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Terrorists, Go Home
Yes, the U.S. is a land of immigrants, I was saying Sunday night to two friends in France; one American and one from the U.K. The American one made the point that we, in America, have groups banding together (like the Mormons in Utah), and I noted that, yes, there are immigrant communities that are all Asian or Latino right near L.A.

It actually was pretty stunning for me, a girl who grew up in a Michigan suburb where everybody was as white as a sheet of typing paper, to participate in a panel discussion about separation of church and state before a hall of California high school kids (via the Arsalyn Program to encourage youth participation in politics): Other than Cathy Seipp's daughter Maia, who's white, and one Latino boy, every single face in the room was Asian. Quite a surprise for a girl from Michigan who grew up with AN Asian in her high school class.

Getting back to the immigration topic, sure, we have loads of immigrants in the US, I said, but the thing is, they come wanting to be a part of what the US is -- to join our system and our economy. To be part of the old "melting pot." That's what I see from immigrants from Mexico who stay in the United States (as opposed to the ones who basically "commute to work" in the U.S. by crawling over the border to send money back home). They want to learn English, buy a house, feed their children, and be a part of "The American Dream" -- probably because it's more lucrative than the Mexican reality.

But, what of immigrants like many Muslims in Europe (and maybe in the U.S. -- in places like "Dearbornistan") who want to come to your country or our country and make it unfree like the places they're from? Who spread violence or press others to spread violence to achieve that goal?

When I visit France, for example, it's to learn how to do things the French way. In other words, I don't stamp my feet and demand coffee with my salad. It's just not done here. And I've learned the rudiments of how to get along in French society, like the very nice basic of saying "Bonjour, Madame" or "Bonjour, Monsieur" to the person behind the counter when I enter a store. I've incorporated this into my American life -- always greeting and speaking to people who serve me. It has its benefits -- I get amazing service, and it mystifies people. I'm the girl at Loehmann's for whom the ladies hanging up the clothes in the fitting room offer to go back to the stock room to look for another size. Why? Because I say hello to them when I walk in the fitting room, and thank them as I leave. Nobody does that. Hmmm, maybe we "Freedom Fry"-chowing Americans have a few things to learn from the frogs?

Anyway, if I wanted to have things the American way at all times, I'd be back home in America right now; maybe eating a bucket of KFC and watching the game. Likewise, if you don't want the free country way, stay in your own unfree countries, thank you, and, if you're a woman, walk around wearing a pup tent over your head.

And sure, it's rough for, say, Muslim immigrants in France. Guess what? Every immigrant population has been the kickball of their time. Deal with it. As I mentioned here before, my great grandpa made his way in America by digging through the trash -- picking metal scrap out of the garbage and selling it. No 40 acres, no mule, no free government cheese, no French social programs where the poor get free technical schooling, no nothing.

In other words, all you immigrants: Quit bitching, quit bus-burning, and get your ass to work. If you really, really want to work -- you will. Yes, it might be tough and even demoralizing -- maybe you'll have to be a delivery guy or a busboy or a cleaning lady -- but guess what? That's the price of being an immigrant. If that's too high a price, again, the road back to Burqaville is that way.

Posted by aalkon at October 30, 2006 11:59 AM

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Why no coffee and salad? Two great tastes that go great together.

We hear reports that white French people are doing everything they can to isolate immigrants so that they can't get their asses to work. The "suburbs" that the rioters are living in, while government-financed, are not like the suburbs you grew up in.

Posted by: Crid at October 30, 2006 4:03 AM

I'm not an authority on what is or isn't happening in the suburbs, so perhaps somebody living in France can comment withmore background. The thing is, my ancestors didn't live in suburban Detroit -- they lived in a poor neighborhood in Detroit. The Irish and the Italians, among others, used to be the shit immigrants in the United States. The immigrant Jews have never been welcomed with open arms -- except maybe for the few Al Einsteins and the like.

I'm not saying France is a picnic for those not born here, but being an immigrant anywhere is rough -- rougher for those who refuse to assimilate.

Which came first here, the chicken or the egg in a headscarf? Or to be plainer, are the Muslims immigrants in the suburbs pining to work, and only violent because they can't get work? It is a point -- one which I can't really speak about with authority. But, I do have my suspicions.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2006 4:39 AM

Antoine is prepared - and eager - to work as a dishwasher if it means we can live in the US. With the hoops the immigration dept is going to make him (an educated professional with a clean criminal record) jump through for the privilege of paying taxes in America, it would be so much easier if we could claim asylum...

Posted by: Jackie Danicki at October 30, 2006 6:16 AM

Yes Amy there are plenty of RUDE Americans but there are plenty of rude Europeans as well. People can learn to act civilized and be more genteel no matter where we are. Rude is ugly all over the world.

An yes as the old saying goes "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar".

Posted by: anaBanana at October 30, 2006 6:48 AM

Ana, so great to have you here...going to blog your pieces about Hungary when I'm back (Ana and I met on the plane to Dulles on my way here, and she has some amazing stories...she also knits her own socks).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2006 7:07 AM

Amy - I, too, try to make an effort to address anyone in customer service. However, I've found mixed results when trying to do this over the phone. I'd say half the time, the voice on the other end enjoys hearing the customer ask how they are before I launch into my questioning. The other half of the time, the agent is either annoyed or simply bewildered.

Posted by: snakeman99 at October 30, 2006 8:27 AM

Hmmmm, the problem with that "How are you today?" stuff is it's so fake. When I hear that at the start of an incoming phone call whose voice I don't recognise, I practically put the phone down because it's DEFINITELY a sales call.

In any case, it isn't common in France to ask "Comment allez-vous aujourd'hui?" either. I think AA is just suggesting a "good morning". I also do that all the time but I can't say I get great service because of it.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at October 30, 2006 10:47 AM

Uh. The 40 acres and a mule weren't promised to your usual type of immigrant. They were involuntary immigrants. Who never got their 40 acres and a mule.

It's an important distinction.

Posted by: Franko at October 30, 2006 4:54 PM

Okay, okay! So why no coffee and salad?

Posted by: Crid at October 30, 2006 5:23 PM

The point is, Great Grandpa Immigrant did just fine picking through the trash -- without handouts.

And Crid, they take their food very seriously here, probably because coffee and vinaigrette don't mix. It's a different time of the meal - you have coffee afterward.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2006 9:01 PM

I'm in love with the Thai Crunch Salad at CPK. Get it with chicken, Crid. And coffee, of course.

Posted by: Lena at October 30, 2006 10:11 PM

CPK? California Pizza Kitchen?

I must confess: I have eaten my first Royale (

It was much better than in the States. Lena brought it to me while I was slaving over a hot computer.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2006 2:46 AM

Hi crid !

/*/We hear reports that white French people are doing everything they can to isolate immigrants so that they can't get their asses to work./*/

Amerloque dealt with this at some length on his blog last year …

// …/… Too, what should be made of the blatant inaccuracies spewed forth daily by the New York Times-owned, France-hating International Herald Tribune, pushing its Big Apple, politically correct points of view ? One Catherine Field, a "journalist based in Paris", wrote:

--In the 1960s, planners chose this spot for a "Grand Ensemble" of public housing to lodge workers who came from North and West Africa in droves to do the dirty, boring and dangerous jobs shunned by the native French.--

Field (a "Paris-based journalist", remember) isn't the only one to make such a claim: other reporters and media honchos have said essentially the same thing. One reads such prose ... and one is left with the distinct impression that, sometimes in the 1960s, a gaggle of French bureaucrats sat down and said: "Alors, donc, let's build hundreds - no, thousands, name of a dog ! - of soulless concrete apartment projects on the edges of our big cities and park all our non-white, non-French speaking, immigrants, especially those from Africa, in them ! Then we can allow all these projects to fall apart, say, for the next thirty or forty years !"

Nothing could be further from reality. After World War II, there was a huge housing shortage in France. The entire country was in the throes of rebuilding and modernizing infrastructure and low cost, subsidized housing for everybody was at the top of the list. It was the era of les trente glorieuses ("the glorious thirty years") from 1945 to 1975, when the economy was booming and when jobs were plentiful. These housing projects were designed for everyone, for all French workers, not just for non-white "immigrants". Between 1971 and 1974 Amerloque used to drive out to Mantes-la-Jolie, about forty miles to the northwest of Paris, on Saturday mornings during the school year and teach all day long on a volunteer basis (do note that Amerloque is not a teacher, stricto sensu) in a cultural center in a project called Val-Fourré, today a no-go zone. Then, the immense majority of the Val-Fourré's inhabitants - and Amerloque's students - were what are called français de souche: white, generally working class people. What happened at Val-Fourré and other projects is familiar to socially mobile Americans: as soon as a family was financially able, it moved out to better lodging. Other, poorer families moved in, and those families were immigrants, mostly from Africa.

Amerloque is fully cognizant of the proverb "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It might even be felt to be quite appropriate in this case, since the French government, in building the original public housing that now makes up the quartiers sensibles ("sensitive neighborhoods", in politicobabble) was certainly acting for the benefit of all the French. However, the governments didn't necessarily realize that a kind of enfer would be awaiting the inhabitants of the housing projects twenty or thirty years hence. The projects were built with good intentions ... yet speaking of the French projects without alluding to their origins is dishonest reporting - it's as simple as that.//


Posted by: L'Amerloque at October 31, 2006 3:29 AM

> Amerloque dealt with this at some
> length on his blog last year

> Amerloque used to drive out

> Amerloque is fully cognizant

Why are you refering to yourself in the third person?

> yet speaking of the French projects
> without alluding to their origins is
> dishonest reporting

Good thing I'm not a reporter! I'm free to discuss the fact ont he ground without publishing a list of references and sources for competing, defensive rhetoric.

> The projects were built with good
> intentions ...

Like Pruitt-Igoe and Cabrini Green? Well, OK then! Why didn't you say so? No liberal impulse, no matter how condescending, isolationist, or violent of consequence, can ever be described as flatly *evil*, right?

> "Alors, donc..."

Zappa's 1976 (mostly) studio album, Zoot Allures, shows what can be done by a genius on a budget.

Posted by: Crid at October 31, 2006 3:57 AM

Thanks, L'Amerloque -- very illuminating. Too many Spano types out there, quick to assume, not prone to research.

A friend of mine lives in what was (and I guess still is, to an extent), subsidized housing in the 14th, built as a sort of WPAesque housing project in the early part of the century...extremely cheap rent being the reason they don't move, say, to the 6th, where she works. In NYC, I had friends who lived in Stuyvesant town, subsidized by an insurance company. It exists everywhere, subsidized housing, and is what you do or don't make of it.

And again, in New York, during my struggling writer days, I once lived in an apartment so small I could order an egg and cheese on a roll delivered from the deli (my cure from depression), and open the door and pay the guy without getting out of bed. I saw this as a tiny hovel on my way up, not as a permanent living situation, and I worked my ass off to afford to get out of there.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 31, 2006 4:09 AM

"they take their food very seriously here, probably because coffee and vinaigrette don't mix. It's a different time of the meal - you have coffee afterward."

This past weekend I was at a cute little coffeehouse which had a little self-serve station where you get half-and-half, sugar, etc.-- normal coffee stuff-- but they also had butter, jams, and a big lucite jar of vinaigrette with an inviting ladle therein. The thing was, the vinaigrette was right next to the coffee stuff, and it looked so much like mocha sauce that I kept almost putting it in my coffee! I think I'll skip that taste sensation.

Speaking of which, I notice some company is marketing a coffee cola beverage... I once tried mixing coffee and coke and it was the most vile thing I had ever put in my mouth (and this from a kid who used to lick rocks). I can't imagine the new soft drink being any less vile... still, I feel a tiny urge to sample one, just from a trying-to-guess-what-the-hell-were-they-thinking standpoint.

Posted by: Melissa at October 31, 2006 7:30 AM

I can't believe that everyone is cheerily chatting about cafes and coffee after such a bigoted rant by Amy. Yes, you should attempt to assimilate when you immigrate to a new country. Yes, this is the land of the free. No, you should not have to get rid of your entire culture and value system to become a part of it. That's why its a melting pot, the mixing of cultures.

Not everyone of the Muslim faith is a terrorist, and its that sort of thinking that worked so well for the KKK and Hitler. To simply dismiss an entire group of people based on their extremists is foolish and dangerous. I can't believe someone who claims to be and educated woman can spew such nonsense. It's disgusting.

Posted by: Disheartened at November 1, 2006 7:12 AM

Um...where am I dismissing ALL Muslims as terrorists? That would be irrational and unfactual, and if I'm anything it's rational and respectful of the facts.

I think your post is very cute, and reflects a certain head-in-the-sandness common to that of the Jews who stayed in Nazi Germany and then became ashes in the ovens.

My dad is supposed to be sending me one of the hate rags (aka Arab newspapers) from Detroit. You get your hands on those and tell me how we should kiss all Muslims asses.

For the record, I have zero respect for any god belief, or belief in astrology, numerology and other crapthink. Fortunately, though, nobody wants to kill me or make me stay home wearing a headscarf because the moon is in Aquarius.

Oh, and is it hateful to worry that I might die in a plane explosion on the way home after reading in the IHT today that Muslims who trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan are working at the airport, and the dunderheaded French bureaucratic way requires that they be allowed to protest before being fired? One of them was a friend of shoebomber Richard Reid. Is it racist to think Richard Reid wanted to kill us? Just how far does being a fucking idiot about what's going on in the world allow you to jam your head up your ass about these matters?

Just curious!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 1, 2006 9:22 AM

I can't believe someone who claims to be and educated woman can spew such nonsense.

Again, an assumption. Did you read the blog item above, or just close your eyes and comment on it?

First of all, I consider it snobby and gauche and to claim to be an educated woman. So I don't. If I am anything, it's a thinker. That's how I'd describe myself, if at all. But, I don't describe myself -- I let people read my crap and decide for themselves.

Next, if I am such a bigoted girl, how come I simply expressed amazement at a room full of Asians, and then you managed to find me hating all Muslims?

And finally, I don't hate anybody, but if I did, wouldn't somebody who wants to kill me because I don't wear a headscarf and believe in Allah be a pretty good choice?

There are a lot of people who post here whom I don't agree with, and I treat them respectfully (less so if they post tripe about believing in god), but you, mister, you're a flaming moron who needs to learn to sound out the words and read.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 1, 2006 9:27 AM


For someone who sure likes to scream your opinions at the top of your lungs to anyone who will listen, you really can't handle having them challenged very well.

I guess that I got the idea that you didn't like the Muslims based on the fact that you talk about "the road back to Burqaville", "Dearbornistan", and you're title is priceless. Really. Also, just because other immigrants have been the "kickball" in the past should not mean that its okay to treat anyone as anything less than an equal now. We should be learning from our mistakes.

As an FYI, I am neither religious or a man. I am not preaching, simply speaking of tolerance. Tolerance is a concept that seems to have fallen by the wayside recently and our culture is moving backwards.

Okay, your turn to snipe back, but I'm done reading this site. I've yet to stumble upon anything insightful or thought-provoking. You seem to just like to rail about people about their personal decisions, wear a I'm-so-superior-to-every-person-on-the-planet hat and stroke your own ego. Good for you Amy, you've got the world by the balls.

Posted by: Disheartened at November 2, 2006 6:34 AM


First of all, little you've written is factual or makes any sense. You clearly don't think -- it seems you're just a left-leaning parrot. Unfortunately, I'm out of bird seed.

Sorry if I find it hard to tolerate people who want to murder me because I don't believe in Allah. You can be tolerant, I'm going to be a little afraid at Charles de Gaulle tomorrow.

I have plans to see my boyfriend Friday night, and I'd like to live to have that happen.

Are you really tolerant of people who want you dead?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 2, 2006 3:20 PM

I was once a (non-Arab) resident of "Dearbornistan". The vast majority of the Middle Eastern people I knew were very happy to be in America for the same reasons every other immigrant group came here: they wanted more freedom in their lives and they wanted a chance for more opportunities that didn't (or could not) exist in their countries.

Saying that Muslims want to spread the same oppression here as they have in their countries is an overgeneralization. It's like saying religious fundamentalists in America (a small percentage) speak for ALL Americans.

It just so happens that whoever published that "hate rag" you mencion is one voice among many. It usually goes that the loudest (and most obnoxious) voice is the one that gets heard.

My grandfather was also an immigrant who had to struggle and get assimilated into American society. It is true that "every immgrant group is the kickball of their time", but his plight taught me more than that. We have be compassionate (or show respect for humanity that's earned you the graces of the French). He got to where he is from his hard efforts AND that. I choose to pay it forward instead of casting judgments and overgeneralizations on others.

Maybe you should spend more time with the immigrants while you're in France and listen to them, firsthand and not filtered through the French, before you start jumping to conclusions about what they want!

Posted by: Kirstie at November 3, 2006 12:05 PM

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