Wednesday, September 17, 2003

No Joking Matter

This guy walks in to the UN and applies for a job as a translator. He completes the 15-page application; attaches his resume; drops it off with someone in Human Resources; and goes home - not really expecting anything to come from it, but, hey, he thinks, it couldn't hurt.

But no sooner had he gotten through his front door than his wife squeals, "honey! The UN called! They want you to come in for an interview right away!"

Excited, he throws on a tie and runs all the way back for his interview.

An hour later, his wife again meets him at the front door, squealing, "Did you get the job? Did you get the job?"

"N-n-n-no," the guy says, clearly dejected. "And I b-b-b-bet they d-d-d-d-idn't hire m-m-m-me because I'm J-J-J-J-J-ewish."

Sound familiar?

It should.

People like Art Torres, Chairman of the California Democratic Party, and Cruz Bustamante, the Golden State's Lieutenant Governor, have been telling a variation of this very joke ever since Bustamante's boss signed a bill that makes it legal for illegal immigrants to drive.

In Torres' and Bustamante's version of the joke, a guy walks into a recall; does, predictably, nothing about it (see the California energy crisis) except whine and cry that he doesn't belong there and it's all been a big mistake; wonders why people aren't falling all over themselves to bail him out; whines and cries some more; realizes his whining and crying is falling on mostly deaf ears yet fails to see the irony of the situation (see the deaf ear this guy turns on anybody that doesn't pay him for the privilege of "listening" to them); finally sees the irony of the situation; decides that listening, or at least pretending to listen, to his constituency, paying or otherwise, is his only means of escape; then decides - and here's the punch line - "Nah. That's a little drastic. I'll just pretend to listen to some of the constituency, the ones whose votes are for sale. Then" (insert Snidely Whiplash-like "nyeh, heh, heh" here) "I'll get everyone else to pick up the tab."

I know; it's not very funny. In fact, it's not even remotely funny.

But don't tell Torres and Bustamante, both of whom grin like canary-swallowing cats when they get to the "...everyone else" picking up the tab part, that. One poor guy, Congressman David Dreier, made the mistake of telling Torres that, not only did he find the joke unfunny, he found it insulting. And he told Torres this on national TV, to boot.

Torres, already infamous in the thinking, i.e., other 49, states for calling Proposition 187 "the last gasp of white America" on national TV, outdid himself this time: "That's because you and everyone else in your 'camp' hate Latinos; you always have," he snarled - managing to make MSNBC's Chris Matthews' hair go an even whiter shade of pale.

Huh?

Is "illegal immigrant" a synonym for "Latino" on Torres' planet? Because, here on Earth, immigrants - legal and otherwise - come from all sorts of places. And even if they didn't, I don't see the connection between being opposed to the idea of rewarding illegal behavior and being a racist.

But Ernesto Cienfuegos, Editor-in-Chief of Los Angeles' La Voz de Aztlan, might. In July, Cienfuegos wrote an open letter to the Committee on Chicano Rights for the purposes of complaining about "recent representation in the Mexican-American community.

There are many naive Mexican-Americans that think it is good that Art Torres is the party's state chairman," wrote Cienfuegos. "They don't realize that Art Torres was placed there, not by us, but by the Jewish/Gay Alliance. He is there not to principally serve our interests but those of the gay community. Art Torres is an out of the closet homosexual, and the vast majority of the Mexican-American community would not support the Democratic Party if they knew the truth."

(I wonder if the vast majority of the African-American community would support Bustamante if they knew the truth about his fondness for the "n" word.)

"We are no longer being provided representation in government by elected officials that should be providing our community a voice. This problem is now endemic in Alta California, all the way from the Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamante to our local city councilmen and school board members. These elected representatives are not representing us but have become mere lackeys of the two party dictatorship, mostly of the corrupt Democratic Party. They have sold out the 'real' interests of the Mexican-American community and their entire focus is to enrich themselves and their cronies," Cienfuegos sputtered.

Closer to home, the 0.8 percent of Ojai Valley residents that support turning the old Honor Farm into housing for the mentally ill are telling their own version of the joke. And they, too, botch the punch line.

In their version, a guy doesn't walk in to anything, but rather, out of something - a housing facility for the mentally ill, to be exact.

Of course, it's perfectly legal for the guy to walk out of the facility, but that fact doesn't comfort the neighboring residents very much, and...here it comes, the so-called "punch line," this means the neighbors are a bunch of compassionless crackers.

"A bunch of intolerant jerks," the supporters scoff; "afraid of anyone different from themselves."

Uh, right. And Ward Connelly, the black author of Proposition 54 (which, if approved, would prohibit state and local governments from using race, ethnicity or color to classify students or employees in public education) is a cracker, too, I suppose.

Okay, so maybe I am prejudiced - against people who don't know how to tell a joke. I hate anyone who doesn't know the difference between "funny" and "insulting."

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