Blinded By His Narrow Focus

Back in 1976, New Yorker magazine ran what is perhaps one of their most recognized covers. It shows how people from The Big Apple view the rest of the world, with an oversized Manhattan dominating. Every other feature of the world, from the rest of America to entire foreign countries, fade in importance and detail the further the distance from New York. Not, of course, that they were very important when compared to New York in the first place.

I was reminded of that image while reading this essay at American Digest, an op-ed that I really can’t take seriously. In the very first paragraph the author tries to set the scene, as many good wordsmiths do, by evoking commonly recognized themes and images. The only problem is that the themes and images he is using as a common touchstone between the reader and himself are not very common.

“Last June I was visiting an old friend in San Rafael, California. He lives the classic Marin county life high on a brindle California hillside. His house is reached by driving the blind curves of one of those thin hill roads. He’s got open land and long views next to his house. And a beautiful and extensive garden. A Sunset Magazine garden.”

“…the classic Marin county life…”? I had no idea what that is. “A Sunset Magazine garden.”? I didn’t know what that is, either. Probably because I had never heard of Sunset Magazine before now, let alone any gardens they may have cultivated. I can figure out what he means pretty easily through context, however. He might be referring to subjects that I have never experienced, nor want to, but it isn’t like he is incomprehensible.

Just so you know, I’m from the Midwest. Flyover country. It isn’t surprising that someone who reads Sunset Magazine and hangs out in Marin county would have a different view of the world than some guy from Columbus, Ohio. This is a pretty easy observation to make, actually.

But even though this Ohio boy can appreciate and understand the point of view of someone who lives in California, I really don’t think he can conceive of conditions that exist elsewhere in the country. Proof came a few paragraphs into his piece.

“Home Depots are, among other big-box construction hardware stores, the default shape-up spot of pick-up Mexican labor in the US. We all know that. When you need something done you just drive out to the nearest Home Depot, get your materials, and then pick up your emergency Mexicans as you exit. Everybody knows this. Everybody sees this. Everybody does this.”

Um, actually, no. At least it isn’t done that way in central Ohio.

The author mentions that there were about 300 illegals hanging around the parking lot of a Home Depot near Marin county, a greatly reduced number from the early morning when contractors culled the herd looking for day labor. He seems to think that this is something that occurs all over since it occurs outside of every big hardware store in California.

Not up here, buddy. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any illegal aliens in Ohio, just that they run the risk of getting arrested. The police might not actively pursue illegals, but they will turn them over to INS if they happen to become aware of them. A couple of hundred unemployed guys hanging around outside of a business, hanging around so they could be illegally employed, would be tough to miss. Better put the call out to see if any adjoining departments can spare their paddy wagons, it’s going to be a busy day!

Earlier I mentioned that I couldn’t take the op-ed under discussion very seriously. This isn’t because the author has no clue about conditions outside of California (at least not totally), but because of the alarm he is trying to raise through his article.

You see, he is worried about what will happen if the economy gets worse. What happens if this enormous illegal population is suddenly metaphorically starved of the tax free dollars they now earn because unemployed American citizens start to compete for the “jobs Americans won’t do”? There is nothing for them back home in their native country, and he doesn’t see them quietly and meekly allowing themselves to starve for real. He seems to think that the consequences will be dire.

“Perhaps we’ll discover that we’ll have to pay a very large bill for our indolence. And that the bill will not be paid with cash. It will be paid, not for the first time, with the last thing we want to see – the Army in our cities. I don’t think we are prepared for that. I don’t think we want to find out. I pray we never have to.”

Once again, it won’t happen up here. I also don’t see it happening in states that value rugged individualism, like New Mexico or Texas or Arizona. But I can definitely see martial law declared in California because their population of illegal immigrants decides to act up.

I mean, how else would those poor Sunset-Magazine-reading dears cope?

(Hat tip to Glenn.)

12 thoughts on “Blinded By His Narrow Focus”

  1. Thank you kindly for taking the time to leave a comment, Mr. van der Leun!

    “I imagine we are both victims of that common modern disorder, the illusion of central position.”

    You might very well be right, but I’m willing to wager that a greater number of Americans experience conditions similar to what I see every day.


  2. Speaking as someone in California, Gerard speaks the truth – at least for what has happened out here.

    I grew up reading Sunset Magazine (and the architecture school at UC Berkeley when I was there had a program once on “De-Sunsetizing Your Garden”)

    The info on Ohio illegal immigration (such as that information is) is here (yes, from FAIR, but who else keeps track of this stuff?):

    I am pleased that the silliness of “sanctuary cities” has not spread to Ohio, but from what I read illegal immigration has spread well beyond the border states (not that it is an exact proxy, but look at the growth of Spanish as a first language students in North Carolina, for example).

    Your reaction may also be leading to the same comments we have noticed about the Iowa floods vs. the New Orleans floods. “Middle America” (for lack of a better term) _is_ more self-reliant. Perhaps that is also related to the “homogeniety=higher social trust” that Robert Putnam has noticed – California is now a minority-majority state, so while homogeniety may not be what it once was in Ohio, it is pretty much gone in California.

  3. Sunset is a magazine that focuses on recipes and gardening in the West (hence the name, Sunset). Probably not the best example to use for someone trying to reach a nationwide audience. I enjoy reading the hand-me-down copies of Sunset from my mom since they usually have good recipes. Their gardening section is good too, but the advice is usually something along the lines of “Start with a really expensive house. Spend a lot of money, and you’ll have a nice garden”. I don’t remember them saying anything about picking up illegal immigrants at Home Depot.

  4. One of epiphanies about the media occurred back in the early 90’s during an El Nino. El Nino’s cause drought in California but flooding in Texas.

    One February in Austin, it rained (IIRC) 23 days in a row. On about day 20 I was sitting in a coffee shop in a mall reading the local newspaper. From my vantage I could see out the mall entrance into the completely flooded mall parking lot. The water filled the lot up to the tops of curb. It had rained so hard for so long that the drainage system could not drain the slopped lot fast enough. All this time, however, California was bone dry for nearly two years.

    I turned my attention from the flooded parking lot and back to the newspaper. I opened up the “Lifestyles” section to see a cluster of stories about saving water, all of them quoting people from California. I released then how the media worked. If California or New York had a problem, then the rest of the country did as well.

  5. If it is not yet happening in your place doesn’t mean it could not happen. Illegal emigrant work force is a huge black-market army, in some states in higher numbers than in the others, the problem does exist and I guess one of the possible unfolding scenarios could be the way G.van der Leun sees it – if not in Columbus, OH, than in Marin County, CA. It doesn’t make it less probable to happen in Marin County if it is improbable to happen in Columbus. Improbable, that is, if we assume the situation is frozen in time, which it not necessary true – what if this army of illegal workers, in search of pay and unearned benefits will migrate into midwest states?

    I just wanted to add to G van der Leun’s observations that he didn’t look into the root of the problem: why his friend, as majority of homeowners in Marin C. prefer to hire illegals for $85 per day, rather than their perfect-English-speaking American workers? The reason they don’t talk about it is this: American workers will charge for the same job 2 or 3 times more. Not only because they pay taxes off their earning, but because majority of those workers are unionized and they HAVE to charge 3 times more, by Union’s rules. The construction/landscape market in the US is distorted by the rigid Union policies and protectionism by local politicians. It is more beneficial for a union worker to “seat on a bench” and do nothing in case they can’t get any work, than to break Union rules and lower their rates in order to compete with the illegals. This is what causes the whole unhealthy chain of events.

  6. “Yes, but Mr. van der Leun, you are supposed to be the professional communicator.”

    If that is so, where’s my paycheck?

    I’ve not worked as a “professional communicator” since 2002.

  7. As someone born in Columbus, reared in Cincinnati, having lived 25 years in the Bay Area, I say you’re both right and both parochial. I suggest Rummel get a subscription to Sunset, the Northern California regional edition. van der Leun, get Hoard’s Dairyman, the English edition. And perhaps you can both get a subscription to Southern Living or Yankee.

    The vast majority of Mexicans in the US are very hardworking conservative people. Lot’s of their bad folks come up too, because there are easy picking and few penalties. But that’s another issue. I doubt we’ll see a lot of violence from Mexicans. The greater risk is to Mexico itself.

    In case you missed it, the housing market started to crash about a year ago. But unemployment never rose. Why? They all went back to Mexico. They may have a hard time getting a job there, but they’ve saved a lot of dollars and they’re still the richest guys in the village. They’ll hang out till we need them again and then they’ll be back. Even in those midwestern meat and poultry packing plants.

  8. Sorry you live in Ohio. I did for 9 years and would not dream of going back. Having worked for the Orange Box, I’m very aware of the challenges faced of having day labors crowding the store parking lots. It was so bad in certain parts of the country that they were designing specific areas just outside the store for the day labors to meet at and be picked up. Of course the arguement was given about the legalities of the issue, only to have it squashed by the ex-King of THD. Luckly for THD the king left shortly and nothing came out of the meetings.
    The best way to avoid the illusion of Central Position is to travel the country and enjoy life (meaning dont’ read the illuminati paper everyday)

  9. > But I can definitely see martial law declared in California because their population of illegal immigrants decides to act up.

    You mean La Raza?

    Nawwwww… Can’t happen. They’re good little beaners who mean no harm.


    (to anyone offended by “beaner” — trust me, I’m much more offended by La Raza, which is the *only* reason I used the term. I’ll worry more about offending other groups when their own basic terms for people —anyone— outside their group don’t also happen to translate to things like “barbarian”, or “devil”, etc.)


  10. “…what if this army of illegal workers, in search of pay and unearned benefits will migrate into midwest states?”

    I think I mentioned this in passing above. If several hundred men start to congregate in Midwest parking lots, men who are in the country illegally and are looking to be hired illegally, then they will be rounded up by the local police and turned over to the INS.

    If you read Mr. van der Leun’s essay, I think you will see that he is wishing for some good old fashioned Midwest law enforcement himself…

    “If local authorities or border control officials really wanted to cut back on illegals, they’d just sweep these areas. But local political institutions and local police — and all of us too — seem to have agreed to lay off these zones.”

    I think that Mr. van der Leun has hit on the root of his problem in that paragraph fragment. “But local political institutions and local police…”


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