This is still America - for now

I realize that I'm not a super-intellectual, and I'm glad that I'm not. I know a few of those folks - and a few more who think they are - and, quite frankly, they bore me to death with their snot-nosed attitudes and "smarter-than-thou" snide remarks. That's not for me.

I'm just a plain old Southern linthead who tries to be a good American. I usually call things exactly as I see them, and sometimes I have the good sense just to keep quiet about an issue, but not often.

I have been very quiet on the issue of illegal immigrants. In fact, I've probably been too quiet for too long - like a lot of other Americans. Today, however, I have decided to make a few observations about the subject, and then I will tell you why.

For a long time I wasn't sure how I felt about the ever-growing number of Mexicans and other Latinos flooding our borders. I knew why they were here, of course.

I, myself, spend a lot of time telling people how great our country is and extolling the U.S. of A. as the land of opportunity. How could I knock someone for wanting to live in such a great nation and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities it offers?

I observed the people who were coming here and, like so many others, marveled at the fact that they were willing to work so hard. I've always appreciated folks who aren't afraid to work for a living and, like so many others, I rationalized their presence in our nation, and our community, by insisting to myself - and occasionally others - that we needed the Mexican immigrants here because "they do the jobs Americans don't want to do."

Over the past few years, however, I have become more than a little agitated by certain issues. And, if you are totally honest, I bet most of you have, too. I seldom mention these issues because, well, heck, I didn't want to be thought of as narrow-minded or prejudiced or anti-Latino or whatever.

Well, today I am going to confess a few things that really irritate me and have for a while now.

I get really irritated, for instance, when I call a business and get a recording that tells me that if I want to talk to someone who speaks English, press one. Maybe that's little of me, but if it is - oh, darn.

I am an American, and our language is English, and when I call a business here in this country, I don't want to have to do anything other than dial the phone to talk to someone in my native language.

And while we are on the subject, I also resent the fact that we are spending extra tax money - today is April 15, you know - to print government forms and provide government services in Spanish. Call me backward, ignorant and unsophisticated, but if you come here to live, I think you should assimilate into our society and culture and not expect those of us who are citizens to adapt to yours. And what's with all the Spanish signage that's beginning to proliferate in certain areas?

See, to me, the key word in the phrase "illegal immigrant" is "illegal." There is a process to follow to live here legally, and the process was created for a reason. And the process is more than a process - it is the law of the land, and I think the laws need to be enforced.

Of course, if you go by the process, you are "in the system," and if you are "in the system," you have to pay taxes and contribute your fair share for the goods and services you use. It's tax day, remember?

Twelve million illegal immigrants live in our country. They drive on our highways. They are protected by our armed forces and our policemen. They send their children to be educated in our schools, and we feed their children a couple of meals a day while they are there, and we hire extra teachers to speak to them in their native language; and we at least toy with the idea of requiring all teachers to learn their language - to assimilate into their culture.

They treat the emergency rooms of our hospitals as their own general practice MDs, and we pay the bill. They have babies who are immediately citizens and receive instant Medicare benefits, at our expense, and now, when the government finally decides that maybe it is time to secure the borders and take action against people who are here illegally - that word again, illegally - they pour into the streets in protests, waving Mexican flags.

They protest the fact that we would dare to enforce our own laws, while waving the flag of their native country. And then, fearing a backlash from people like me - and many of you - the protest organizers hand out American flags to wave - flags that were tossed in the trash can at the end of the day. Our politicians waffle back and forth and refuse to act until they can determine which way the political wind will blow on Election Day.

Well, I'll tell you which way we need to make sure the political wind blows. We need to make sure it blows south. And gale is not strong enough. We need to make it a Category 5 hurricane.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and high school history teacher who lives in Rockdale County. Visit his Web site at www.darrellhuckaby.net. His column appears on Saturday.