Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

An immigration moment  §

So I’m standing in the post office waiting to ship a package. In front of me is a handsome young boy of maybe eleven and his father, both Indian, chattering away happily in Hindi. The line is moving slowly and I’m daydreaming about this problem and that one until suddenly I hear from behind me:

“Learn to speak English, dammit! And stop waving those Mexican flags!”

At first I assume that the speaker is the middle-aged yuppie-looking suit I saw walking in behind me. I turn around to say something insulting and mocking, but instead I realize that the person doing the speaking was another man. Short, frumpy, dressed in greasy clothes, unshaven and with the dull look of miseducation and stupidity in his eyes. He’s probably living below the poverty level. He probably doesn’t have much in his life.

I’m guessing he’s not educated enough to realize that the father and son in front of me aren’t Mexican, and that even if they had been, they’re actually statistically unlikely to have been illegal immigrants, and that even if they were, their presence wouldn’t have been the result of spite or sloth or rank nationalism, but rather the ultimate result of the exploitation of Mexico at the hands of “American” corporations thanks to NAFTA and its precursors, through which megacorporations have savaged central and south America, leveraging incredibly developed production and transit infrastructures that circle the globe in order to undersell the bulk of more primitive economies, putting tens of millions of workers out of work by the hapless movement and choices of their own frugal and undereducated hands.

I’m guessing he’s got no clue, and wouldn’t understand if I tried to tell him, how the same thing is now happening in this country, and the reason he can’t get paid a decent wage or get his children properly educated is because he needs Wal-Mart to make ends meet — that capital is flowing, flowing out of this country and following its luminaries as they deftly play the global marketplace like such a finely tuned instrument, taking a cut at each gate, at each investment, at each sale, just as it has done in our “illegal” immigrants’ homelands as of late, redistributing wealth around the globe, through the marketplace, into the hands of the investor class even as the workers in country after country sink into vicious impoverishing cycles and attempt in futility to match through the movement of their feet the rapid movement of capital and power, which today knows no nationality and flows at the speed of electricity and light across fiber optic lines and satellite uplinks and is monitored by market-making computers that can watch the flows of wealth in real time and manage them for maximum return with no heart and an iron hand, an ideal world managed by and serving the few, with real material consequences for the rest.

He and I glare at each other for a moment, he probably thinking that I look Mexican, too, and me torn between a hatred for is ignorance and pity for his circumstances.

“Shut up,” I finally say, looking down at him from under my eyebrows. “Shut up.” After looking at him for another second, I turn away.


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