In Which Our Heroine Says a Few Words About Immigration

25 August 2004

Here are some tips for dealing with Marissas. I thought they were intuitive, but I don't want to have to deal with people not knowing, so I'm putting them on the public record:

Never, ever, ever argue with me about what I think. I am the world's expert on what I think. You may argue with me that what I think is wrong. You may point out that it appears to be different from what I said before, or from what you thought I was saying. You may clarify. But sentences like, "I think you agree with me more than you think you do" are guaranteed to set me off. I will have great difficulty not treating you like a patronizing ass after that one. Because you will be one. I know what I think because I'm the one thinking it and you are not. Kinda by definition.

Also, do not mess with me on topics on which you know nothing and I have written and published three textbooks. We can disagree about immigration, but you had better know your stuff. If you're going to try to use racist scare tactics that first came into vogue at least 250 years ago and have not yet come true, you had better give me a coherent reason why conditions have changed. (Filing off the serial numbers so that you're complaining about Koreans and Mexicans instead of Jews and Italians does not count as coherent reasoning.) You had better know what immigrant conditions were like in, say, 1900, and not make up some idyll wherein your hard-working ancestors stepped off the hardship-laden boat and learned English in two days while today's immigrants waltz in and get welfare while jabbering away in their outlandish foreign tongues. I have heard most of this stuff before while writing the said textbooks, and I didn't buy it then either, and it was proven false somewhere around 1800 or 1850, so if you're not making new arguments and basing them on, y'know, data, just don't bother.

Do not ever try to tell me that today's immigrants have it easy getting here. Just. Do. Not. If you think it's easy, go read Ko-Lin Chin's Smuggled Chinese, just to pick one volume. It will curl your hair. Or talk to my friend Mindy's family about what they went through. Read a newspaper, for heaven's sake! If you read the news for long enough, you'll come upon a story of how some people died because they were so desperate to get here and couldn't find any safer way. This year. This month. Now. Not in some far-away dreamtime. Now. We can disagree about what ought to be done about this, but do not tell me it isn't happening. And to tell me that it's easy, a mere trifle, spits on the horrifying things some of my friends have had to go through to be here. Nobody is waltzing. Do not use the word waltz!

Do not -- look, there aren't enough emphases for how I feel about this one -- do not tell me about "inferior countries" or an "inferior quality of immigrant" compared to the immigrants we were getting when your ancestors got here. I'm not stupid. I recognize this as code for "brown people with no money." It's racist tripe, it's inaccurate, and I don't want to hear it. Guess what? Unless your ancestors all came from England (and possibly even then), someone thought your ancestors were the uneducated inferior beasts who would taint and lower their country. Most of us are the immigrant menace, born of "inferior peoples" flooding in and "ruining things" for the people who were already here and had worked so hard to build this country and blah blah etc. It was stupid racist bullshit then, and it's stupid racist bullshit now.

My ancestors were lucky. We were "merely" thought to be irredeemably stupid, big pale ox-people who could be set to work farming and logging. We were safe inferiors, Protestant (though in my specific case a bit too Protestant for comfort) and very nearly melanin-free. But the assumption of inferiority was still there. I refuse to do that to other people.

Then -- if you have done all of the things above -- do not apologize by saying "I'm sorry if you were offended." Oh, if your stupid, uninformed racist bullshit offended me, you regret that? IF? (I hate the passive voice in apologies regardless: if you're apologizing, it's lame to put the burden on the person receiving the apology. Not "I'm sorry if you were offended," but "I'm sorry if I offended you." "I'm sorry if you were offended" is if there was some crowd of people and someone offended me and you're not sure who but you regret that it happened. "I'm sorry if I offended you" is how the actual apology goes for something you did. But I really think there are standards for what will offend the reasonable person, and reference to "inferior peoples" is one of them, unless you can name the specific inferior people. "Oh, Bob was kind of stupid...and Ted, he really annoyed me....") Pleading ignorance is insufficient, because if you make racist assumptions when you lack facts, that's not okay. It's not okay at all. And I don't want to hear from you about it ever again. If you lack data, your first assumption should not be that other people are ethnically or personally inferior. Just -- no. Get another default. That one sucks.

As I said, we can disagree on immigration policy. I don't think everyone who wants to change immigration policy in a given way is automatically a racist or automatically ignorant. But starting in with the inferiority crap or shooting your mouth off in a bigoted way on topics you know nothing about earns my anger and my disrespect, and I'm entirely unapologetic for that.

Aaaaaanyway. I finished reading Quicksilver, and it is definitely the first volume of a multi-volume story, rather than being a complete story in itself. Around about page 600 it really started to pick up, and I'm more excited about The Confusion than I was early in Quicksilver, although I'm still not reading it right away. (I've picked up Graham Joyce's The Stormwatcher instead.) I'm not sure if I was clear yesterday about the Bast mysteries as a series vs. a trilogy. A trilogy would have had a plot arc that more or less ended at the end of the third book. I hope this is the case with Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but I would distinguish it by saying that a trilogy has some plot arcs ending at the end of each volume, whereas a three-volume story really does not, any more than any other chapter would.

I'm trying to write a trilogy, but I fear I'm writing a duology, the first half of which is two volumes long. But we'll see when the edits are done.

And we'll see about the edits when the draft is done, but at least the draft is closer to done than it was yesterday at this time. Sometimes I try to convince myself that this is the case every day, that every day is a day closer to the finished book whether it's in new word count or in revisions or in letting the brain work on it in peace. But it's much easier to feel progress when new words hit the paper in substantial chunks, and that happened yesterday. So yay.

Okay. I'm going to get my cranky self to the chiropractor, then have lunch with C.J., then work more on the book and make further attacks on Melvin the Laundry Monster. Who is expecting reinforcements from Melvin West on Friday night when Mark gets home, so I'm hoping to have Melvin Midwest tamed by then. I wish you a Wednesday with less reason for ranting than I have had.

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