The last news swirling before leaving for the beach was, “Donald Trump Leads in North Carolina.”
The poll had him at 16 percent, followed by two of the other candidates at 12, then the rest. Trump, the “tallest of the midgets,” as some would say, disparaging midgets more than the rest of the Republican field. The candidates are generally all midgets 17 months ahead of the election when theirs is not the party vacating the White House.
Trump achieved his surging status slinging about immigrants – specifically, Mexicans here illegally. There are legitimate concerns about Swiss Cheese Borders. I have made such points and stand by them. At the beach, however, one finds Nelson Algren. His words, at least.
Algren was a writer of gritty novels such as the National Book Award winning, “The Man with the Golden Arm,” and, “A Walk on the Wild Side,” an inspiration to rocker Lou Reed.
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He also wrote the 1951 essay, “Chicago – City on the Make,” a clear-eyed capture of the toddlin’ town in the first half of the 1900s. It offers this description of morning sights on a streetcar:
“..the straphangers to Success who keep the factories and the gin mills stand reading the papers that could as well be published in Israel or Athens, in Warsaw or in Rome. On either side of the tracks are the shops with the American signs in one window and alien legends in the other: Spanish, Polish, Italian, Hebrew, Chinese or Greek.”
We have always been a nation of immigrants. Of people melting, though at only at the slowest simmer, into the pot.
Yes, but legal immigrants.
More so, but never entirely. Dig into history, into family closets, and perhaps find immigrant skeletons. Was any of that identification, those papers, tweaked? Did great-grandpa really have that job waiting for him? Were there many families under that one roof?
And yes, immigrants – legal, and especially not – have in fact always done jobs Americans wouldn’t do for the same money. For who would slosh knee-deep in the sickening stench and slush of the infamous stock yards of the “Hog Butcher for the World” unless they had to? Who would have pounded thousands of miles of rail stakes, or picked uncountable pounds of produce?
Who else would work endlessly in sweltering, sundrenched, thick-air cotton fields for the mere privilege of existence? In the South, it was involuntary immigration.
Algren is set down as the sound of the truck rolls up the street, pulling a trailer stocked with landscaping equipment.
Out steps the driver, a white man in his 40s. A little paunch; a t-shirt, perhaps bearing the company name? He walks assuredly to the rear of the trailer, hops on the mower, pushes its motor arms forward and cruises toward the patch of Bermuda behind the beach house.
From the passenger side, the brown-skinned man. Taut, soaked in sweat at 9 a.m. He dutifully grabs the weed-whacker and heads for the thickets.
In a newer poll, Donald Trump moves up to 17 percent.
Keith Larson is mid-morning host at WBT-AM (1110).