Yesterday, as I returned home from seeing The Dark Knight (huzzah!) I heard part of a rebroadcast of KQED’s omnipresent call-in show, Forum. It was about non-profits helping Iraqis who are in danger because of the translation work they’ve done for the US forces to cut through the red tape and immigrate to the US. They had the translator who was the original inspiration for the program, one spouse of a two-spouse team that started the specific non-profit, and a rep from a Catholic charity that helps refugees of all sorts.
So they went to calls, and I thought, “Who the hell is going to call in and say this is bad? I mean, if you’re lefty it’s saving refugees, if you’re rightward it’s supporting people who help our troops.” Umm, I was wrong. Apparently well-educated Iraqis should stay in Iraq to rebuild, never mind the pesky death threats. Apparently people who are thoroughly vetted by the military before they work as translators and by the State dept. before they immigrate are a big ol’ security threat (this caller worked in a nice reference to Britain’s “problems” “after their Empire” that made it pretty obvious he thinks if you don’t let Muslim people into your country, no terrorism will ever coughMcVeighcough occur.) Anyway, even as I’m shaking off the horror of those calls, an even less believable one was broadcast.
Those of you who are Americans may have had the same US History textbook I did, or at least another that reprinted a political cartoon from the early 20th century. In it, three or four well-to-do Americans cough up anti-immigrant rhetoric while their shadows show the silhouettes of their ancestors arriving with packs and bags. It’s a classic.
But this goes one further; the caller, while copiously ‘God bless’ing the translator and his family, told the detailed tale of how her husband fled Cuba as a child and was helped by the Catholic charities to settle in the US. “And I’m so glad they did, or I wouldn’t be married to one of the sweetest men on this Earth! But it’s a different world now…” Yes. She argued that the U.S. should not accept refugees because we have a bad job market. Yes, the wife of a previous generation’s “homeless, tempest-tossed” said that refugees from persecution will take American jobs. I was so speechless I couldn’t splutter.
I’ve often thought of making a list of guidelines for “how not to come off as a total idiot on call-in shows” (thanks to the same omnipresent Forum) and perhaps rule #1 should be: before dialing, say your comment out loud. Twice. And listen.