Past episodes Reader's Guide to the Nostrum Universe Nostrum Correspondence Corner
Subscribe to Nostrum Home
(New to Nostrum? We recommend starting at the beginning.
Totally lost? Find out who's who in the Reader's Guide or track the "Ref #" links to the previous scene with those characters.)
Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?
Martha Stewart would not enjoy visiting Seth B. Obomash.
Dinner dishes of unclear paleolithic origins lie scattered about the kitchen. Books, magazines and other assorted papers are tossed around the living room in indecipherable confusion. The scent of ammonia blows up intermittently through the open basement door from Hegel's overdue-to-be-cleaned litter box.
But there is a fire blazing away at the hearth, and a big bowl of popcorn that never seems to empty no matter how often Seth sinks his prodigious mitts into it, and even better, there is the challenging warmth of intense conversation, so Tara Petskin and Haircut Puente are unaffected by what would send Ms. Stewart scurrying under cover.
"Okay," Haircut says, "so the topic is immigration, should we change the immigration laws in the U.S. What are the possibilities?"
Haircut and Tara are sitting next to each other on the couch. Seth is sprawled out on the rug in front of the fireplace but within grabbing distance of the popcorn bowl.
"In immigration there's three basic numerical possibilities and two basic sociopolitical possibilities," Seth says. "Numerically there's either too many of them, too few of them, or just the right amount, and sociopolitically either they're the right immigrants or the wrong immigrants."
"That's the matrix," Tara adds. "As the aff, you either say we have too many of the wrong or too few of the right, applied to the overall numbers of whether you want fewer of the wrong or more of the right."
"But what's the real-world situation?" Haircut asks.
Seth snorts. "The real world? In the real world, I've got mine so up yours Jack."
"In the real world," Tara says, "we try to keep the door as closed as possible to the people who most want to come in because they are socially undesirable, while keeping it way open to the people we want, who are the socially desirable ones."
"Who, presumably, don't want to come because they're happy where they are."
"Exactly," Tara says. "We've got a pretty open door, say, to the French and the British, who are perfectly content to stay where they are."
"Especially the French," Seth adds parenthetically.
"Whereas," Tara goes on, "we've got a pretty closed door to, say, Serbians or Cubans or Africans, where there might be a political reason for them to want to immigrate to the US, or Mexicans, who might want to immigrate for economic reasons."
"The reasons are important," Seth explains. "If someone we don't want to come in wants to immigrate for political reasons, we don't do it because of the political situation. We don't want to undermine our relations with Cuba, for instance, by having open immigration."
"But we don't have any relations with Cuba," Haircut says.
"Exactly. And we don't want to upset that lack of relations. As for the economic reasons, those are simpler. We just say no. We are not the land of good and plenty for the tired and hungry and poor of any country--"
"You mean the huddled masses," Haircut interjects.
"Them's the ones," Seth says. "Can't have too many of them running around. Not nowadays. They'll be taking away our jobs if we let them in."
"So essentially the US has a closed-door policy."
"Not officially, but for all practical purposes, unofficially, yes. No politician loses a lot of votes by telling his constituents he's going to keep the riffraff out, especially politicians in border states like California and Texas."
"There's obviously a racist side to all of this."
"Hello!" Tara says.
"So the United States is no longer founded on being a nation of immigrants," Haircut concludes.
"It's founded on being a nation of immigrants," Seth says. "It just considers the founding over."
"So what's the debate strategy?" Haircut asks.
"What Invoice and I were running was the Ugly Canadian," Tara says.
Tara shakes her head. "The Ugly Canadian plays the race card early," she says. "We run that we close immigration completely except to our immediate neighbors in political distress. This excludes the Mexicans, because we've got cards up the wazoo proving that regardless of what happens in Mexico, the US never considers any of it to be political. They could run their president out of town on a rail, tar and feather him, lock him in a room and make him watch reruns of the Howie Mandell show twenty-four hours a day, and all the citizens could rise in an uproar and start a civil war and be shooting at each other from dusk till dawn, and we still wouldn't let one of them in as a political refugee."
"Because they're Mexicans. That's the history of US-Mexico relations."
"I'm going to have to read up on that."
"I've practically got a whole tub on it," Tara says.
"I'm going to need it. So where do the Canadians come in?"
"Because of the stability of the Canadian economy, we can demonstrate that no one would ever want to emigrate out for financial reasons, which leaves only political reasons."
"With Canada. Here's the scenario. We have global warming, right? Because of global warming, the so-called American breadbasket, where they grow all the wheat, is moving north into Canada. As global warming keeps up, eventually we rely on Canada for all our bread and livestock feed. This causes political unrest in the US, and the threat of Canada holding us over a barrel with wheat prices."
"Like the Arabs holding us over a barrel in the '70s with oil prices."
"Exactly. If there's a lot of oil, there's no problem, but with only a small, tight supply? You've got lines at the gas station. The same thing with wheat. If there's a lot, no problem, but if the supply tightens up..."
"So how does it tighten up?"
"The Russians. They always need wheat."
"Always have, always will," Seth says through a mouthful of popcorn. "Back in the soviet days, the question of the US selling wheat to the Russians to bail them out of their five-year plans was always popular."
"Did we? Sell them wheat, I mean."
"Usually. It was either that or pay our farmers not to grow wheat in the first place."
"We didn't do that," Haircut says, narrowing his eyes. "Don't tell me that."
"We pay plenty of farmers not to grow things," Seth says. "It's one of the major underpinnings of American agriculture."
"Maybe I'll take up farming someday."
"You've got to know what not to grow."
"I wouldn't grow wheat. That would work."
"No it wouldn't," Tara says, "because of global warming. You can't grow wheat because of the climate, and if you can't grow it, you can't be subsidized for not growing it."
"So where does that leave us?" Haircut asks.
"If the Russians buy enough of the Canadian wheat under the new regime, the prices go up. There's political unrest in the US, and there's all of a sudden a new political alliance between the Russians and the Canadians."
"So what does this have to do with immigration?"
"If we only allow in political expatriates from Canada, we can build up a Resistance force in the US, train them and send them back surreptitiously to Canada to take over the government in a coup d'etat."
"The Canadians don't have much of a military, so we create an effective counter-military to take over," Seth adds.
"And..." Tara hesitates before adding triumphantly, "we annex Canada as a territory. The government we've trained will welcome us, and we'll win back the American breadbasket."
Haircut looks from Tara to Seth and back again. "That's our aff?"
"In a nutshell."
"And you think we can win with that?"
"I know we can win with that. Invoice and I were already winning with it, and we can work on it and make it better."
"We couldn't make it any worse," Haircut says. "I'm finding it very difficult to see what the hell it has to do with immigration."
"We've got harms like crazy in the status quo. If we leave immigration as is, the harms increase because we can't even feed the people we have, much less all these damned foreigners."
"But none of this is what immigration is all about!"
"And your point is?"
Haircut shrugs. "If immigration is horrible and racist, why don't we really run something about it as it is?"
"Because it wouldn't win."
"I'll bet you I can come up with something, especially if you throw the Internet into the mix."
"I knew you'd get around the to 'Net sooner or later," Tara says, rolling her eyes.
"But the 'Net affects immigration. It tears down borders. It provides an intellectual lingua franca that's the first step to an internationalization of the human psyche."
Seth nods. "It's no worse than the Ugly Canadian. You might have something there."
"I know I have something there. The post-national era. And it's true. Which is more than you can say about invading Canada."
"We're not going to have to invade," Tara says. "The government that we've put into place will be so favorable to us that they'll request annexation, and not one shot will be fired, at least between US and Canadians."
"But the Canadians will be shooting it out among themselves?"
"Like armed shoppers buying wrapping paper the day after Christmas," Seth says. "Man, this popcorn is excellent."
"What about the Russians?"
"They don't buy a lot of wrapping paper," Seth says. "Or eat that much popcorn, for that matter."
"I mean, the Russians and the Canadian wheat. What happens to that after the coup?"
"Then we sell them the wheat."
"I thought there wasn't enough for everyone."
"There wasn't enough for everyone because there weren't enough subsidies not to grow it in Canada. As soon as the Canadians also start getting paid not to grow wheat, there will be enough for everyone."
"So don't the Russians declare war or anything?"
"They're not organized enough. So what they do is invade and get wheat from them."
"They don't have a lot of wheat on Africa."
"Then it's about time they started growing some. The African economy starts to boom, and everyone profits."
"I think I know now why I drifted away from Policy."
"But you're back," Seth says, only the hint of a question in his voice.
"I'm back," Haircut agrees. "Until I get drafted to go fight the Canadians."
Should we start arming ourselves against the frostbacks now?
Is Canada a greater threat to the US than, say, the Bahamas?
Does this mean we have to change our catch-phrase to "Welcome to Canada?"
Does George Pataki really care that much about professional boxing?
How come, other than the non-demoninational National Forensic League, there's only a Catholic Forensic League, and not, say, a Sikh Forensic League or a Unitarian Forensic League? We smell a Jacobin plot!
You'll quiver like a shaker before you bow to Baal in our next episode: "Hair in a Can, or, Do You Really Believe that Clarence Thomas is Still on the Supreme Court?"
Go to the next episode due Mar 24, 1999.