A few months ago, an editor asked me incredulously: “Why do you listen to Rush Limbaugh?”
For the columns, of course. I’ve listened to Rush for 25 years. As a columnist, my 100 percent foolproof guarantee of full lifetime employment is that I write about politicians, celebrities, public figures and media elites who say and do dumb things.
For instance, how do you say “hypocrite” in Spanish?
I don’t know because, contrary to the nativist rants of rightwing bomb thrower Ann Coulter, Latinos really do assimilate and learn English. So much so that, in a generation or two, many of us can’t speak Spanish.
I was born in the United States, and so were both my parents and three of my four grandparents. The fourth emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico as a boy around 1915—a hundred years ago—during the Mexican Revolution.
During his lifetime, my Mexican grandfather would take from Americans good jobs like picking cotton, tomatoes, or peaches in dusty fields in temperatures that soared over 100 degrees.
I can say with certainty that my grandfather came to this country legally because no one could come illegally until after the Immigration Act of 1924, the first broad-based attempt by Congress to regulate immigration.
Also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, that piece of legislation should have been called the “Italian Exclusion Act” since, as historians have noted, it’s clear intent was to restrict the entry of immigrants from Italy and the rest of Southern Europe while encouraging arrivals from Germany, Ireland, and Great Britain.
At the time, Italian immigrants were thought to be culturally inferior, usurpers of American jobs, and predisposed to violence and criminal activity. They were Catholic, so they were viewed with hostility and skepticism. Their families were considered too large, and they were accused of not assimilating.
The fact that they often sent their hard-earned paychecks back across the Atlantic to relatives they left behind in Italy only fed the paranoia that they were not sufficiently vested in the United States. And many Americans worried that Italian immigrants cheapened the country’s national identity.
Can you imagine someone being so bullheaded as to actually believe this nonsense? Thank goodness, we got that poison out of our bloodstream. Well, at least most of us did.
Then there’s Coulter, whose provocative and often times factually inaccurate new book, Adios America: The Left’s Plan to Turn our Country into a Third World Hellhole essentially argues that recent waves of both legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico and Latin America are destroying the United States from within.
Never mind “E Pluribis Unum.” The real national motto with every immigrant group, dating back to the 1700’s when Benjamin Franklin railed against the Germans, is “There Goes The Neighborhood.”
That is also the theme of Coulter’s book. In her twisted world view, Latino immigrants—whose children will, in line with a familiar immigrant pattern, eventually learn English—are being catered to and accommodated by, for instance, printing government forms in Spanish.
This is where Limbaugh—Coulter’s fellow conservative crusader—comes in. Apparently, it’s not just government forms that are being translated into Spanish. It’s also commercial products aimed at Latino consumers.
And “catering” to Latinos has nothing to do with it. When a beer company puts up a Spanish billboard in Phoenix or Denver or Los Angeles to entice Spanish-speaking immigrants into buying its product, you can’t blame the immigrants for being pitched. You might as well blame the fish for the bait.
Mostly, people translate things into Spanish to make a buck, something that Limbaugh—who earns an estimated $50 million per year from his nationally syndicated radio show, newsletter, website and business ventures—knows how to do exceptionally well.
Sometimes that means Limbaugh—who just a couple of decades ago used to be a pro-immigrant free market conservative, in line with his buddies, former US Education Secretary William Bennett and the late Jack Kemp— now has to prostitute himself by blowing an anti-immigrant dog whistle.
These days, the host goes with the nativist flow and warns his millions of listeners that the borders are porous, that new waves of immigrants are inferior, and that the Democratic Party is lenient on enforcement because it sees Latino immigrants as future voters.
Every item on that list is just plain wrong, but when you’re talking about most of what is said on talk radio, it’s best to not get distracted with facts.
Clearly, Limbaugh has decided the path of least resistance with his listeners is to join the hyperbolic chorus of cultural alarmists like Coulter who worry that immigrants are ruining America—as opposed to the truth which is, just like it says in the brochure, immigrants are the point of America. And one way that immigrants ruin America, claim the alarmists, is by continuing to speak their native language.
How does Limbaugh intend to combat this problem? By profiting from it, of course.
Recently, the talk show host diversified his portfolio by branching off and writing what turned out to be a bestselling series of children’s books about U.S. history.
Last week, the first book in the series—Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims—will be translated into…wait for it…Spanish!
Here’s how “El Rushbo” recently broke the news to his listeners:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned this to you some time ago, and then it went dormant because I had to wait for the day to be able to tell you. The day has arrived. When Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, the first in a series of children's books, ages 10 to 13, on American history first book came out, immediately people said, ‘You've got to make this book available in Espanol’…
We are here to announce that on June the 9th we will be releasing Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, the first book in the adventure series, in Spanish. Our hope is that newly arrived legal immigrants coming to the United States will be able to learn the positive and incredible story of the founding of the greatest country on earth in an accurate and fun, involved way…
So essentially we're participating here in an effort to assimilate people into the American culture via American history and the American way of life. Really proud of this, folks. Really, really proud of this.”
As spin goes, that’s not half bad. It sure beats the alternative, where Limbaugh says, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and confesses that he’s guilty of the same sort of hypocrisy that he’s always accusing liberals of exhibiting. (For what it’s worth, he is often right on that score.)
And it sounds more elegant than the underlying message to Latino immigrants: “Amigos, You have to go home. But please open your wallets and buy some of our merchandise on your way out the door. Se habla espanol.”
Meanwhile, some of Limbaugh’s loyal ditto-heads had to have been taken aback by his decision to jump with both feet into the waters of multicultural marketing.
I mean, it’s one thing to give aid and comfort to the enemy. But to try to sell them children’s books? That’s just diabolical.