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spellbound by the rules

A couple of nights ago I watched Spellbound, the wonderful documentary following the fortunes of a bunch of contestants in the US national Spelling Bee. It's a totally engrossing, surprisingly thrilling film, but one thing about it struck me: how many of the children were the children of immigrants. And that made me even angrier than ever about the forthcoming citizen referendum. For those who don't know, currently all children born here are automatically granted citizenship. Now that lots of non-Irish (read: non-white, mostly) immigrants are arriving and having children here, hateful urban myths have begun that women (who, as far as our glorious racist misogynist minister Michael McDowell is concerned, seem to get pregnant on their own, without any interference from men. Then again, this is the man who, in the last abortion referendum, announced that "women will lie" in order to get abortions. Because we're evil liars! And we led man into sin in the garden of eden too!) are "flooding" here just before giving birth, in order to take advantage of this "loop hole". Never mind that the country's maternity hospitals deny this "flood". Never mind that there is absolutely no proof for this apart from the fact that the Minister has been seeing a lot of black babies in the streets. Let's have a vote to insure that for once and for all, Irish=White. Unless the parents have been here for about three years, by which time they may well have been deported. Don't let them set up roots, now, or we might never get rid of them...

Anyway! In Spellbound, one of the children, a wonderfully goofy and sweet thirteen year old girl, is the child of illegal immigrants from Mexico who still can't speak a word of English. Her dad is a cow-herd for a benignly racist old rancher (who said thing like "not all Mexicans are lazy, you know. Some of them are hard workers"). And again and again, her older brother said how happy his parents were for Amanda, because this is why they came to America. Not for themselves, but for their children, so their children could have better lives than they ever did. And that's why I can't express how angry I am that Irish people, who for decades have been leaving this dump in droves in order to have better lives, can be so virulent in their opposition to other people doing the same thing here. Does our Minister have absolutely no relatives, ever, who went to America or England? I'd be astonished if he didn't. There's absolutely no difference between Africans coming here and Irish people going to America (and Minister Mike might want to remember how they were treated both there and in Britain), but we'd like to think there is. We'd like to think that the Irish were model immigrants wherever they went (unlike those lazy foreigners, who just don't WANT to work. Because there are no irish people on the dole in England, and never ever have been. Nor are there any Irish criminals in any other countries. Only Nigerians commit crimes in other countries! Everyone knows that!). We'd like to think that Irish people never "take advantage" of any laws anywhere else ever (and by the way, who the fuck cares if people are "taking advantage" of this law? What harm does it do any of us, apart from outraging our sense of irishness? It certainly isn't putting a huge strain on our hospitals, as those hospitals keep trying to point out). We'd also like to think that there aren't thousands of illegal Irish immigrants in the US - or if we do think about it, we're proud of them for getting round those stupid immigration rules.

if this referendum passes - and I'm scared that it will, despite the opposition from everyone from the Labour Party to the Catholic Church - Ireland will be sending a message to the world that unless you're white, you're not good enough for us. We are fucking up the refugee situation. We're dumping batches of immigrants in the most deprived areas, where insecurity is rife and scapegoats are always welcome. We're not allowing them to work, so they have to go on social welfare, and then we get outraged and call them "scroungers" and "criminals". We are sending a hateful, nasty message that we don't want immigrants coming to a country of emmigrants - oh, unless you're white, American and rich and will hopefully start a nice software company in Mayo to give good white irish people new jobs. Then you're okay. If, however, you're poor and possibly not white, then we will make it so hard for you to stay here and maybe, someday, you'll stop coming. And then everything will be nice again. And everyone, from conniving foreign women to their nasty little babies, will know their place. Won't they?

Under our proposed rules that girl in Spellbound, that beautifully smart, dorky, kid, might never have been allowed stay there. Her parents' dream of a better life for their children would have been shattered. So who are we turning away?

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
glitzfrau
Apr. 26th, 2004 04:39 am (UTC)
Word.

Why not while away that odd hour before J's birthday bash by leafletting against the referendum? I think the Dart stations are leafletted between five and six of a Tuesday...

(as furious as you, obviously.)
cangetmad
Apr. 26th, 2004 05:09 am (UTC)
and by the way, who the fuck cares if people are "taking advantage" of this law? What harm does it do any of us, apart from outraging our sense of irishness?

That seems to be the big gap in the "logic" - well, so what if black babies have Irish citizenship, no matter their mothers' motives (if any) for gaining them it? There's a missing step whereby the arguer doesn't admit that they don't want black people to be Irish.

What's weird about this for me is: this is already the situation in the UK - you can't get citizenship just by being born here, and you haven't been able to since about 1981. And I find that idea, really, as outrageous as it would be in Ireland. But, where am I with my leaflets? It's actually harder to care, let alone harder to mobilise, once you've already lost (without knowing on account of being five at the time). I must go and find out if any of my compatriots campaigned at the time...
socmot
Apr. 26th, 2004 05:11 am (UTC)
You said it.

A few months back I heard an African mother on Parnell St telling her very young (no older than 5) old son to stop running about on the footpath in the way of other people walking past them. Her voice was heavily accented, but his response was in a delightful Dublin accent - "Ah ma", he said. It brought a smile to my face. I was pleased at the time to think we were offering that family a chance to live here, and that he'd grow up with a Dublin accent and hopefully would do well.

It pains me to think that perhaps they've been deported now.
socmot
Apr. 26th, 2004 05:14 am (UTC)
And while I'm suffering ill-health and unable to campaign and leaflet, I'd encourage people to get out there and do their bit. The more people out there campaigning against it, the more people will see that perhaps this insane amendment shouldn't be voted in.

glitzfrau, I missed the protest on Saturday, but saw some pictures. Was it good? At least the rain didn't ruin it!
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Apr. 26th, 2004 06:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socmot - Apr. 26th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC) - Expand
leedy
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:00 am (UTC)
Grr. The whole thing makes me extremely cross. Not least because of the whole "no, no, no, we're not playing the race card coming up to an election, who, us?" aspect of it.

There've been a few pretty interesting articles in the Times about this lately, one pointing out that yes, the number of non-nationals giving birth here has increased but that the figures being trumpeted by those in favour of this referendum include perfectly legal residents - for instance, people here on work permits - as well as illegal immigrants.

That said, while the maternity hospitals are not being overrun by a tide of foreigners (tm), there are, it seems, a number of women turning up at them for the first time practically on the verge of giving birth, which does alarm me a bit - not because I don't want Irish babies that are (horrors!) brown, but because of the health/safety issues this raises. Though obviously there must be ways of dealing with this that don't involve mucking with the constitution and pandering to the Immigration Control Platform...
stellanova
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:20 am (UTC)
But surely one of the reason people are turning up at hospitals so late is that they come from underdeveloped countries where regular ante-natal check ups are not the norm? So educating women in immigrant communities would help solve that one.

I dunno, I just find it very hard to believe that with all the difficulties of getting here illegally, all these women are managing to plan their arrivals to Ireland so perfectly that they get here just before going into labour...
leedy
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:40 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely agreed on the education thing (and it's not just an immigrant thing - Irish women turn up at hospitals for the first time in states of advanced pregnancy for much the same reason). And on what Glitzfrau said about women arriving in Dublin late in pregnancy because they've previously been living elsewhere under the direct provision scheme.

Still, according to one interview I read with one maternity hospital spokesperson (so I dunno how typical this is), you do get some women showing up pretty much off the boat/plane. An interesting thing was that, in the interviewee's experience, most of these women were non-EU citizens arriving from elsewhere in the EU rather than from their native land, and frequently had antenatal records from, say, the UK or France.
socmot
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:50 am (UTC)
is that they come from underdeveloped countries where regular ante-natal check ups are not the norm?

Bingo. My mother is directing a programme in Uganda for pre / post-natal women, testing and treating them for HIV/AIDS - and her toughest task is getting through to them that have to stick to scheduled appointments and to follow the medication directions if they're taking any.

She says it's nigh on impossible to communicate it to them because they've very little in the way of education which means they don't realise how important it is to get treated or to follow treatment etc, or because they can't read the medical advice given to them.

Apprently she's taken to chasing down expectant mothers where possible and setting up home visits and more outreach clinics.

I dunno, I just find it very hard to believe that with all the difficulties of getting here illegally, all these women are managing to plan their arrivals to Ireland so perfectly that they get here just before going into labour...

Exactly. What McDowell and his ilk are putting forward is absolutely outrageous.
glitzfrau
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:26 am (UTC)
Another reason for women presenting late is that the women may have been dispersed around the country in accordance with government policy, but come up to Dublin to give birth because the Dublin maternity hospitals have pretty much the highest infant survival rate in the world. They haven't just got off the plane in labour.
(no subject) - socmot - Apr. 26th, 2004 06:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Apr. 26th, 2004 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Apr. 26th, 2004 08:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Apr. 26th, 2004 08:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socmot - Apr. 27th, 2004 10:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - froodie - Apr. 27th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glitzfrau - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alltheleaves - Apr. 26th, 2004 09:20 am (UTC) - Expand
cosmorific
Apr. 26th, 2004 06:33 am (UTC)
What I particularly love is when white Americans, whose ancestors most definitely immigrated here from somewhere else, adopt that same "Okay, I'm here, you can pull up the gangplank now" attitude. I'm sorry, but unless you're 100% Native American, you too are descended from some "filthy, conniving" immigrant.

As for the job-stealing thing, here's a big old "BITCH, PLEASE!" to any idiot who thinks immigrants are taking jobs away from "real" Americans. Immigrants, now as in the past, take jobs that "real" Americans think are beneath them - cleaning toilets, picking fruit, working at fast food joints, etc. - so that their children won't have to. They're courteous, hard-working, family-oriented, and have really yummy food. What's not to like?

P.S. I was rooting for the girl from Texas, too. She was so cute! And she had done so much with so little, you couldn't help but be moved when her dad was in tears that she won the state bee.
fromaway
Apr. 26th, 2004 09:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was rooting for that girl. And the other little girl who said her life was like a movie and she'd triumph in the end.

The boy whose father paid a bunch of people to pray in India for him, though, was...well, no, he wasn't creepy, but his dad was.

In Canada we've had a bunch of articles (well, mostly in the Globe and Mail, I don't read the other papers in full) about immigration levels. Ten years ago it was the racist crap about "non-traditional" (i.e. non-white and/or non-British, but mostly non-white) immigrants; this time, apart from a few assfaces like Margaret Wente, it seems to be mostly focused on the fact that immigrants aren't integrating as quickly as they used to - they're having trouble finding jobs, their incomes are taking longer to catch up with those of the Canadian-born. Which sounds like a cover for racism, but I don't think it is exclusively because the new immigrants seem to be coming from more or less the same sources as the successful old ones. And there's bitching about overcrowding in Toronto and such.

I don't know what to think of that. Canada's birth rate has fallen well below replacement, and Toronto has always been an immigrant city, but at the same time, when we import highly skilled people from India or China and make them drive cabs or go on welfare, there's something wrong.
(no subject) - cosmorific - Apr. 26th, 2004 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Apr. 26th, 2004 10:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cosmorific - Apr. 26th, 2004 11:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anglaisepaon - Apr. 26th, 2004 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - protoainsley - Apr. 28th, 2004 09:00 am (UTC) - Expand
septembergrrl
Apr. 26th, 2004 07:00 am (UTC)
That's scary. I hope the referendum doesn't pass.

Of course, there are plenty of Americans who would probably agree if a similar idea was proposed here. It's amazing how quickly people forget.
alltheleaves
Apr. 26th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC)
What none of these people seem to realise is that as our own birthrate falls so dramatically, as it is doing and has done for about the past 20 years, we (Western Europeans) actually desperately need immigrants. If they're coming across pregnant so that their children will automatically be citizens, so much the better. It will help maintain the birth rate.

There is a huge problem at the moment as the population in Western European countries is increasingly an older majority and having to target resources towards that. By having more resources, as in more younger people, we can help maintain a balance over the entire population. We desperately need asylum seekers at the moment. But the Sun/Daily Mail doesn't see it that way and instead you get misrepresentation in the press and racism and it all becomes sickening.

And the only clear reason you can see behind it is that they all just want a majority white population.
stellanova
Apr. 26th, 2004 07:53 am (UTC)
And the only clear reason you can see behind it is that they all just want a majority white population.

Exactly. I wish they'd just be honest about it.
protoainsley
Apr. 28th, 2004 08:51 am (UTC)
Precisely.

I tried to e-mail you earlier, because I have your Chicklit mix CD ready to post, and I need your address, but for some reason the e-mail would not go through. Will you please e-mail me your address? I'll send you mine then; hopefully it will go through as a reply.

You can e-mail me at guinevere@gmx.co.uk

Thanks!
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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