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Arkansas wetback

August 27, 2013 - Harry Eagar
Bobby Jindal's admonition to the Republicans to stop being the stupid party isn't working.

It used to be that August was a black hole for political news. Each congressperson headed for his own district (or a Scottish golf holiday paid for by lobbyists) and some of them held constituent meetings -- recently called town halls.

Even local papers hardly covered these snoozefests, but the advent of smartphone cameras has changed that. Now, the ridiculous pandering to contributors in country clubs and union halls that used to go unnoticed is posted on the Internet, perhaps swinging elections, as Mitt Romney found.

At the very least, these little clips are providing those of us who take politics as a joke with more laughs.

The linked piece has me of two minds. I suspect that Congressman Gary Miller was just trying to say something to break the ice a little with people who were 1) questioning his position; 2) not very close to him in social terms (age, color, background). In an earlier time, a pol would have recognized they were not voters and brushed them off.

As the background reveals, Miller could have seen this as an opportunity to tone down some of his earlier, now inconvenient positions on immigrants. So perhaps, on the fly, he was trying to be nice and the first thing that popped into his head was really, really stupid: that having been brought from Arkansas to California at the age of one gave him an experience he can relate to that of Latino wetbacks brought from Mexico or Gautemala to California at the age of one.

Or maybe Miller is just dumb. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Since immigration seems to be one of his top issues, you'd think if he was smart he'd have prepared a bit of a spiel expecting just this sort of encounter to arise. So for now, RtO is going with "just dumb."

It is interesting to note that California, land of recent immigrants, has never been welcoming to the most recent of them. The term Okie retains some currency, I think, perhaps because many young people are exposed to "The Grapes of Wrath" in high school, but its companion term of the mid-30s, Arkie, is heard much less often.

If Miller's family had been Arkies, then he might perhaps (if given a few more seconds in a quieter environment) have made a connection between the difficulties his parents had faced in the strange new land of Californy and the problems of being a newcomer from south of the border, but, no, they didn't emigrate until 1949. (But see further down for a different version.)

I don't believe antiArkie sentiment had much force left by 1963 or '64, when Miller would have started thinking about work and/or education.

However, according to Wikipedia, citing the congressional bio service, Miller was just lying, arriving in California in his teens. It is interesting, also, that Miller completed Army boot camp and was then purged from the service, reason unstated.

So maybe he isn't dumb. Maybe his problem is character.

His flack's statement following exposure of his remark was mealy-mouthed even for a sitting congressman.

Last point. The Post says his district is about half Latino (without saying how many are illegals). Miller's website does habla espanol.

 
 

Article Comments

(3)

OneAikea

Aug-28-13 6:33 PM

1949 ten years after the start of the great depression.

Se puede hablar español, pero no entienden Inglés. Así de sencillo. (One can speak Spanish but not understand English. So simple.)

OneAikea

Aug-28-13 6:27 PM

Miller is marionette pulled by his parties strings. If he wants to become smart, first he has to cut strings and become a real person.

I pity our Little Red Hen, President Obama.

OneAikea

Aug-28-13 6:23 PM

Jindal is no Gandhi.

Grapes of Wrath was about Americans moving during the Great Depression looking for jobs. Legal Americans that were born and raised in another state that came under hard times. Even then they were paid cheap wages till they came to a government assist camp. Other camps were run by crooks and thugs, corruption. Like illegal immigrants that were brought in for cheap wages by companies that make a profit. Conservative actions. No one will admit that they opened Pandora's box.

 
 

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