“hey Max, check this out,” I say looking up from my newspaper.
“What is it?” our chief bus boy asks.
“You know your compadres who hang out on the street corner looking for work, the day laborers?”
“Well, it seems the boys over at Home Depot don’t like them very much.”
I read Max the article. A Home Depot in Austin Texas got aggravated with all the Mexican and Central American guys hanging outside the store looking for odd jobs and called the cops. The workers were all arrested for trespassing. And, in their sweep, the cops threw a Hispanic shopper, not a day laborer, into the paddy wagon too. Well, it’s an honest mistake. They all look alike don’t they?
Max shakes his head in disgust. “Culeros” he mutters.
“Can you imagine that poor guy?” I ask, “He goes to the store for 2×4’s and ends up in jail.”
“I hope he wasn’t illegal,” Max adds.
“You know what the bullshit part of all this is?” I ask.
“When Wal-Mart or Home Depot needs some cheap labor to clean the stores they’ll hire ‘em in a second.”
“Si,” Max replies, “And sometimes they get locked in the stores at night.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I heard that too.”
“You know what I think you should do?” I ask.
“All you Mexicans here in the US should just stay home one day,” I say, “No trabajar.”
Max laughs. “Can you imagine that?”
“The restaurant industry would collapse overnight,” I say.
“No one to mow your lawn,” Max adds.
“Or clean your toilet, or cook for your kids, or pick your fruit,” I say.
“Be a mess,”
“Si,” I reply, “A day without a Mexican. I think that’s the name of a movie.”
“I haven’t seen it.”
Now, I know immigration is a touchy subject. But let’s face it, it you’re a student of US history, you know immigration has ALWAYS been a touchy subject. America’s absorbed peoples of different colors and creeds since the first settlers landed at Jamestown. It’s never been easy. Blood has been shed in the name of Manifest Destiny and immigration’s history is filled with many dark moments. From Irish ditch diggers to Dominican bodega owners, from Chinese rail workers to Indian gas station attendants; we’ve viewed new arrivals with suspicion and contempt. Yet, over the long haul, they, and their cultures, their ways of thinking and their viewpoints, blend into the American consciousness. It what’s given America its vitality for over two hundred years. I wish everyone would remember they’re the sons and daughters of immigrants.
But sometimes there’s no talking to shitkickers.
“Hey Max,” I say, “Do you remember when the Mexican Army came to help us out during Hurricane Katrina?”
“Si, I remember,” Max says. He should. It was the first time Mexican troops had set foot on US soil since the Mexican-American War back in the 1840’s.
“Can you imagine the looks on those Minutemen guy’s faces when they saw the Mexican Army crossing the border?”
Max laughs, “I wish I could have been there,” he says.
Suddenly I have a vision of the Mexican/Texas border. Two Minutemen vigilantes, Earl and Dwayne, are sitting in their pickup truck, scanning the border with night vision goggles.
Their problem is that it’s daytime.
“Earl,” Dwayne says, smoothing down his mullet haircut, “Do ya think we’re gonna catch us some beaners today?”
Earl spits a wad of tobacco juice out the window. “Can’t rightly say Dwayne. Those beaners are a sneaky lot.”
“What if they put up a fight?”
“Well, I got a surprise for them,” Earl says, pulling his shirt up to reveal a silver plated revolver.
“Hee hee,” Dwayne giggles, “Those brownies are gonna shit their pants when the see that hogleg.”
“That’s the idea,” Earl says confidently.
Suddenly the loud noise of diesel engines fills the air.
“Hey Earl,” Dwayne whispers, “Someone’s comin!”
“Must be them coyote dudes smuggling in Mexicanos,” Earl replies, lovingly fingering his gun.
“Let’s get em!” Dwayne cries.
Dwayne and Earl block the road with their truck. Getting out they lean against the cab, arms folded, trying to muster up their best High Plains Drifter faces.
A column of Mexican army trucks, loaded with supplies, draws to a halt. A slim elegant officer gets out of the lead truck and goes over to parley with the Minutemen.
“Hello gentleman,” the officer says in perfect English, “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah there’s a problem El Presidente,” Earl says, “We’re not letting you beaners into the good ol’ US of A.”
“But we are here at the request of your government,” the officer says, “Bringing relief supplies for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
“Bullshit,” Dwayne says, “You’re just illegals dressed up like soldiers. The minute you get in here you’re gonna take our jobs.”
The officer breathes a heavy sigh. “I assure you sir, that is not the case.”
“Well beaner,” Earl grins, “You ain’t getting through.”
“Sir, I have my orders,” the officer protests.
“Tough shit wetback,” Dwayne giggles.
“Yeah tough mierda muchacho,” Earl says, showing the officer his gun, “Now turn around and go home to your puebla.”
The officer shakes his head. “I was afraid of this,” he mutters.
Earl spits a wad of tobacco juice at the officer’s foot.
“Un momento por favor,” the officer says.
Earl and Dwayne watch the officer walk away.
“Damn Earl, you looked like Clint Eastwood just then.” Dwayne says.
“I showed that beaner a thing or two didn’t I?”
The Mexican officer returns – on top of a tank.
“Gentleman,” he asks politely, “I really must ask that you move.”
“Funny beaners,” Dwayne says, “Where did they get a tank?”
“Probably stole it.” Earl says.
“Please move your truck gentleman.”
“No can do muchacho,” Earl says.
The officer throws back the bolt on the turret’s 50 cal machine gun.
“I must insist,” the officer says.
Earl spits out another wad of tobacco.
The officer replies by scything Earl’s truck with a fusillade of bullets.
“Holy fucking shit!” Earl screams, ducking for cover.
“They’ve gone loco Earl!” Dwayne yelps.
The tank slews its main gun towards Earl’s pickup. There’s a metallic clang as a round is slammed into the breach.
“Fuego!” the officer cries.
The cannon roars and Earl’s truck is blasted off the road, cartwheeling in a shower of smoke and flame.
“My truck!” Earl sobs, “My tru….GULP!”
The Mexican tank starts bopping up and down on it’s treads like a tricked out El Camino in East LA – its horn bugling “La Cucaracha.”
The Mexican officer flips Earl the bird.
“Viva Mexico pendejo!” he yells.
Earl and Dwayne watch helplessly as the Mexican column rumbles past.
“I shit myself,” Dwayne whines.
But Earl can’t reply. He’s too busy throwing up. He swallowed his chew.
The Mexican officer watches as the Minutemen fade into the distance. Turning to the tank driver he says, “Stupid gringos.”
“Si” the driver says happily.
“God that felt good,” the officer says.
“Can we stop at the Wal-Mart in Brownsville General?” the driver asks.
“Why?” the general asks.
“Those culeros locked my up sister in the store at night.”
“Please General, can I shell the Wal-Mart?”
The General looks out upon the Texas plains. All this was once his country.
“No Pablo, we’re on a mission of mercy,” he sighs.
That’s too bad,” the driver says.
Si,” the general replies with a thin smile, “But it’s nice to dream isn’t it?”
Si Commandante, si.”
The Mexican column disappears. Earl and Dwayne have to walk home. Gee, I hope they can find water. …….
Max laughs at my imaginary tale.
“Well amigo, we don’t need tanks.” he says.
“It might help,” I say.
“No,” Max says, “We’re taking back what you stole – piece by piece.”
I laugh. It’s true. They are taking it back. And you know what? Good.
The Mexicans are a proud people – a people with a history even older than our own. They’re not our personal pool of cheap wage slaves.
I smile to myself. With all the illegal Mexicans in the United States I’ll bet President Polk’s turning over in his grave. And if that’s not Karma my friends, then I don’t know what is.