Sneaking across the border

So let me start out a little Abe Simpsonesque. The year was 1976, the height of the cold war. I was serving in the 3rd of the 7th Cavalry, which, if you are history buff, you will recognize as Custer’s unit at his ‘Last Stand.’ Our Battalion even had a ‘Little Big Horn’ streamer on its battle guidon (I looked one day while cleaning the general’s office). The Vietnam War had just ended and the Army was in shambles. Historian, Rick Atkinson called the Army in which I served one of ‘incompetence’ and said, “it was in tatters. It was a disgrace to the country and to itself, to its own heritage, really.” Vietnam had decimated the Army and it was full of, “indiscipline and something approaching national loathing by many corridors of our country.” Yes I remember. My two best buddies had been given the choice between prison and the Army. Wild times. No glory returning from his cold war army. Still, one serves where one can, eh?

We were all waiting for the Soviet Army to roll through the Fulda Gap in West Germany. It was not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’ The Soviets were bent on world domination and Europe was an inevitable part of their conquest to cover the globe with Communism. Our job was to hold them up for twenty minutes, while armor, helicopters, and air defenses were motored up into action. We had to survive twenty minutes. We drove little light tanks called the M551 Sheridan. We joked that the Soviets had been armed with P-38’s (a little Army-issue can opener) as an anti-tank weapon.

A couple of times a year we would go up to the Czech border for a few weeks and make sure the Commies were not up to anything unseemly. My lieutenant was all about keeping the enemy guessing. I remember once, in a fierce blizzard, with snow so thick that I could not see the road at all, (such that my tank commander had to stand in his position above the top turret and tell me whether to go right or left), our lieutenant fresh out of OCS (Officer Candidate School) led us out into the elements. He wanted to show the Russians (if there were any around) that we were combat-ready in any weather. If the Czech guards had been able to see us through the snow, I think they would have been quite impressed.

One day, someone decided that we needed to patrol a remote area south of the Gap along the Czech border. There were no roads, so it was to be a foot patrol along a path that ran along the boundary. Our lieutenant led us out. I remember it was cold. The only sound was the crunch of our boots on the snow and the click of our equipment bouncing against our bodies. I was taking up the rear. We walked with our M16’s locked and loaded with full clip and two more in reserve. Our M1 helmets were made of heavy steel. We slogged along grumbling. Even so, there was something peaceful about the snow, the bare trees, and the heated excursion that seemed to clear the head and the blood.

Occasionally we would come across border stones, marking the boundary between West Germany and Czechoslovakia, white squarish stones maybe a foot high. As we passed one, it occurred to me that if I just passed it on the right instead of the left I could add another country to my tally of those visited. I couldn’t resist. At the next border stone I walked around it on the Czech side. It was thrilling. In some vague way I expected alarms, gunfire, or at least someone yelling at me. But the cold silence of the European forest was undisturbed—yet I had snuck across one of the most secure borders in the world (well in theory—I was the one guarding it after all—In the worst Army in the Nation’s History).

It turned out that the Russians were not planning an invasion. They were in shambles too. Their equipment was in disrepair, their tanks rusting and without spare parts. Their army was wracked by alcohol and drug use at every level. It was in more of a mess than ours.

I think about the things we fear today. When I was in the Army, the end of the world was just around the corner. But all these borders fell. Not by military force. The fences were torn down by people who wanted freedom. Who wanted a better life. It was the Soviet world that ended. It ended only about fifteen years latter, when the Berlin Wall fell. Fences do not hold people who want freedom and a better life. Nor should they.

When I was on sabbatical leave in Vienna, I took the train from Vienna, Austria to Prague. As I passed into Czechoslovakia, I thought about how I used to guard this border. No one even asked for my passport.


  1. Coffinberry says:

    Custer, please. Not Custard.

  2. Thanks, Steve.

  3. Coffinberry (#1) Thanks, Fixed (I was hungry when writing this).

  4. MMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm, Nielsen’s Frozen Custard.

  5. BTW, awesome post.

  6. I read this post and think of Iran. There’s a border I’d love to see torn down. I fear the day someone decides they’ve no choice but to bomb their nuclear facilities and the border becomes even stronger.

  7. I was serving in V Corps SupCom during 1976.

    My story is really stupid. I had been to Berlin a few times during my time in the Army, and of course once we hit the East German border, there were no stops until Berlin, so a long time to sleep.

    In the 1990s, my husband and I traveled from Frankfurt to Berlin, and I opted for a night train assuming it would be the same, not appreciating that we would be stopping at every farm town through the east, since it was all one country. duh!

    So sometimes the consequences of changes have ripple effects that are not immediately obvious.

  8. Left Field says:

    A few years ago, I was collecting lizards in the New Mexico bootheel, very close to the boundary between Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora. I took the opportunity to illegally stick my boot under the barbed-wire fence into Mexico. The Federales should have shot my toes off while they had the chance.

    While we’re critiquing your spelling, a Czech boarder is not the same thing as the Czech border, though perhaps the Czech boarder might become a Czecherboarder if he enjoys a good board game while boarding near the border. As to a boarder stone, I guess that could be sporting equipment used by a Czech boarder while curling near the border.

  9. I was born in Romania. My father snuck across the border (actually locking himself inside a freight train to Austria). Around that same time, in 1979, fittingly.

  10. Naismith #7, we were there at the same time. I wonder if we ever met.

    Daniel. What a great story. Thanks for sharing that.

  11. Mark Brown says:


  12. I love what I assume is the subtext here. But I’m famous for seeing what I choose to see.

  13. I see and love the same subtext, Ardis.

  14. I seeing subtexts sort of like seeing dead people?

  15. Actually, Mark Brown, I’ll turn off the “chagrinometer” this time! I love it!

    And that prima donna Custer. When the Sioux were finished with him (and the 7th Cav), they weren’t custard. They were toast.

    I am only sorry that I arrived after all the interesting typos had drawn out the inner snark among your readers.

  16. Oh, and Tracy. I’ll see and raise you $20.

  17. Arids, Oh that all had such eyes to see.

  18. My spelling skillz are awesome.

  19. John Mansfield says:

    Very evocative of the cold war. As a teenager in that period who lived a mile downrange from the Nellis AFB runways and had fighters fly over the house to Red Flag exercises and other training,* I fully expected to be drafted some day. From before WWII until the Vietnam War, the draft never really stopped, and then President Carter reinstated Selective Service registration. The post-Vietnam peace was an anomaly, and I would face the same thing that my father and all my uncles had over thirty-plus years. Now it’s almost forty years since the draft ended, and those few decades when most American men were at some point pressed into armed service seems like the anomaly.

    Like Ardis, I like the subtext. It’s rare to see AWG alarmism taken down so subtly.

    *One common experience was calling home and hearing a jet engine drown out my father and just waiting ten or twenty seconds to resume conversation. When an explosion leveled a solid rocket fuel oxidizer factory and rattled our windows, it took many seconds to register that this loud noise was different than the usual loud noises.

  20. John, do you mean AGW alarmism? Cause I don’t know what AWG would stand for…

  21. I see the same subtext, and would like to point out a major difference here.

    The Berlin wall was there to keep the Berliners of East Germany INSIDE, and the political viewpoints of the Westerners out.

    Immigration “walls” are only meant to keep those that DO NOT have a legal right to be in the United States out, not to keep Americans within our walls.

    I know it should be obvious, but sometimes a lot of liberals are apt to miss the most obvious things…

  22. “I know it should be obvious, but sometimes a lot of liberals are apt to miss the most obvious things…”

    At the same time I did not missed the obvious fact that you are a jerk.

  23. All political walls and borders are amoral at best and often immoral.

  24. And then some miss the subtext completely. AGW?

  25. No name calling Chris.

  26. psychochemiker says:

    Or maybe they don’t miss those obvious things, maybe they purposefully ignore them and omit them because they would dismantle their argument?

    I was trying to assume ignorance rather than deceit.

  27. I thought the AGW alarmism line was hilarious, by the way, even if SteveP doesn’t get it.

  28. Or maybe some of us realize that few things are obvious and most are complex.

  29. Alex, I too do not get what that is referring to.

  30. I get it. It’s just that such a subtext coming from a scientist is an incorrect reading.

    Ask yourself if there will be borders in the Millennium. Why or why not? Ask, What kind of ‘ites’ were present after Christ’s visit to America? To which of these ends are we currently working? Just wondering.

  31. “Ask yourself if there will be borders in the Millennium. ”

    Nope. We will all be Americans. Right?

  32. Fences do not hold people who want freedom and a better life.

    Actually, they do, if they’re electrified or manned by armed guards.

    I still like your story, Steve, with or without misspelled words.

  33. Personally I think there will still be borders in the Millennium, more for keeping things organized, but that not everyone will be honky dory with Jesus coming back. Free will and all…

    Sometimes walls are good because they stop worse things from happening. As much as I dislike the wall separating Israel and Palestine, for instance, for numerous reasons, there are hardly any suicide bombers rushing to Tel Aviv cafes to blow up people, and that is something good for both sides of that terrible conflict. The Berlin Wall served its purpose. It probably was the better choice for the Soviets than risking opening a violent conflagration in Berlin just years after the worst violence in the history of the world just ended. The wall on our southern border really won’t solve anyone’s problems but if it keeps certain elements in our society from doing even more stupid things, I’m fine with tolerating such a dumb thing as a wall to a free society.

  34. John Mansfield says:

    No, Alex, I mean AWG alarmism, those people who are also going on about the virtues of American wire gauge, and fretting that some Europey ISO metric nonsense is going to be forced on them instead and steal their sovereignty. They have their rule of thumb about a change of 6 doubling or halving the diameter (pretty much), and they’re scared of anyone messing with what they know and trust.

  35. Left Field – I can’t comment on whether the Mexicans would have shot your foot, but it’s always dangerous to stick your toes across the US border. My parents live near the Montana/Alberta border, and their neighbor was out hiking on his property on the Canadian side, and a helicopter was dispatched from Great Falls. They (CBP) agents landed on the Canadian side and questioned him about what he was up to.

  36. John – LOL.

  37. One doesn’t have to be a liberal to understand that there’s no difference between a wall built to keep someone in or someone else out–in either case the wall interferes with the free movement of peoples (read “labor”), which is as central to classical free market economics (bedrock conservatism, nicht wahr?) as the free movement of capital.

    And you may say all you want about “legal rights” to be here, but when you realize that most of us obtained that “legal right” simply by accident of birth, it becomes awfully difficult to argue that any of us really deserves it. Maybe your mother deserves the legal right to be here because of the pain and suffering that she endured to birth you–but not you. (And, in certain circumstances, I’m not so sure that the mothers deserve anything either.)

    It’s a bit like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) holding forth last week on why the 14th Amendment should be re-written. Citizenship, he said, is something to be valued, something that should be earned, not simply given away freely. In that case, Senator, you and I, citizens by accident of birth, certainly are less deserving of it than someone who has left his ancestral home, traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to an ever more dangerous border and paid substantial sums to be guided across the border, only to end up in a land where the jobs are menial, the language and food are different, and what passes for news and commentary is full of the blather of foolish politicians, telling about how the lousy “illegals” have to earn their right to be here.

  38. Mark Brown says:

    I claim comment # 37.

  39. I like that, Mark B. Accidental babies to counter Anchor babies. :)

  40. psychochemiker says:


    Pure nonsequitor:

    Ask yourself if there will be borders in the Millennium. Why or why not?

    If I assume there won’t be meat in the millenium am I required to become a vegetarian or vegan today?

    There won’t be crime or police or jails in the millenium either, does that mean LDS people should not be police persons, and that we should vote to close all jails?

    Seriously folks.

    Not all scientists use bad logic as demonstrated earlier…

  41. psychochemiker says:

    Mark B.

    Pure straw-man.

    And you may say all you want about “legal rights” to be here, but when you realize that most of us obtained that “legal right” simply by accident of birth, it becomes awfully difficult to argue that any of us really deserves it.

    Since when did we have to deserve something?
    Who claimed to deserve it?

    There’s just too much unfairness in the world for me to think I need to right all of it. Quite frankly, that is an impossible task that I cannot even begin to undertake. I don’t think it is possible, and I think any attempt that is not lead directly by Christ (e.i., a false god like the big brother government trying to be installed by fascists) can only use non-godly tactics. Christ can overcome the fall by changing individuals. The government can only legislate, and it cannot overcome the fall, no matter how many Mormons falsely put their faith in it.

  42. It’s against the rules to use misspelled Latin terms in Blog comments. Admin–please come and delete #40!

    On the other hand, there will probably be all kinds of boarders in the Millenium. Surf-boarders, snow-boarders, pirates who we all know spent time boarding peace-loving trading vessels engaged in the rape of the native American cultures, and probably a who host of boring relatives who drop by for a visit and won’t leave, and, because it’s the Millenium, won’t even have the decency to die.

  43. Anyone who claims that the only people who should be here are those who have a “legal right” to be here are implicitly claiming that they have such a right–otherwise they’d be hoisting themselves on their own petards, wouldn’t they?

    And, sure, we can’t solve all the inequities in the world. But the folks who are actively pursuing policies to increase inequity should give it a rest.

    And “lead” as a verb is pronounced “leed”–if you’re looking for the past tense, you should probably stick with “led.” If you’re looking for “lead” pronounced “led” then try Pb.

  44. Those who actively pursue non-Zion-like behaviors now but who expect that Zion will somehow magically come, or that they will somehow be comfortable living there when their own carefully cultivated habits and characters are counter to everything Zion stands for, mystify me. Zion will be peaceful, but it’s not only okay but admirable to actively pursue war now? The earth will be renewed then, so let’s rape the earth now without learning how to live in a renewed one? Zion will have no poor, but let’s greedily gather all we can while only grudgingly sharing the barest minimum with the poor now?

    Seriously, folks.

    Bloggernacle, not all commenters expect that because Christ *can* change individuals He *will* change individuals who revel in their carnal behavior.

  45. Mark B. You are a genius. Esp. #37

    psychochemiker #40, yes I am working toward the perspectives we will have in the Millennium now. And in #41 the unfairness of the world will not be solved by me, of course. But I will do what I can.

  46. Ardis #44. So well said.

  47. Left Field says:

    I think there’s quite a bit in the Doctrine and Covenants that isn’t very friendly to a lot of contemporary conservative thinking.

  48. Amen Ardis. I love it.

  49. I think there’s quite a bit in the Doctrine and Covenants that isn’t very friendly to a lot of contemporary conservative thinking.

    I tried reading the Doctrine and Covenants once and got really bored. This explains a lot.

  50. psychochemiker says:

    Yes Left field,
    And there’s plenty of people who think that
    “there’s quite a bit in the Doctrine and Covenants that isn’t very friendly to a lot of contemporary liberal thinking.”

    Strange how two groups of people look at the same information and develop alternate opinions…

  51. Strange how two groups of people look at the same information and develop alternate opinions…

    Yeah, sheep and goats! : )

  52. There’s a lot of stuff in not-Zion that has to be dealt with, and it doesn’t necessarily work to say, “Well, how would a Zion people deal with this?” because in Zion those problems won’t exist, and getting to Zion is, at this point, somewhat of a mystery. Just like it doesn’t always work to say, “What would Jesus do?” because there are a lot of situations in our lives that Jesus never dealt with because that wasn’t his mission in life. What Jesus would do or what Zion would do isn’t always a relevant question–or, at least, there isn’t always an answer we can be confident in. We don’t always have a basis for knowing what Jesus would do in a particular situation.

  53. in Zion those problems won’t exist, and getting to Zion is, at this point, somewhat of a mystery.

    Not being sure how to get there is one thing. Making that an excuse to not even try to find the way is something else.

  54. Making that an excuse to not even try to find the way is something else.

    Well, sure. So is acting as though the solution is obvious and clear-cut when it’s actually not.

  55. I like to follow Nibley’s views on Zion. We can do better, I think, was the heart of his argument. While specifics about solutions are not clear, both Jesus and Zion provide targets and help us gage trajectories. I think asking what would Jesus do is problematic, but asking how would I treat this other person if it were Jesus is something we could ask ourselves more often. I don’t mean how would Christ like me to treat this person (which agreed I have only vague ideas), I mean if it really, really was Jesus. If you have done it unto the least of these and all that.

  56. And for all of you that have not been treated like Jesus by me, please remember that I am a theoretician. I just try to look and talk pious, not be such. I would never want to be held the the standard I expect from you all.

  57. Okay, madhousewife, I’ll consider myself sufficiently chastised and will shut up.

  58. asking how would I treat this other person if it were Jesus is something we could ask ourselves more often

    I know what you mean and I agree. Sometimes it’s a considerable challenge to imagine the other person as Jesus, though, because I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t really picture Jesus doing some of the crappy things human beings do to each other. At a certain point on the spectrum of human weakness Jesus would cease to be Jesus, would he not? We love him because he first loved us.

  59. Well, I certainly hope you won’t shut up, Ardis. Your points about Zion and becoming a Zion people are well taken.

  60. “And for all of you that have not been treated like Jesus by me, please remember that I am a theoretician. I just try to look and talk pious, not be such. I would never want to be held the the standard I expect from you all.”

    Glad to know that I am not the only theorist who feels this way.

  61. Peter LLC says:

    Fences do not hold people who want freedom and a better life. Nor should they.

    In 1973 when the foreign ministers participating in the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe met to adopt the agenda that would eventually lead to the demise of Communism, the host, Finnish president Urho Kekkonen declared that “security is not gained by erecting fences [but] by opening gates.”* I think it’s safe to say that history was on his side.

    *(Daniel Thomas, The Helsinki Effect, p.64)

  62. John Mansfield says:

    Here’s something from John Lumley for the theoreticians to enjoy, and for the non-theoreticians to appreciate the theoreticians better: “He is regarded as impractical, pie in the sky. It does not help that any theoretician worth his salt can come up with several contradictory theories a day. He had a beautiful theory to explain yesterday’s data, but this morning it seems that those data were wrong; this afternoon he has a new theory to explain the new data. Who can trust a man like that? Despite all that, theory is what gives meaning to observation. Understanding is the process of constructing simple models that explain the observations, and permit predictions.” (link)

  63. We do know how to become a Zion people. We know perfectly well.

    We just have trouble doing it.

  64. “We do know how to become a Zion people. We know perfectly well.”

    Yes, and its actually by building borders if you take both history and scriptures specifically and not generally. Paradise? It had to be guarded by very fierce angels. The first Zion? It had to be taken up to Heaven because it could no longer dwell on Earth with other people. The Nephite Zion? First, we don’t know how large of an area it covered in the North American Continent and second, it had Oceans on the left and the right of it protecting against Asia and Europe. The 19th Century? Its best days (not even close to a Zion society) were when it was cut off from the United States by deserts and economic wagon circling. The Millenium? Cut off by time and history after the wicked had been destroyed (like the Nephites) to make way for a more righteous civilization. Lets not forget Temples where you have to have a card to enter. I could go on and talk about the Celestial, Terrestial, and Telestial Kingdoms with Outer Darkness thrown in there for extra measure. Walls of the Gospel are everywhere. Straight is the Gate and Narrow the way, and all that.

    It is true that most of these walls are built on faith and behavior, and not actual lines on a map. However, that is all that those who insist “illegal” means just that are saying. You want to cross the border, there isn’t a problem with that. Just do it “by the book” and within the law. Do it that way and you can have millions crossing every day and there wouldn’t be any arguments. Even the scriptures say we shouldn’t do things by haste, but wisdom and order. Its amazing that is so much to ask.

  65. I personally can’t think of anything more transparently absurd than when folks who wring hands and rend garments and weep and gnash teeth in their obsessive drive to send “illegals,” undocumented Mexicans back to the Land Southward insist that they are driven solely by a technical concern for compliance with the letter of the law.

  66. Your right. Its a “racist” thing about not liking those with brown skin that talk funny. I should have just come out and said that. You got me. Now you can claim righteous superiority again.

  67. Mark Brown says:

    I personally know 3 LDS families who employ Mexican people who are in the U.S. illegally to do yardwork, housework, and the occasional home repair. They pay them in cash under the table, in complete disregard for the tax laws and withholding requirements. And all three families favor deporting illegal aliens because they are BREAKING THE LAW!!!!

    I don’t think it is racism, I think it is brain-dead stupidity.

  68. In that case Mark Brown, I agree with you for those families. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot like myself who would like those families to be prosecuted for hiring them and paying them under the table. It is people like them that frustrates me and others like me that say “they are breaking the law” and mean it! As for those who say “don’t you break the law when you speed?” The answer is yes I do break the law when I speed and that is why I try very hard not to speed; that can bother people because I end up sometimes going below the speed limit.

  69. For the record, I did get a speeding ticket once. What I didn’t do is go before a court and argue for leniency and put up a fight that it was all a big mistake, etc. I took responsibility and paid the fine.

  70. Mark Brown says:

    Jettboy, sure. I am with you on the need to uphold law. Where we might differ is that I don’t think this is entirely a legal problem, and that there are a lot of other factors to consider. Consequently, I don’t think the problem will be solved simply by invoking the law. This seems to be the approach the church is also trying to take.

  71. Mark Brown says:

    Just to use your example, it is one thing to speed in a car when you are just out joyriding. It is another thing to drive faster than the speed limit allows when you are taking your child to the emergency room. When we use the law as a blunt instrument we are unable to make these distinctions.

  72. Jettboy—FYI, what I said had nothing to do with illegal immigrants, so you don’t need to refute it like it’s some sort of argument.

  73. Yeah, I’m sure it has nothing to do with dark skin. All the angry activism that animates current policy proposals is meant to strip citizenship from Danish and Ukrainian anchor babies…

  74. Jettboy, did you get that speeding ticket for the one and only time in your entire life when you ever drove above the speed limit? Or have you been a speeder many times, without being caught? I’m sure if that’s the case you have voluntarily surrendered to the legal authorities immediately after each event, reported your violation, and paid the fine. Right? ‘Cause if you’re saying that breaking the law only matters if you get caught, then you must not have any problem with the millions of illegal immigrants who have never seen an ICE agent.

  75. Not Danish and Ukrainian anchor babies, Brad — it’s the Lithuanian ones you have to watch out for. I’ve been mulling over a non-Mormon history post about the ugly idea of withdrawing citizenship from natural born residents on the basis of their parents’ status, illustrated by the story of a Lithuanian whose grant of citizenship was based on his *mother’s* birth here, not even his own. Them Lithuanians is the ones you need to beware of, fur shur.

  76. Ardis, if you are somehow suggesting that I have something personal against Lithuanians, their skin complexion, their culture, or their accents, well you’re just WRONG. Nobody is more supportive of Lithuanian immigrants than I am, and I wouldn’t care if they all wanted to come to our great country (just as long as they don’t violate any of our laws or make any more little Lithuanians in order to secure their foothold here). Some of my best friends have hired Baltic nannies (well, the ones who earn my friendship and respect only hire LEGALS, and withholf FICA and SS from their paychecks). In short, Ardis, HOW DARE YOU suggest that my principled, spirited devotion to the issue of ILLEGAL Lithuanian immigration is borne of ANYTHING except a dispassionate respect for and unwavering devotion to the RULE OF LAW?!?!

  77. To suggest that the line separating the United States and Mexico–established (except for the Gadsden Purchase) by a war that Ulysses Grant called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation” bears any appropriate relationship to the lines dividing the Kingdom of God from all earthly kingdoms (including the U.S., of course) would be laughable if it weren’t utterly pernicious.

    But, I’ll accept the analogy to this extent–“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

    Apparently even the sainted Ronald Reagan, when asked about immigration, said something to the effect that he would build high walls, but have wide-open doors.

    As to the Immigration and Nationality Act–I’m with Mr Bumble: the law is a ass!

  78. Peter LLC says:

    Jettboy, in insisting that temples, Zion, etc have boundaries, you are missing an important point, namely, that anyone can choose to enter and join in communion.

    Not only that, but at great personal and financial expense we are commanded to actively invite the world to join with us.

    Furthermore, the outcome of baptismal/temple interviews is between you and the Lord–if you give the right answers, His representative on earth throws open the gates.

    Contrast that with the visa application process where your word is insufficient and the assumption is that you intend to violate the law, you are at the mercy of some schmuck whose job is to find reasons to reject your application and you are guaranteed nothing even if you meet the stated requirements. Although the above doesn’t apply if you bring something to the table the country of destination wants.

  79. Brad, just which part of LITHUANIAN don’t you understand? Is it the LITH part, which any uneducated etymologist (particularly those who think the word is entomologist) can tell you means STONE, as in what they’re going to throw at you in their inevitable riots once they have invaded our fair and peaceful land in sufficient numbers? Or is it the UANIAN part, which any fool can see looks and sounds like EYERANIAN? Wake up, man, before it’s too late, before the Lithuanians want to build a church near Ground Zero!!

  80. Lithuanians are vilinus.

  81. Ardis for President!

  82. So, if I’m reading this thread correctly, the real reason Steve crossed into Czechoslovakia was to take advantage of free health care?

  83. No. It was to have an anchor baby.

  84. It’s hard to know what Steve was trying to do–provoke World War III? Commit “suicide by border guard”?

    But the key lies some 38 years before that rash act–in the words spoken by Neville Chamberlain as he faced the prospect of a general European war over that same nation that Steve invaded:

    “Incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.”

    And, he could have added, where they speak an odd language and wear funny hats.

    But Steve simply thought that, as long as he had to dig trenches and carry a gas mask (and even try it on sometimes), he owed it to himself to find out something about that faraway country.

  85. The only problem with those “anchor babies” is that they’re aweigh for 21 years. Even for Philip Nolan, that’s a long time at sea.

  86. Would anyone else like to congratulate themselves on not being a bigot?

  87. Mark Brown says:

    Rebecca, I don’t think that is what is going on here. I think race and bigotry are part of our lives and part of the decisions we make to some degree, even if we are not aware of it. Within the last decade, Gordon B. Hinckley warned the saints about their racism in general conference, so it isn’t like this problem has gone away.

    There can be various motivations for our approach to immigration law and the way it is enforced. Some of the motives will be better than others, but the one thing I do not think we can do is to claim that our motives are purely about law enforcement. It is clear, at least to me, that there is a lot more going on.

  88. God help us, Ardis. There’s WAY TOO MUCH at stake here. At some point the jerks in Washington will finally notice that we’re ANGRY and that we’re NOT going to stand by idly while they allow our great country, our culture, our social mores, our very way of life — ALL that makes our nation great — to be undermined by these immigrants. (OF COURSE, it goes without saying that the threat ONLY comes from those Lithuanians whose residence in America in any way violates any portion of those civil statutes that deal with immigration and naturalization…).

  89. Thomas Parkin says:

    “That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot like myself who would like those families to be prosecuted for hiring them and paying them under the table.”

    You’re a peach. ~

  90. Mark Brown says:

    Just to add, when Br. Pearce speaks of Mexican women “dropping anchor babies” — using words typically used when speaking of farm animals — I think we have to admit that this isn’t just about the law.

    Do you see it differently?

  91. I would like to congratulate myself for not congratulating my bigotry.

  92. AZ Police Officer 1: I’m so glad the state legislature has finally given is the tools to enforce the law and keep our country safe.

    AZ Police Officer 2: I just wish liberal naysayers would stop suggesting that this law has anything at all to do with race.

    AZPO1: Speaking of which, does that guy over there look suspiciously French Canadian to you?

    AZPO2: Only one way to find out!

    Together: Three cheers for the rule of law!!!!!

  93. Peter LLC says:

    We don’t talk about bigotry around here, Rebecca J. Too exhausting.

  94. One reason I find restrictive borders disturbing is this scripture:

    3 Ne. 21: 23-24
    23 And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
    24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.

    If we build fences too unassailable, whether by bureaucracy or by physical barrier, there will be a long line at the gate and maybe the raiment of Jacob who are supposed to build the New Jerusalem here, will go somewhere else to build it. Such rearrangements have been made before when people have embraced mammon over Zion.

  95. SteveP, the law-n-order, anti-immigrant crowd will say that the obvious answer is that the remnant of Jacob simply has to follow procedure and enter the country legally and all will be well in Zion. They don’t seem to recognize (or if they recognize it, they don’t admit it) that there is no legal way for people from some countries to enter the U.S. within their life expectancy — if they aren’t trophy immigrants from whatever part of the world is currently being used for making political hay, the legal gate is closed for all practical purposes.

    The ones I feel strongest about defending against the deport-’em-all voices are those who were brought here by their parents when they were children, who have no ties or loyalties to any other country, nobody to go back to, no prospect of work or education. They’ve grown up in the U.S., their loyalties are here, they are Americans in every sense except the birth certificate, yet no matter how desperately they might want to regularize their status and be legal, there is absolutely no way for them to make it so. The law-n-order folks insist they go “home” first (as if anywhere else were home!), without acknowledging that if they do leave, they will never be allowed back. Never. They would have to wait out the penalty years, then go to the back of a line that will never move fast enough to permit them to come home even as old men and women. They are in effect calling for the exile of hundreds of thousands of young Americans who would be strangers in whatever place they were deported to.

    Thanks for letting me vent again.

  96. Oh, come on, Ardis. Just admit it. You HATE America and you want to REWARD law-BREAKERS.

  97. Ardis,
    Vent away. I love your compassion and insight.

  98. That’s right, Brad. And I pull puppies’ ears, and sneeze on salad bars, and make fun of people in wheelchairs. Nyah!

  99. Mark Brown says:

    Ardis, as I think about the immigrants I know whom I suspect are here without documentation, I think more than half of them fall into that category. These are LDS people in my ward. Most of them work hard at jobs which provide a living but not much more — landscaping, hanging drywall, cleaning hotel rooms, nailing shingles. They are the hardest-working people I know, so it infuriates me when people claim that they are just here to go on welfare. I don’t understand when people want to just throw them out without consideration for what happens to them next. The most frequent response I hear is that well, it is just tough luck for them and they should have thought about it before they came here. When we take people whose situation in life is already a bit tenuous and deliberately take action which will undoubtedly make their lives much worse, it is the very definition of grinding the faces of the poor. I think any argument from the law and order position should include some reasonable provision for how to deal with those people in the situation you describe.

  100. Mark, I think that is exactly right. You can’t really get to know someone, hear the struggles they’ve been through, the hardships they have endured and not recognize that there is someone there worth honoring and helping.

  101. Pffft!!!
    You all just HATE baby Jesus.

  102. My daughter’s friend is working on building an immgration law practice somewhere in northern California. A simple request for Spanish translators on her ward Relief Society listserv brought a shocking result. Here’s how she described it on her blog

    If that be patriotism, then Samuel Johnson was right. If it’s simply “law ‘n’ order-ism” then maybe that, rather than patriotism, is the new last refuge of the scoundrel.

  103. Mark Brown says:

    Mark B., the sad fact of the matter is that this woman is not unusual. I’m quite certain that there are people like this in every ward in Utah and Arizona. It’s shocking the first time you encounter it, then you realize that it is OK to say stuff like this in polite company.

  104. I think race and bigotry are part of our lives and part of the decisions we make to some degree, even if we are not aware of it.

    Yes, I think that’s true. To claim that racism hasn’t played a part in this issue would be too naive even for me. Still, it’s interesting how a person can be racist and not know it, but complete strangers on the internet can see into one’s heart and mind and know exactly what’s in there.

  105. Just to add, when Br. Pearce speaks of Mexican women “dropping anchor babies” — using words typically used when speaking of farm animals — I think we have to admit that this isn’t just about the law.

    Do you see it differently?

    No. But I think when legal (Latino) immigrants speak disdainfully and resentfully of illegal immigrants and the problems caused by illegal immigration in their state(s), we have to admit that it isn’t just about racism.

  106. Mark Brown says:

    Rebecca, I don’t think we disagree all that much.

    Yes, it is good to be reminded that individuals act for different reasons and we need to exercise caution when guessing at motives.

    In this particular case, I appreciate your acknowledgment that there is a racist element to this movement — that is a rare thing, in fact, you are the only person I have ever heard who is willing to say so.

    We probably disagree about other reasons. While I realize people are frustrated (this includes other, legal, Latinos), I just don’t think the reasons that are offered stand up to scrutiny. In particular, the claims of rampant crime are contradicted by reality (every kind of violent crime and property crime is down in AZ over the past 5 years), and the claim that illegal immigrants are a drag on the economy and don’t pay taxes is contradicted by some pretty good analysis in the WSJ. And for that matter, there are fewer immigrants in Arizona than there were 10 years ago. My tentative opinion is that people have a lot of unfocused frustration about a lot of things and that undocumented Mexicans make a good scapegoat.

    With the caveat that we cannot know the heart of any particular individual, we can speak of the movement in general. When we admit that there is a racial element, that the leaders of the movement are willing to blatantly lie (they’re just here to get welfare”), that they routinely use disgusting language to speak about Mexican women, and when they are willing to deny reality with their claims about crime and the economy, there just isn’t very much left to admire.

  107. Thomas Parkin says:

    Mark B.,

    I truly loved my ward in Logan; I could easily spend the rest of my life in a ward like that. But – the attitudes expressed to your sister are omnipresent in Cache Valley, and I assume like areas throughout Utah. At first I just heard the nasty comments among folks I worked with expressed towards Mexican people I also worked with. So, I started hanging it out there to people in the church, what gives, and was numerous times shocked at what I heard.

    Cache Valley is beautiful, and has reared many an Apostle. But it has also stewed in its own juices for a century. Their day is fading. Spanish speakers already outnumber English speakers in the church. Listen to the list of the names on new 70s at each General Conference. A very large percentage, if not a majority, of those names are Hispanic. Hispanic people are the future of the church.

    My strong feelings about immigration were pretty much formed in reaction to the stupefying things I repeatedly heard in the year I lived in Utah. But I first woke up to it here in Seattle back several years ago when the Latin people marched. There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, they filled the streets. My initial realization was that these people are not going anywher. ‘Sending them back’ is simply not an option. What? Are we going to round them up and put them in cattle cars? The procedure would shock even the deeply racist. We are talking about wrecking havoc on a massive scale upon people who would be powerless to protect themselves. Broken families is just the first sorrowful thing that would result. So much for ‘we simply want them to obey our laws.’ The blindness to the human side of this is infuriating, and, in Utah, assumed. The correct imaginings betray the impulses to be not only racist in an individual way, but politically fascist. ~

  108. Just so we’re clear, Mark, this is the post I’ve chosen this week to self-righteously accuse others of being self-righteous.

    you are the only person I have ever heard who is willing to say so

    Only conservative, you mean? Because otherwise I imagined a whole lot on this thread and my comments must have seemed really strange. :) It is true, though, that I am soft on immigration, even unto RINOism. But on other issues I have views that qualify me as a racist, so it sort of evens out, I think.

  109. Many of the ancestors of those who argue most forcefully to send everyone “home” arrived here and then staged a mutiny against the government who controlled the land in order to grant them the freedom to stay as an independent nation – organizing to kill their former fellow-citizens and justifying their actions as undertaken in order to avoid paying bad taxes. ‘Cause, you know, they had the God-given right not to have to obey the law of the land at that time.

    Our current situation seems kind of tame compared to that.

    Irony, thy name is American history.

  110. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Our current situation seems kind of tame compared to that.”

    So far.

  111. Thomas Parkin says:

    Mercy is, among other things, forbearance. It means drawing back from the full weight of the law, from punishment unrestrained. It means mitigating or ignoring penalties. It is best when it comes from a place of compassion and empathy, even fellow feeling. If I recall correctly, Jesus recommends it to us. He says our obtaining mercy is dependent on our developing it, demonstrating it. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. I need as much of it as I can get. ~

  112. Peter LLC says:

    Are we going to round them up and put them in cattle cars?

    When my dad worked on the Nevada railroads in the 1950s, that’s basically what happened. Every now and again the feds would show up at the job site, collect the illegal immigrants and haul them off somwhere. And a few weeks later they would start trickling back.

  113. John Mansfield says:

    Mark Brown, should the “hard-working immigrant” stereotype be considered one more example of racism? It’s a nice thing to think about a group that they are hard-working, yet it still involves the concept that the group is distinct and different (which may be true). Then, someone else can notice that not every distinct quality of that group is something praiseworthy. Turned around, if the immigrants of our experience are notably hard-working, and we note that, then what are we saying about the natives?

    There is also the same clutching to impressions and ignorance of statistics like that displayed when someone claims that immigrants are more criminal than natives. (It’s the immigrants’ children who are more criminal.)

    A few quotes from the URL below:

    “In 2009, 67.9 percent of the foreign born were in the labor force, little changed from 2008. Over the year, the labor force participation rate of native-born workers fell by 0.7 percentage point to 64.9 percent.” [Not much difference.]

    “The labor force participation rate of both foreign- and native-born fathers with children under age 18 was about 94 percent.” [No difference.]

    “In 2009, foreign-born mothers with children under age 18 were less likely to be labor force participants than native-born mothers–61.2 versus 74.0 percent. Among women with children under age 3, the participation rate for the foreign born was 45.8 percent, while that for the native born was 64.9 percent.” [This is a favorable characteristic of immigrant mothers, but not one that most of us would notice since it is manifest in their homes and not around us. Probably, it is a surprise to many who thought all immigrant mothers are like the ones they meet who are doing work for them.]

  114. Mark Brown says:

    John, you are probably right, if we can include a caveat. In the case of Mexicans who come across our Southern border illegally, we might be speaking about the hardest-working group of Mexicans. So whether they are in the U.S. or Mexico, they would still stand out as industrious. But mostly I’m reacting to the stupidity that is required to call somebody lazy who picks lettuce every day for years when the person doing the name-calling hasn’t ever done that task or anything else like it in their lives.

    Rebecca J., you are a really good person.

  115. John Mansfield says:

    Mark, there is a lot of stupidity to react to, so I understand you speaking out against any particular strand that irritates you most. Though one who favors restriction of immigration, I get tired of the “illegal means illegal” trope when 1) we’re discussing what the laws that define illegality should be, and 2) if legality were all that mattered, then we just wave a legislative wand, declare every human on earth eligible to cross the borders whenever and however he chooses, and all our problems are over.

    On the lazy issue, one worry is what we are doing to our country that our sons and daughters or selves have no experience with lower-rung jobs. In the Washington Post recently,

    Call it the case of the missing summer jobs.

    According to Northeastern University economist Andrew Sum, only a third of American 16- to 19-year-olds had a job last summer, the lowest level on record and down from 52 percent a decade ago. The decline began long before the current economic crisis, so high unemployment is not the only culprit. But the question of who is to blame has launched your classic Washington think tank skirmish.


  116. No. But I think when legal (Latino) immigrants speak disdainfully and resentfully of illegal immigrants and the problems caused by illegal immigration in their state(s), we have to admit that it isn’t just about racism.

    No, at that point we can lay it squarely at the feet of “we-were-here-first-ism” which is as American as apple pie and older than this nation.

    But its venerable age and commonality don’t make it any more right. It was wrong when the English settlers complained about the Germans, or the English and Germans (now become Americans) complained about the Irish, or when the Irish joined them in mocking the Swedes and Danes and decrying the filthy Eyetalians and Slavs and Jews, and then all the good white folks ganged up and passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the father of the current Immigration and Nationality Act–which one would call its bastard child, except that both parent and child are thoroughly odious.

  117. we can lay it squarely at the feet of “we-were-here-first-ism”

    Great! Let’s call it that, then.

  118. Steve, when you were serving in our European Army in that era, did you and your buddy ever steal the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle?

  119. I read this very very late. But thanks, Steve!