The First Batch:
Everybody has at least one opportunity in life to sample the first
batch of cookies your little sister, brother, nephew, niece or neighbor
kid cooks up. I can distinctly remember the day my little sister
proudly presented me with three cookies that she had created. They were
awful! I mean terrible. I could have choked to death if she hadnít
brought me a glass of milk with those darn things.
However, my reaction was probably like yours. I didnít make a face,
scream "YUCK!" or spit the mouthful out in my hand. I smiled politely,
made "Yummy" sounds, chewed, swallowed and devoured all three of those
damn things. Why? Because I didnít want the little cook to feel bad.
Little cooks seem to grow up into adult chefs charged with cooking up
socio-economic policy in this country. As it relates to the current
U.S. immigration policy reform debate, the fare being served up from
the state and federal test kitchens all over this country continues to
be filled with artificial ingredients that make the entrťe distasteful.
Let me explain.
Why do we have recipes? My grandma had her recipes memorized, until my
dad asked her to write them down on paper. My mom had recipe books all
over the kitchen. My wife has hers filed away in the cupboard above the
refrigerator...she gets most of her recipes on-line today.
We have recipes so someone other than the original person who created
the dish is able to replicate the form, flavor and taste. My wife can
follow the recipe that my grandma had for chocolate chip cookies with
walnuts and produce the same, exact cookie. If my wife alters that
recipe in any way, I can tell...immediately. Every once in a while, my
wife will alter my mom or grandmaís recipes when she is out of a
particular ingredient, decides to alter the proportions of required
ingredients, or succumbs to the overwhelming urge to be creative.
Original recipe means original recipe. The only way to replicate
original is to follow the original instructions. It is a myth to think
that one can alter the original recipe in any way and produce a
tasteful, current day replica. The recipe for cooking up present day
original recipe U.S. immigration policy is no different. However, what
we are presently sampling in this debate is fast-food fare that is
filled with myths that alter the flavor of the enduring truths that
have formed and sustained the soul of this nation.
Myth # 1 - Everything has changed since 9/11: Bull! My
grandma didnít change her recipe for chocolate chip cookies when Pearl
Harbor, World War II, The Korean War, Vietnam, or Woodstock occurred.
(She didnít alter it when we landed a man on the moon). All this
nonsense about everything changing since 9/11 is only political fodder
to legitimize the fear and outrage agenda of those who want to capture
an opportunity in our nationís history to further preserve what they
already have. This is done by redirecting their self-righteous revenge,
veiled beneath a misguided sense of patriotic fervor. It is then served
up as a new form of truth. This is not truth. It is myth, fabricated
for the purposes of changing the original recipe. It is a lie. A quote
from Princeton Universityís Professor of Philosophy Emeritus Henry G.
Frankfurt, captures the essence of this matter in the following: "The
liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values. In order to invent a
lie at all, he must think he knows what is true. And in order to invent
an effective lie, he must design his falsehood under the guidance of
The truth about this myth is that there were the same number of
undocumented Latino immigrants piloting those hijacked airplanes on
9/11 as the number of weapons of mass destruction the U.S. military
uncovered after invading Iraq...Nada. Zero.
The truth of the matter is that when one begins to alter the original
recipe of truth, the results are distasteful for all concerned.
I can remember the day I was helping my grandma bake cookies. They
didnít have timers in those days so grandma always kept a keen eye on
the kitchen clock. This particular day, grandma got distracted and
forgot when we had placed the batch in the oven. She grabbed her mitten
and pulled the tray out of the oven. "Not yet Billy. Theyíre half
baked," she said.
Myth # 2 - Control the Border and Solve the Problem.
Proponents of immigration reform who focus solely on controlling the
border with Mexico as the solution to this matter, are serving up
solutions that are at best, half-baked. These people would lead us to
believe that we should devour their half-baked fare because "it looks
like a cookie." The point is that we need to put this sort of thinking
back in the oven to allow the other ingredients in the recipe to fully
integrate with each other. Thereís nothing worse than a half-baked
cookie, no matter how hungry you are for a solution. You donít take a
batch of chocolate chip-walnut cookies out of the oven just because the
chocolate chips on the exterior of the cookies look good. Proper baking
is an essential ingredient to every successful recipe.
One day, my wife decided to use pecans instead of walnuts in a batch of
grandmaís cookies. Her thought was that I would never know the
Myth # 3 - Guest Worker Programs Are a Proper Substitute for a Path to Citizenship.
Yeah, right! This is akin to substituting pecans for walnuts. The
assumption is that undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. solely for
the purpose of getting a job. Furthermore, if we provide a way for them
to register, we will be better able to control the flow and keep track
of their whereabouts. The fact of history is that the hopeless migrate
to that land that is hopeful. Undocumented immigrants desire far more
than just a job. They want to be participants in this society and
enhance the hope for a brighter future for their families. By the way,
the federal government wants you to believe that a guest worker program
(pecan) is a proper substitute for a path to citizenship (walnut).
However, when this fare gets served up in this country, weíre all going
to recognize the fact that thereís something essential missing here.
One day, Grandma made a mistake. After the first batch had cooled and
she had poured two glasses of milk for us, we smiled at one another and
grandma nodded, giving me the green light to grab the first warm
cookie. She did the same. It took grandma all of ten seconds to figure
out that there was something wrong. The vanilla was stale. She looked
at me and said, "Well Billy, itís back to square one." With that, she
tossed the first batch of cookies on the sheet and the entire bowl of
cookie dough in the garbage. The vanilla we had used had been in
grandmaís cupboard far too long. She gave me the empty chip package and
a few bucks to go to the store and get a new bottle.
Myth # 4 - They will go back - I am amused at the recipes
for U.S. immigration reform that suggest the undocumented immigrants
presently in the U.S. will simply return to their country of origin, as
long as we create policy here that maintains their existence as less
flavorful than it can be. There is absolutely no factual basis for such
a claim. Thereís no way that you can pluck the vanilla out that is
already baked in the recipe. The vast majority of undocumented
immigrants who reside in the U.S. are here to stay. Face it. Perhaps we
should focus on the truth that our responsibility is to create a more
fruitful nation by virtue of their addition to our national recipe.
Their addition should be viewed as refreshing, essential ingredient
rather than an element that makes the whole batch bad. Thatís how the
U.S. treated my grandma when she came here via Ellis Island. Maybe we
should stick with the original recipe?
Myth # 5 - Ignore Them and Theyíll Go Away - Grandma
taught me that if you make a less than satisfactory batch of cookies,
the best thing to do is start over rather than cook up the whole batch
and hope enough people stomach the bad batch to make your effort
worthwhile. Recipes for U.S. immigration policy reform must be mindful
of the same. Bad, piecemeal policy does not contribute to a palatable
solution for all concerned. Besides, it damages the reputation of the
cook. Ignoring the need for a comprehensive solution is the only recipe
for a tasteful, enduring solution.
Myth # 6 - Round em up and send em back - This is a
position taken by the neo-con Center for Immigration Studies in a May
2005 report. Imagine me and my grandma attempting to extract the
vanilla in the dough and bring it back to the store for a refund. Itís
ridiculous. Thereís no way you can do this. Particularly when youíre
talking about human beings and a moral approach to this matter. The
recipe for the soul of this nation is comprised of a multiplicity of
ingredients that have been passed down from generation to generation.
There are shameful periods of history in this country when we have
attempted to discard certain ingredients; the Japanese-American
internment camps in WWII, segregation, the right to vote and dissent
during Vietnam and Watergate. Letís not repeat the same, historical,
shameful mistakes of this country that many would like to forget. Letís
step up to our responsibility that we have left this essential
ingredient in the cupboard far too long. Itís not the vanillaís fault.
Grandma was always proud when she would bring out her neatly arranged
platter of cookies after we had finished our familyís Sunday supper
together. She always whispered to me, "No matter how you package it,
itís whatís inside that counts Billy."
Myth # 7- Package it Properly and It Will Sell - Come on
America! Havenít we tired of this myth yet? Letís make sure that the
fare we serve up in the U.S. immigration policy reform effort is one
that is based upon tasteful substance, rather than a palatable
My grandmaís cookies warmed more hearts and put more smiles on faces in
this nation than anything I can think of. Other than our family
members, she usually brought them to folks who had been hit by some
sort of trauma in life. Oftentimes, the people who enjoyed her fare
didnít even know her. Grandma didnít know them either.
Grandma cooked up stuff because it was the right thing to do. Every
batch was made with the same portions of loving care. Letís follow
grandmaís recipe shall we?
Bibliography & Notes
1 Frankfurt, Harry G. On Bullshit, Princeton University Press,
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