Friday, December 18, 2009

Buchananite Christmas carol: "Illegals in My Yard"

'Tis the season to be jolly ... and the manifestations include Christmas carol spoofs with ethnic humor. On Monday I posted one example I thought was good-humored and pretty funny, "All I want for Christmas is ... Jews". On the other hand ...

The right-wing magazine Human Events (once reputed to have been Reagan's favorite periodical) posted on its website this parody of the Spanish-language Christmas song "Feliz Navidad" titled "Illegals in My Yard".

(Thanks for the tip to Think Progress, via the Daily Dish.)

Maybe I'm a humorless killjoy, but I confess that I find this song mean-spirited, bigoted, and offensive. So why listen to it? Well, it's undeniably clever. And it really does convey something about how unabashed immigrant-bashers see the world: Sure, at first those (Mexican) illegals with their cheap labor seem useful to have around--"throw them some pesos and they work so hard." But pretty soon they'll start drinking, smashing up cars, breeding like rabbits, sponging off welfare, spreading bubonic plague, forming unions, and supporting Barack Obama. To quote from a few verses:

Illegals in my yard.
Illegals in my yard.
Illegals in my yard.
Sixteen arrive in a stolen car [....]

They’re getting free organ transplants this Christmas.
They’re going to have anchor babies this Christmas.
They’re going to scream “sí, se puede” this Christmas.
Those illegals in my yard [....]

They’re going to spread bubonic plague this Christmas.
They’re going to bring me lots of bed bugs this Christmas.
They’re going to pass tuberculosis this Christmas.
Those illegals in my yard.

=> I think it's worth emphasizing that, unlike a lot of the other craziness and hysteria in American politics right now, this kind of ugly xenophobia about immigrants (especially Latino immigrants) can't be attributed either exclusively or uniformly to Republicans. For at least the past several decades, Republicans have been deeply split on issues having to do with immigration, and in fact some of the sharpest divisions on these questions run right through the Republican Party. Some sectors have been strongly pro-immigration and welcoming to immigrants themselves (and not only because big business would like steady supplies of cheap labor). And fairness compels us to acknowledge that this tendency has included figures like the Bushes and, until the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. On the other hand, the biggest reservoir of intensely nativist hostility against immigrants is also inside the Republican Party, and over the last few years that part of the "base"--represented in the national arena by figures like Pat Buchanan, Tom Tancredo, and Lou Dobbs--has won out, at least for the moment. Plenty of people who might vote Democratic for other reasons probably sympathize with them, to a greater or lesser degree, on this matter.

It's also important to make it clear one doesn't have to be a racist or a bigot to be concerned that immigration, and particularly illegal immigration, might raise genuine problems and dilemmas. Decent and intelligent people can have serious disagreements about those issues, which are complex.

Furthermore, all the opinion polls on these questions that I've read over the past few years suggest that most Americans, even those who are anxious about immigration, feel basically sympathetic toward would-be immigrants and their aspirations. (Overall, American society remains far more immigrant-friendly than, say, many European countries.)

But the kind of spirit that comes through in this song does capture a worrying and ugly element in American political culture right now. So take a moment to listen to it.

--Jeff Weintraub