Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Watching a house go up, your own house, is a species of joy I never knew nor anticipated.  I never thought much about houses--I mean, a roof over my head, some protection from varmints, and a toilet that worked is what really counted.  Hot water is a good thing too.  Screens.  A dry basement.  You know.

Strangely enough, Now that we're actually building our own house, the new domicile is front and center. We look over there every single day--it's not all that far from where we're parked now.  What's more, during those weeks when nothing gets done, we get antsy, even snarly.

So not long ago, I decided to go over during the work day because the insulators were there, and someone told me watching them operate is interesting. What's more, the company doing the work was an outfit I recognized by tribe; they were Netherlands Reformed, a people sometimes perceived as being even more "unto themselves" than we are, a truly tribal people, people I thought unhindered by the excesses of worldliness and therefore blessed with a work ethic that was almost other-worldly.

So I went over on my four-wheeler and walked in through the open garage.  There they were, outfitted in their gear, just finishing up, in fact, mostly cleaning up behind them.  A crew of three upstairs, although I didn't go down the basement to count any more noses.

All Hispanic.  

Every one of them.  Nary a Nederduit in the fold.  No Dutch apple cheeks, no Hans Brinker-looking folks.  No blonde hair.  All Hispanic. 

I should have asked if they were illegal, I suppose. I should have checked right then and there, and, had there been any question, I should have called immigration.  My guess is that the Netherlands Reformed boss doesn't know if they're illegal either; he's not supposed to ask, after all.  He'd be shocked if they were, I'm sure.

Did I mention the job took little more than a day?  They worked like nailers, although they don't use hammers; they blew the stuff in.  They work like, well, Dutchmen.

Now lets follow the food chain.  The NR boss employs Hispanics in Sioux County, Iowa, because he knows he can get them more cheaply than he could Anglos, white folks, even those from his own church, from his own tribe.  What's more, he might even have problems getting white guys or white girls.  So the NR guy wins, right?

The Hispanics win because they make a pile more dough here than they would back in rural Mexico.  They can live a better life and send some bucks home too.  

The builder wins because when he talks about money with his customers--my wife and I--the estimate he scratches on the building plan is going to be less imposing.  And, oh yeah, we win because the loan we take out at the bank isn't quite as great a monster.

Aha! you're saying, the bank loses.  If it weren't for the Hispanic insulators, we'd take out a bigger loan.

Cry me a river.

Of how about this?  White boys weren't doing the insulation.  White boys aren't getting the jobs because all those Hispanics are. 

Well, maybe, but then unemployment in Sioux County, Iowa, actually went down last year, in June, at least.  In 2012, it was a staggering 3.7%; this year it was 3.4%.  A real horror.  A crime.

I'm not for a moment raising the banner for illegal immigration. I don't think we should do away with walls or men and women in uniform at national borders. I'm not blind to the fact that the Sioux County Sheriff's Department has more work than it did in 1950 or 1980.  Not long ago, I read kid stories to an entire school full of lower elementary children and I was astounded, really, to see how many brown faces there were in throng of little darlin's.  I know schools have undergone tremendous change, at the taxpayers' expense, in the last two decades.

But I also know that at every step along the food chain in the business of building houses or milking cows or packing meat or road building or masonry and who knows what else, things would be much-o different without this county's newest crew of ethnics.  Bottom line?--I'd pay more for that lovely domicile just a quarter mile away, the place we'll live until we can longer manage and go to the home where, in all likelihood, we'll see more of the same.  

Yesterday, my own Congressman was a guest on Meet the Press because he's become adept at steering attention his way for saying things that go off like roman candles, often about Hispanics, this time citing them for the melon-sized calves they grow from lugging drugs over the border.

The guys doing the insulation in our house were little guys, really, small guys, nothing huge like the giant Frisians of Sioux County.  Okay, okay--I didn't check their calves.  I should have. 

I'm not for illegal immigration, but anyone who doesn't recognize that just about everybody is complicit in our employing them should be determined legally blind.  It's hard to trust loud-mouth politicians who make outrageous claims about the evils of illegal immigration without noting how complex the problem really is and how many of their own constituencies profit from the work they do with and among us.  

I think the blarney Steve King throws up doesn't deserve to be called hot air.

Last time around, Steve King won in Sioux County, Iowa, by amassing 84% of the vote, a much higher percentage than he took anywhere in the Fourth District, including presumably, the Netherlands Reformed voters, the Christian Reformed voters, and the Reformed voters, even the Prots, I suppose.  It was the Dutch, my people, who gave him the most glorious landslide victory he got anywhere.  Praise be.

I know, I know--he's anti-abortion. 

But when his actual congressional record is as thin as it is, when do people begin to decide that maybe, really, there's nothing there but infernal yapping seasoned with what can sound a lot like hate speech?

Sometimes I don't really understand my people.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure the people you call "your people" are your people. Your people also understand about free welfare and healthcare for free loaders. Ya know, parasites...

Illegal is illegal, I say get in the back of the line and enter this country like all the legals. Those that served in the military understand the concept of "get in the back of the line." Ya know, no skipping....

James, you can skirt this issue anyway you want, but according to "your people" the light switch is either "on or off" on this one .

Anonymous said...

Go down to Mexico and see if you can work there illegally.

Pam said...

I agree that we all benefit from immigrant labor. But I'm not sure you should assume brown faces are undocumented workers.

Your earlier commenter should think about a couple of things -- one is that not only were these folks NOT freeloading (working as they were) but IF they were not documented, the taxes the good NR folks were paying on their behalf (say for social security) would benefit the rest of us, but not the workers.

Here are some facts about immigrants in Iowa (opens a pdf).

Anonymous said...

What did Jesus have to say about the "free loaders" the "parasites" and the rich and your "people" ? Put a new metal roof on my place out here in Gallup. A crew of seven came from Albuquerque and did the job in one day.The boss man could speak pretty good English, the others could only speak the Spanish language of the conquistadors who were looking for gold in ancient Native cities around here in the early 1600, before the pilgrams landed and set up New York. So who used, and continue to use, slave labor and got rich? Not the native peoples of Turtle Island. So what was Jesus up to anyway? HE gave His life for a bunch of poor beggars so they could become rich?

Anonymous said...

Look at the spaces between the bottom insulation and the floor plate near the ladder. This may allow air infilltration. The other areas look great.It's hard to cut that insulation just right, not too long and not too short. Be sure to take that local college course in your area on home construction and weatherization. Your college doesn't teach that stuff? But it is scriptural , "The man who builds his house on the sand vs, the man who builds his house on a rock " etc. Looks like those Spanish-Native American guys are doing a good job.

Anonymous said...

Who is paying to care for all those "anti-abortion" children who are wandering around unloved,in good christian communities? When they get older we can all care for them as they end up spending most of their lives in our well funded prisons. What did Jesus say about spending money to love and care for these children?

Anonymous said...

This seems to be some confusion regarding this FACT:Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and His commands are given to the Church NOT to secular governments.Obama has the same misunderstanding...

Definition for Pam: Not documented means they are here illegally. The light switch is either on or off.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the Pope is the head of That Church not Jesus. Jesus dwells in the hearts of believers.

Anonymous said...

Read Ephesians and draw your own conclusions. My conclusion is that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church not the pope. Now that you brought up the Catholic Church think about this...

The lukewarm approach that James is using in his blog or the "I feel strongly both ways" as Pam proposes makes me think you all are looking for some kind of purgatory option to a heaven or hell choice.

Illegal immigration is illegal, no rationalizing... it is illegal.

Anonymous said...

JC you have a curious knack for keeping a mirror in front of us all to remind us of self-righteous platitudes or, worse, bare-faced hypocrisy. Bless you!

Anonymous said...

"I know, I know--he's anti-abortion. "

Even with a thin congressional record, life is pre-eminent, no card in your your hand can trump it.

Life is the voting litmus test for most Christians. Is it your litmus test, James Calvin?'

Apparent not.