It's being suggested that conventioneers, entertainers, even spring training for major league baseball boycott Arizona because of the unprecedented immigration law that just passed. Given the number of Latino players from Mexico, South America, Puerto Rico, etc., it should be interesting next spring, particularly if any of them are stopped at random. Any thoughts from writers? Should we avoid events, signings, etc., in Arizona as a protest? I recently blogged my thoughts about the law at: http://open.salon.com/blog/christopher_valen
I live 12 miles from the Mexican border, in southeastern Arizona. In 2007 Penguin/Jove published my supernatural thriller Missing White Girl, which deals very directly with immigration issues and is set here around my home. In it, protagonist Buck Shelton, a sheriff's lieutenant investigating the disappearance of a mixed-race teenage girl, comes to understand that there are no easy answers to the whole issue. The three main legs holding up the Mexican economy are oil money, drug money and remittances from the US. Their oil may not last out the decade. Drug money tends to be concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we were ever able to stop businesses from hiring illegals, not only would a lot of our own prices suddenly skyrocket (fruit, vegetables, chicken, hotels, etc. etc.) but the resulting blow to the Mexican economy would send even more illegals here in search of whatever they could find. If they couldn't get jobs, then running dope or stealing would be other choices they might make.
The only real, permanent solution is to fix Mexico's economy, and we only have so much input there. Everything else is just short-term tradeoffs, and the Arizona law under discussion will have little to no real effect.
I just heard a discussion on the radio concerning Arizona's problem with illegal immigration in which a listener described the problem Alaska had with their bear population coming into towns and rummaging in the garbage sites. Alaskans shot the bears, put up fences, captured and relocated them, but nothing stopped them from coming. Then Alaskans decided to clean up the garbage sites. Bingo! Problem solved. Want to reduce illegal immigration? Heavily penalize the businesses that hire illegals. Arizona has had McCain and Kyl in Congress since the 1980s. Have either of them proposed fining businesses that hire illegals? Did McCain talk about the supposed threat to national security posed by illegals crossing the Mexican border during the Presidential campaign? Of course not. And there's little chance that Arizona's senators are going to offer legislation that punishes business. So put up fences, line the border with military, arrest and deport illegals, but just like the bears, until you clean up the garbage, illegals will keep coming.
I keep my political views separate from myself as an author. So this law does not affect how I act as an author. Putting out what I think about current events isn't going to gain me any readers. It does have the potential, however, to drive away readers.
If I wanted to get political, there are terrible laws in every state. There are terrible laws in every country. I don't plan on boycotting every one of them.
There is always a danger when writers take positions on issues, particularly an issue that is as volatile as immigration in Arizona. I suspect we'll soon be hearing from Latino writers, artists, actors, directors, etc., and that Arizona's economy will be hurt just like it was in the 1990s when they were the only state that refused to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday. But I would posit that there's a difference between standing on a soapbox and quietly taking a stand, though the end result might be the same.
My books are inherently political in that they take LGBT equality as a matter of course. People who don't like gay people aren't going to like my books. That's fine with me, and in fact it gives me license to do political humor in my books that I might reasonably shy away from if my audience wasn't already 99% progressive. I did have at least one very conservative reader, apparently, who left this comment on my blog last summer:
Read your book Mating Season, first book I have read by you and the last, I don't think you shouldput (sic) your politics in your books by bashing Pres. Brush (sic!) and his Cabinet which shows your liberal views which we can do without.
So let that be a lesson to you, Benjamin--no matter what you do, don't bash Pres. Brush.
But seriously--I'm a believer in the Popeye approach. At my age, I yam what I yam. I've been a proud progressive for thirty-five years, and if people don't like it, tough darts.
But I had no career as a crime writer until my first Provincetown-based mystery came out, and it was inherently political right out of the box--you don't get more obvious, politically speaking, than a homophobic TV preacher found dead and in drag on a gay beach. My audience, to the extent that I have one, is made up of people who are likely to be amused by that kind of thing. That may have been part of the reason most of the major publishers passed on the first book--that in a way it was self-limiting in terms of potential audience size--so thank God for St. Martin's/Minotaur and their throw-it-against-the-wall business model, I guess.
I can't imagine writing a novel set in P'town that was "neutral" on the subject of gender politics, and I can't imagine liking characters that don't have strong opinions, even if I don't always agree with them. As I said above, it's really more a function of age than feeling that I'm established as a writer (if only). I don't go out of my way to offend, but I don't have any interest in going out of my way to be inoffensive, either.
This may be true; however, the legislation itself is dangerous. The drug violence needs to be separated from immigration issues. 70 percent of agriculture in this country, as well as much of the garment industry, exploits immigrant labor to make big profits. Unless we get honest about this, using illegal immigration as a scapegoat is really hypocritical.
People keep pushing away the idea of legalizing drugs. The best way to dis-empower the cartels is to hit them where it hurts: their money. This country is the world's biggest illegal drug market. When a so called legit corporation and a drug lord launder their money in the same offshore banks, and the banks -- who want the money and no matter what -- encourage the process, we have to wonder how deeply our economy is tied in with that of the cartels.
Nobody wants to get honest about any of this: they prefer to impose legislation that responds to fear but does nothing to alleviate the problem. They prefer -- not to crack the wind of the poor phrase by running it thus -- to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Also, law enforcement should not be saddled with immigration issues. They have enough to do as it is, in fact, too much to do.
There is a big army base at Fort Huachuca near the Mexican border. I'm thinking, what better way to train soldiers in patrolling and using surveillance technology than employing them against encroachments by drug smugglers?