Last week, in Phoenix (home to Sheriff Joe Arapaio), my taxi driver seemed to think that he would gain points with me by bitching about “all the damn illegal Mexicans we have to pay for here.”
“We gotta pay to educate ’em,” he said. “Pay to hospitalize ’em, and pay to put ’em in our jails.
I informed him of my position that any guy who wants to crawl through a river, over a wall, under a fence, and past a half dozen insane rednecks just to come and put a roof on my house is welcome here as far as I am concerned. That kind of work ethic is what built this country, and I don’t know many natural born citizens who have that kind of work ethic. (Not even me).
I then asked him if he thought that if I put his family up against a Mexican “illegal” family, was he sure that his contributions to America were superior to theirs?
I told him with absolute conviction that I’d rather eat with, live next door to, work with, and hang out with any random Mexican (no matter their legal status) than some bigot who thinks he’s superior to someone else because his family happened to roll over here from Scotland in 1875. Add to that the fact that in the intervening 136 years, the sum grand total of his family’s existence in America is him in a stained T-shirt, sitting in a filthy cab, reeking of cigarettes, driving my ass around, whining about immigrants.
Meanwhile, I told him that I would bet my entire bank account that any random “illegal” who is standing outside a Home Depot right now might be doing menial labor out in the hot sun to put food on the table, but his grandkids have a better chance of being doctors, lawyers, and senator than any white guy in his neighborhood. With that kind of work ethic, it will probably be the Mexicans that save this swirling pot of a country — it sure as hell won’t be Cletus Peckerwood in some trailer park out in the desert who does.
He started to back down, saying “well, maybe, but what really bothers me is that they just refuse to assimilate.”
I don’t know what surprised me more – this guy thinking that I was “one of his kind of people,” or that he knew the word “assimilate.”
I explained to him that the whole point of America is that you don’t HAVE to assimilate with anything, if you don’t want to. There are laws you have to obey, but if you want to speak Spanish, eat tacos and menudo, run around in a sombrero with a big mariachi guitar, wearing bullet belts across your chest, with a bottle of tequila in your hand, screaming ARRIBA everywhere you go while riding on a donkey (whether you are Mexican or not) that’s your right. Not to mention, the particular piece of dirt we were driving over at that time was Mexico for a hell of a lot longer than it has been America… so who should be assimilating to what?
He shut up then. Probably figuring he wasn’t getting anywhere.
When we stopped, I handed him my credit card to run. He asked me “how much should I put for a tip?” I said “no pesos for you, senor, I don’t tip bigots or idiots. Buenos dias.”
I’m not Mexican, but I don’t mind being mistaken for one in order to stand up for what I think is right. Frankly, I don’t mind being mistaken for Mexican just because its a compliment.