society." I gagged on my coffee.

Reed, short on red meat, boasted about his organizing acumen, and with a sinister squint warned the Christian(?) faithful: "Don't rely on the media." That's silly because the "media" are mostly the Fox Official State News(?) Service and battalions of screeching reich-wingers on the radio, aided by truth-challenged bloggers and $200-an-hour boy-whore GOP online "reporters." All that remains of the "mainstream" press are the pants-wetters who have nightmares that they'll be labeled "liberal."

While Reed was platitudinizing, I wandered around. Yep, a very Republican crowd. Among the handout literature clutched like Bibles by these Christians(?) was a promotion for a "Restore America" rally. No mention on the pamphlet that the organizer, Gary DeMar of Powder Springs, is a national standard-bearer for "Christian(?) reconstruction," a Stalinist wing of the religious right that wants to create an Old Testament state with the self-appointed righteous (e.g., DeMar) dictating to government. (For more on such enlightened government, see: mullahs, Iranian; and inquisitions, Spanish.)

I sat briefly in the third row next to a blond, heavily bejeweled woman who rapturously (no, no, not that Rapture) gazed at Reed and bobbed her head when he made such earth-shattering disclosures as "we have better candidates."

I asked the lady, "What would Jesus think of Reed's candidacy?" "Why," she responded in Mississippi mellifluous tones, "Ah think Jesus would be soooo excited." I'm sure.

And then I saw "them." Uh-oh, security had been breached. "They" were clearly not wealthy and clearly not of pure Aryan stock, which was as glaring in this crowd as if the Village People had parachuted onto the stage singing "YMCA." (OK, Reed did have one African-American aide, but let's face it, for these Christians(?), white is right and vice versa.)

As I sidled over toward the interlopers, a voice from behind me hissed, "They know we're here, John, and they're watching us." I turned to discover a reporter who often pens stories for local Spanish-language publications. We laughed, but was she nervously poised to run if Reed suddenly pirouetted on his heel, and with an insane gleam of triumph in his eyes, pointed at us and shrilly screamed, "Juden!"? Oops, sorry, I misspoke. Wrong century, wrong scapegoats. I meant, if he screamed, "Liberals!"

About then,the main act began, a panel discussion on immigration. I still hadn't made it over to where "they," a small group of Hispanic proletariat, huddled in isolation. They were, indeed, that day's Juden, even more so than gays, who only rated indirect and perfunctory hate, as when Chambliss declared that marriage is the one-man, one-woman thing. The Latinos had come to offer "arguments from the other side," according to activist Angelina Nicholls. No one was much interested in listening.News flash: America has an immigration problem. Those almost invisible people mowing lawns, building houses and roads, busing restaurant tables - there's a good chance they're ... here we get to the first problem, nomenclature ... "illegals!"

If you're politically correct, they're "undocumented" workers. If you live in the real world, liberal or conservative, they're illegal aliens.

"Do we say a bank robber is one who makes 'undocumented' withdrawals?" state Rep. John Lunsford told the coalitioneers. Jeez, I said to myself, but this, yech, Republican makes sense.

Along with state Sen. Chip Rogers, Lunsford is sponsoring a flight of bills that would slam the door shut on illegal immigrants' access to driver's licenses, jobs with state contractors, indigent medical care and public colleges.

As early as Chambliss' keynote speech, it was clear not everyone was on the same page. Chambliss, ever the dodger (truth or draft), tried to reduce the schism to semantics. "I told [Bush] not to use the word 'amnesty,'" Chambliss intoned, referring to W's plan that is besotted with amnesty. And what Chambliss champions, the more or less legalization of millions of immigrants, is also amnesty, no matter how you dress it up.

Here's how the fault line meanders through the political world:

Liberals: We get heartburn over immigration. On the one hand, we've swooned to Pete Seeger's songs about the tragic plight of "deportees," so as moral folk, we care. On the other hand, we also care about our own countrymen, whose jobs are being lost and wages gutted because of illegal immigration.Conservatives: They oppose illegal immigration, and generally see the solution as militarizing our borders and making life hell for illegals who are here. A few enlightened conservatives timidly suggest putting pressure on employers who hire the immigrants.Neo-conservatives: They're beholden to corporate America, after all, which from Wal-Marts everywhere to farmers near Macon to chicken factories in Gainesville to carpet mills in Dalton, make gazillions off of illegal workers. Bush & Co.'s Weltanschauung is the rich-get-richer while the rest of us hand over what we have to the corporations and war machine (a redundancy, I know). So, the neo-cons preach getting tough, but Bush isn't about to plug the humongous gaps in our borders or deprive his supporters of the next best thing to slave labor: workers who enjoy no protection, can't complain when they're abused and cheated, and best of all, keep all wages down.

Heck, immigration gendarmes were cracking down on illegal farm workers in South Georgia during the last decade. The government offered a legal guest worker program, but the farmers didn't want to actually pay the farm hands anything.

So, they leaned on then-U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, then-Rep. Chambliss and other compliant pols, who leaned on the immigration officials, who called off the raids. Good for bidness.

The right's quandary was underscored last weekend by anti-immigration panelist Paul Egan, who thundered, "There is no job Americans won't take, only wages insufficient to support their families. Amnesty is a blow to the middle class that ought not to be tolerable." Sorry, it's not only tolerable to Bush, it's wunnerful.

The solution isn't Lunsford's and Rogers' pogrom against Hispanics. That blatantly fails the "what would Jesus do?" test.

What would work is to close the borders - hell, it's anti-terrorism common sense. Then, slap harsh penalties - not wrist-slaps - on employers who hire illegals. Say, a year in the big house and a $50,000 fine for each immigrant without a green card. The economic underpinning for our neo-slavery would disappear, many immigrants would self-deport and others would strive to legitimize their presence.

About 800,000 immigrants arrive illegally each year, and about 400,000 either become legal or leave. Reverse those numbers, and America's 10 million army of illegal aliens would shrink rapidly.

Final irony: It was so fitting that two Hispanics, looking not at all comfortable, cleaned up the Christian(?) Coalition's barbecue lunch.

Senior Editor John Sugg - who says, "Funny thing about the Christian(?) Coalition confab, not a word about feeding the poor or healing the sick" - can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at john.sugg@creativeloafing.com.??