As soon as he dropped in his chair with the coffee from the pot down the hall, Richard Casey found himself looking at a copy of the 2110 Decennial Census on the desk beside the computer. Immediately, he shot back twenty-five years in time, when he was seventeen. He was then doing research for an assignment in his Social Studies class and learned from an online report that the population of the United States had passed the 500 million mark. Actually, close to 510 million, the posting noted, in the year 2086.
That was a quarter of a century ago. Time had moved on since then.
He graduated at Ypsi High, the same school in Michigan where Lawrence Casey, his father, graduated twenty-six years before
He started freshman college at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, the following year.
His father, and mother, as soon as they had him installed in the next stage of his life (in college: an off-campus one-bedroom apartment and a brand new car), moved to Hawai'i to run the family business there more closely.
And, of course, the U.S. population continued to grow.
As of last March, 2111, according to that decennial census report on his desk from the Population and Demographic Surveys Division of the Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland where he now worked, there were now 568 million people residing in America. That's an increase of 58 million in a quarter of a century, an average rise of 2.3 million a year. Broken down, the numbers were:
White, non-Hispanic - 198
Hispanic any race - 183
Black - 91
Asian - 67
Other - 29.
He wondered how Lawrence Casey took it after seeing the reports he sent along with a copy of what was known strictly within a select few in the Bureau as the CER map, a highly confidential demographic material that had been under 'stealth' development for two years now.
He still remembered how his father reacted to the reports from the last census ten years ago. He was then visiting them in the Kauai Island of Hawai'i on a two-week vacation. He had only been with the Bureau two years at that time and carried with him a hardcopy of the census reports from the office to show his parents what his government work was all about.
On a calm Saturday afternoon three days after he arrived, they were having Mai Tai's in the lanai in the back of the house overlooking the blue waters of Hanalei Bay in the north shore region of the island.
"It's looking more and more like a third-world country back there, Richard," his father said to him, dropping the copy of the census reports he had just gone over, on the cocktail table. "People just keep pouring in from everywhere. Immigration. Plus, the birth rate continuing to out-distance the death rate. People are living longer."
It's a good thing, longevity, they agreed, so did Margueritte, his mother, who caught part of what was just said as she was coming out of the house to join them. She was sixty-six, two years younger than her husband of forty-four years.
"And maybe not too good," his father added, "depending on the quality of your life in your old age."
From some of the demographics he read in the survey reports, he pointed out a few more sobering facts that now abound in the mainland U.S.A.
The population density in America at the turn of the millennium, the year 2000, a hundred years ago, was 80 people per square mile. High then than it had ever been but still low compared to the world's 120 per square mile at the time. Now, a century later, he said then with a sense of relief at no longer being rooted and living permanently in the mainland since moving to the islands fifteen years before, it's 140 people per square mile. Near that of a number of over-populated countries of the world like Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines.
One out of three people in America, he went on, is a senior. That's over 180 million out of the population of 545 million. Some are surviving just a hair above the poverty line, the rest are among the twenty percent of the population below the line.
America may still be in the top three countries in the world in terms of economic power, after China and the Japan/Korea alliance. But with regard to quality of life---and I don't mean us in the twenty percent middle- and upper-class society but the rest of the working class in the country, America is near the bottom among the poorest nations on the planet.
Lawrence Casey--CEO and board chairman of Casey Packing Company, one of the oldest food processing and canning companies of Hawai'i--was a level-headed man, seldom if ever lost his temper even when things weren't going his way. With business or with anyone who touched his life in Hawai'i and east or west of the islands across the Pacific, including his only child, Richard.
Revenue could be down ten or twelve percent in the last quarterly report from the accounting department of CPC and the most he'd elicit of any displeasure would be a deep frown as he sank into a contemplative mood in the presence of the bad-news bearers in his executive office, or in the boardroom in front of all the directors during a meeting. The same with hearing news, for instance, of a new corporate tax-hike bill just passed by the unilateral Congress in Washington and delivered to the White House for the rubber-stamp signature of Pacifico (Paco) Valderrama, the 70th President of the United States and the third full-blood Hispanic (Mexican).
There were two recurring occasions, however, Richard remembered the most when his father would appear greatly disturbed and uneasy. One was whenever the matter of Richard's refusal to move to Hawai'i comes up between them. Lawrence kept a position open for him in the company but not once had Richard given it a serious thought beyond telling his father to give him time to consider it. The other, somewhat related to the foregoing, was whenever the matter of the direction the country had taken the past several decades comes up between father and son or between father and someone else.
"There's not much of a life left here for us," Lawrence Casey once told his son a few years ago on a trip to the mainland. "Not like the time I was growing up when Grandpa, my Grandpa, took me on trips around the country. It was different then. America was still one country. Not like today. Now it's fragmented. Like it's made up of several countries except that it's regulated by a national government, and one that's increasingly losing hold of the union."
A few days later, just before flying back home to Hawai'i, his father asked him for the nth time, abruptly and rather crossed: "What's keeping you here, son? We want you to come home with us. Take care of your family there. Near us."
He replied in no uncertain way as before: "Dad, this is home. Cecile and I and our kids are home here. This is where we grew up and met and got married. This is where all our friends are."
Those two occasions when Lawrence Casey appeared truly perturbed went a long way back: between the time Richard came out of college twenty years before when he first made his stand to remain in the mainland, and those days Lawrence often talked about, going back another thirty years when his Grandpa--Richard's Great Grandpa Matthew Casey--had practically taken over the responsibility of raising Lawrence like his own son, lured the boy away from the no good hard-drinking father, Leonard Casey, who died of liver disease at forty two.
Now, as Richard settled in his office after a relatively smooth Monday morning commute from Alexandria, Virginia on the other side of Wilson bridge, he moved his eyes from the census report on the desk to the calendar on the wall beside the computer, noting the day he anticipated facing that one occasion with his father once again. In two days, on July 1, 2111, his parents would be arriving to bring the kids back from a two-week vacation in the islands in time for the July 4th holiday in Washington. He wasn't looking forward to it, seeing how crossed his father might look this time when he tells him he's not uprooting his family to move to Hawai'i any time soon.
From the time they arrived through the five days they would stay, neither of his parents brought up the matter at all, not directly, during any of the dinners, the outings in Virginia and Washington for the July Fourth celebrations in the capital. But his father talked about it, sort of, by way of Scott, his oldest son who would be graduating from Georgetown University next year with an undergraduate degree in Economics.
He knew what his father was getting at right away when he started talking about how Scott enjoyed being in the islands every time he visited. In fact, said the grandfather, Scott himself had said several times in the past and again during this trip that he wouldn't mind living there, in Kauai, and especially in Honolulu where the company headquarters were.
Richard had been aware of it the past couple of years. But now he became even more certain after his father brought it out in the open that if he can't prevail upon his son to move to the islands, he would take his grandson instead, the next generation who was now fast coming of age. Scott Casey was twenty-two years old. And maybe later he could lure the younger one too, to join his brother. Steve Casey was seventeen, just out of high school this year.
"Strange," Richard thought at first and when he could no longer keep it to himself told his wife Cecile later, "how something in people's lives seems to repeat itself."
"What are you getting at?" she asked.
"Don't you see--first it's between Dad, his father Leonard and Dad's Grandpa Matthew. Now it's between Scott and me and Dad."
Cecile thought about it a moment, nodding in agreement, then said: "You're right, except for one thing. You're not like your Grandpa Leonard. He drove his wife away and she died of grief because of the way he was--a drunkard and a womanizer.
His family would not be among those to see Lawrence Casey during that other occasion when Lawrence would appear to get truly involved over something, be visibly reactive, showing emotions like despair, even anger. Their itinerary back to Hawai'i included a six-day stay in the Detroit/Windsor area, a break in their journey which was almost mandatory with every trip they took to the mainland. Margueritte was born and raised in Windsor to an Irish-Italian Catholic family. The third of four children, all of whom alive and well in different parts of Canada and the U.S. Only one was still living in Windsor. The one before her, a girl named Leslie in whose house they would stay through the weekend.
Across the river was Detroit, now a sprawling megalopolis that extended nearly as far as Ann Arbor, just past the town of Ypsilanti where Lawrence Casey grew up, went to high school and then college at U of M in nearby Ann Arbor. It was there in the old hometown which was for him actually the primary destination of the trip that he would shed some of his cover--among some of his high school classmates in the Ypsi Class of 2060 during their three-day 51st anniversary reunion.
They landed at Detroit Wayne County Airport Tuesday evening, July 7. By the time they crossed the border to Canada and settled down in Leslie's house in east Windsor, there wasn't much left of the day other than for dinner at home and an hour and a half of conversations in the enclosed veranda back of the house that overlooked Lake St. Clair.
They spent most of the next day visiting Margueritte's other relatives and some old-time friends who likewise had remained in Windsor all their lives. For Margueritte and her family, it was like a reunion itself every time she came to visit. It was the same for Lawrence Casey and even more so in that his lifetime memories spanned both sides of the river, literally both countries, through most of the forty-three years he lived in the area.
He had come to the Ypsi High reunion a few times since a group in the class initiated it the first time, fifty years ago. Most of the class, as much as eighty percent of its members, had attended the get-together regularly. Many he would travel halfway around the world to butt heads with as they did since junior high, literally. Some had passed on. And there were some he would rather not lay eyes on from the last glimpse he had of them fifty-one years ago.
First among those he looked forward to seeing was Howard Coleman, one of those lucky young fellows who, in spite of a few setbacks in life such as growing up poor and black in a place in America like the Detroit area, discovered early what he would be good at and knew right away that's what he wanted to do in life. Maybe for the rest of his life--make music, be a musician.
He did just that, stuck to it through the ups and downs over the years. He put together a band of several die-hard Motown fans of old. Five of them. They wrote their own pieces, some of them made the airwaves and brought the group some recognition. They got themselves known locally at first, then regionally in the midwest, the east as far as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and the Mid-Atlantic. They were good and had weekend gigs booked in hotel lounges and club restaurants months ahead in different states east and west of Detroit.
Howard Coleman, however, didn't bank entirely on being a musician for a living. He went to college for a couple years and got an associate degree in marketing which got him a day job as an assistant manager at one of the stores of Green's, a black-owned foodstore chain that had the market cornered in the five-state region of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio the past forty years now. Since after the last of the simultaneous citywide race riots in Madison, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Cleveland in the late 60s.
The 60s. The return of open segregation, civil strife, even some lynching. Those were terrible times. It was like a repeat of the history of a hundred years before. The 1950s and 60s. Except in the 70s, 2070 that is, things didn't get better as it did a hundred years before with the coming of the Civil Rights Act in 1965.
Nothing was done, or could be done. All the laws to protect the underclass, the minorities and the weak had all been in place for decades. But every one of them lost muscle against their violators and offenders because of weak enforcement. Much like the immigration law that was introduced in the early 1900s and developed further the next several decades to the year 1965 when the national-origin quota was abolished and the numerical region-and-country quota system was enacted. This was supposed to maintain the ethnic balance in the demographic composition of the U.S. population. But here again, enforcement was lax. The border with the third-world country in the south for years was practically non-existent. Mexicans, Central Americans and actually anybody from anywhere in the world could simply walk from down there into the United States freely and undocumented. And they did. Nobody really knew how many daily, weekly, monthly. But most government estimates put it at hundreds of thousands a year, near a million later in some years.
By the year 2010, a hundred years ago, there were twenty million illegal aliens--nearly equal to the entire population of Australia at the time--living in America, most of them Latinos or Hispanics of various origins who spoke little or no English at all.
Because of the risk of being accused of profiling, let alone the growing power of the pro-immigrant activists by the sheer strength of their numbers (which included those millions of illegals) and their growing political clout, the federal and local law enforcement could do little in terms of identification, apprehension, detention and deportation. The government in Washington, most of it composed of liberal politicians, did nothing at all. In fact, in the end, they even granted amnesty; legalized all of them. The opposition fought hard against it, even threatened to charge the powers that be with an act of treason for practically taking the side of what they called foreign invaders, but all to no avail.
What laws that were meant to protect the sovereignty and national identity of the country were liberalized or altogether unenforced. English was never enacted as the official language of the United States. Many fought for it, but again, to no avail.
This helped change the face of America altogether. The liberals had their way. But the conservatives, those who would never give up their identity as the English-speaking native sons and daughters of America, the true native-bred Americans, finally had enough and stood their grounds.
Following the devastation of the race riots of the 60s, law and order caved in to the menace of more violence and civil disorders. The gap between the liberals and the conservatives widened further. The country thus underwent a rapid process of segregation not just politically and ideologically, but racially and culturally. It began with the mass migration of the Hispanics from all over the country into the southwest region. Their presence in the northern and eastern states were no longer tolerated in the mainstream society. Many establishments openly demanded the use of English with any transaction. Signs were posted saying, specifically: 'English Only. No Spanish'. Life became hell for them when they couldn't get housing, employment and were denied social services, many for lack of proper papers.
The same trend took place with the Asian population throughout the country, but for a somewhat different reason. The stigma attached to these people of being industrious, hardworking and intelligent had gained rapid momentum the past half century in the mainstream society, basically with the whites and the blacks. They came to be viewed as a menace to the established American society. And they--the Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, and other Asian nationals, knew this as it became wide open in the form of racial discrimination and prejudice everywhere, along with threats of violence. In schools, stores, parks, churches and all public places. Thus, the past three decades, between 2080 and 2110, saw a steady migration of these people to the northwest region of the United States where they'd had a strong foothold since after WWII. By the hundreds of thousands, they resettled in the states of Oregon, Washington, Western Nevada and Northern California.
With the blacks, what happened simultaneously the past few decades was like a repeat of the days long before the Civil Rights Movement when every aspect of life in America was delineated by the color of the skin. Now that the rest of the country was mostly black and white, it was like the hands of time were turned back to the Jim Crow era. Separate but Equal. Segregation. Whites Only. Coloreds Only Here. At first, it came in the form of subtle discrimination and exclusion. But with lax civil rights law enforcement the same as with many other statutes such as immigration, drug and human trafficking, it became more blatant and wide open.
What then remained of the country underwent further regionalization. The past three decades actually, and it continued to this day, saw a mass migration of the blacks into three regions: the New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Southeastern New York areas in the East; the entire states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio in the Great Lakes area of the Midwest, and in the southeast the entire states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
People like Lawrence Casey--in his position in life, may not have flinched at seeing what had happened to the country. One could simply say what the hell did he care if any of them took over the whole friggin' country. The Hispanics and Latinos, the Blacks or the Asians. If those politicians in Washington couldn't--or wouldn't--do anything about the breakup of the country, what the hell could I do? What the hell could anybody do? If they don't care, I don't either. Why should I? I've done my part. I look after myself and my family and that's all that matters to me now after I've worked my butt off all these years. I'm well off. I can go anywhere, live anywhere in the world.
And there were people who would say that, and had actually done that. Pulled up stakes and left the country. The upper middle- and upper-class whites. Back to Europe, others to nextdoor Canada, some to Australia and New Zealand.
Some, but not enough to put a dent on the 200 million non-Hispanic whites, the wealth and power they continued to control in the country and their will to preserve their national identity as the true Americans. Lawrence Casey was one of these who had not given up on the idea of a true united states of America, one nation indivisible. But with what he saw happening in society the last several decades of his lifetime so far, he couldn't live with it and had to distance himself from the country, without abandoning it, though, by living in the island state.
Another fellow Lawrence Casey hoped to see at the reunion was Paul Hastings. White, Catholic, a moderate liberal with basic conservative values which Lawrence admired and had kept their friendship in good stead all these years. Paul was a native of Detroit who, like Lawrence and many others in the years following the race riots, saw what was coming next not just in the Midwest as what happened in the 50s and 60s of the previous millennium--the black migration northward from the racist South--but, this time, throughout the country.
By the year 2085, some twenty years after the race riots of the 60s, a vast population shift that had begun a few years earlier among the whites and the blacks accelerated. The blacks, no longer able to live with the blatant rejection of their race by the whites, moved from every major population centers--large metro areas and state capitals--to practically colonize those three regions of the country in the East, the Midwest and the South.
The whites in the states within those regions, seeing how their neighborhoods were getting overwhelmed by the color change resulting in the rapid deterioration of the quality of [their] lives, picked up in droves, many at a loss to their real estate properties and other assets and moved out. Paul Hastings who was then living in Rochester County in Michigan, making a decent living with an Asian imports car dealership and as a real estate attorney on the side, decided to move as far away as he could from the turmoil he'd seen of the Midwest and the East to Shreveport, Louisiana, a city whose forty-eight percent black population a decade ago dwindled to five percent. The same population shift happened in other metropolitan areas of the state. New Orleans was now ninety-four percent white. Baton Rouge, ninety percent. Based on the latest Census report from Richard Casey's office, overall, the state was now ninety-two percent white. The rest of the population consisted of the remaining blacks, two percent Hispanic and one percent Asian.
When Lawrence called Tuesday morning before flying to Detroit, Paul was hauling luggage in the trunk of the Ming LX500, his new late-model hydrogen car from China, for the long drive to Detroit. Unlike last year, and the year before, the wife wasn't coming to the reunion. She had a part-time job at a church in the neighboring Parish of Bossier across the Red River. This week, he said when Lawrence asked about her shortly after they got on the phone, she's busy working on a program training altar boys, among them the youngest of several of their grandchildren. Paul Hastings was now semi retired, continuing his part-time law practice to supplement his social security pension and investment incomes.
"We just arrived here in Windsor today," Lawrence told him. "Where are you now?"
"Just loading the car up right this minute and we're on the road."
"You aren't flying?"
"I got this brand new H-car a couple months ago and I want to see how it handles on a long drive. Three hundred horse, runs on air and water."
"Who's we? I thought you said you're going by yourself."
"A good friend of mine from Longview, just across the Texas stateline, is riding with me. A Filipino-American Catholic priest. He has this Catholic Ministers' Conference to go to in Detroit the same weekend as our reunion. We had planned to take the drive a month ago. It's a two-day drive. I'll give you a call as soon as we checked in a hotel."
He gave Lawrence the name of the hotel in Romulus just off the I-275 and I-94 interchange near the Detroit Metropolitan airport and they agreed to meet there then for an early get-together. Ten minutes after he hung up, Paul Hastings with Father Francisco Zamora, a 72-year old priest in his traditional black pants and shirt and the clerical white collar, in the front passenger seat, drove out of the Hastings' residence on Pines Road straight out to I-20 by the Shreveport Regional Airport and headed east through the entire breadth of the state of Louisiana. The route would take them through the states of Mississippi and Alabama where they'd pick up I-65 at Birmingham to head straight north to Nashville, Tennessee where they aimed to finish the first day of the drive--650 miles altogether.
Both men had looked forward to the trip since they planned it a few weeks ago. Especially Paul who was eager to see how the new car, the latest craze from China, would perform on the road. But not his wife. She repeatedly expressed concerns about the hazards of the long trip not for anything like a car trouble or a road accident but the bandidos and the vigilantes. For more than a decade now, the southern white region had been plagued by what the locals in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana had called bandidos--highway robbers, hold-uppers--coming from the Hispanic/Latino region in the southwest.
There had been hundreds of incidents involving rapes, abductions and even murder. The police never seemed to be where they're needed. But the fact was, sometimes there were so many things happening at the same time and there just weren't enough law enforcement manpower to patrol the hundreds of miles of roads, interstate and local, going in and out between the regions. It got so bad that in many local jurisdictions, the citizens had formed their own protection groups that became known as road vigilantes. Los Vigilantes as the law-abiding and upstanding citizens of the H/L region called them when it got to the point the group began indiscriminately harassing any Hispanic person crossing into the white region even on a legitimate business.
The vigilantes, after what they'd seen over the years---droves of Latinos expanding their territories into the white region first in western Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas and now, slowly, in western Louisiana--decided they weren't just going to stand by and see it continue to happen. The entire southwest United States was now essentially an autonomous geographic region under Hispanic control politically, culturally, socially. Economically, it was still struggling with high two-digit unemployment which continued to fan the endemic drug problem and the frequent incursions into the white region. The vigilantes, given that the federal government wasn't doing enough about it, were intent to fight it.
From their standpoint mostly in Kansas and Missouri in the north, Arkansas and Louisiana in the south, the entire state of Oklahoma was now taken over by the Latinos. Over three quarters of the white population had fled the state and resettled as far north as the Dakotas and as far south as Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana and Biloxi in Mississippi and as far east as Birmingham, Alabama.
As what happened in the earlier years in the major Hispanic regional states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, local Oklahoma governments now dominated by majorities of elected Latino officials passed such ordinances whereby, for one, a homeowner can not be seen mowing his own yard. Any ordinary lawn-maintenance laborer or tradesman especially one who is unemployed was, by law, within his rights to approach the homeowner and demand that the laborer be hired at the going rate to do the job.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. It came to a point where a person can not cut his own hair or shave his own whiskers that had grown over an eighth of an inch long. By law, he must go to a barbershop. At first, it sounded unbelievably ridiculous. But when people started getting fined and even jailed for breaking the law or insisting on subverting it, it became part of their lives. Many--mostly the educated middle and upper-class whites and Asians--however, couldn't live with it and moved out of the region in a mass migration to the north and east white regions. To date, according to the Census, Oklahoma's population, like that of Arizona's, had two percent non-Hispanic white, one percent black, half a percent Asian. New Mexico and Texas had even less of each.
The vigilantes of the states surrounding the H/L region--(northern) Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana--had sworn never to allow that to happen to their states, to defend their land and sovereignty over it. The Latinos, sounding out from their region, disputed any restriction on their movement into the states and any part of the country for that matter, arguing that America is one country, still is, and anybody in it is free to travel anywhere in the fifty states, conduct business, work and live in any of them.
In the eye of the federal government who still controlled and managed the military establishment and can intervene in any interstate conflict, yes. But Uncle Sam did not consider the racial and cultural divide of the country as anything to do with the matter of preserving the union. The government--this current administration and Congress, for one, had long ago bought into the idea that 'we are all Americans', even as over forty million people living in the country were illegals not just from the western hemisphere but from any part of the world, and most of them didn't speak English.
Not all people now living in America are Americans, the vigilantes would argue to death.
The matter of what makes an American and who is an American thus came into question at one instance when a fully armed squad of vigilantes in Arkansas, riding in two humvees, stopped a truckload of Latinos heading northeast on I-30 near Arkadelphia, halfway to Little Rock from Texarkana. One of them, fellow named Harlan Whitehorn, a social activist who favored segregation, would tolerate hearing only English even if he understood and could speak some Spanish words. Four Latino men stepped down from their vehicle, a dismembered school bus converted into a truck to allow easy loading and unloading of produce from the rear. Two of them moved ahead of the others and stood within an arm's length of Whitehorn. One, apparently of better education and a lighter brown complexion than the others, acted as their spokesman.
The vigilantes saw quickly that these weren't bandidos and eased their hands away from their weapons. The truck was loaded to the window sill with watermelon, lettuce and other produce. A fellow to Whitehorn's right named Jeff Reid who worked as a freelance journalist when he's not working vigilante with the group, took notes for a possible item in his next piece in the Little Rock Journal. He listened closely to the confrontation, wondering how this one might end up. He was glad they were, apparently, not bandidos but looking at the others behind the two, he wasn't exactly sure and kept himself alert to quickly drop the pen in his right hand and go for the snub-nosed 38 tucked in his pants behind him, in case he had to. The others who unloaded from one of the humvees, four other men, lined up behind the two, equally alert and ready for a fight any time to keep their state of Arkansas clear of these marauding Latinos.
"Go back," Whitehorn said casually as if that's all he had to say to make them do so. The Latino spokesman raised a hand at him, palm up in a conciliatory gesture, and was about to respond, say something to explain himself, but Whitehorn cut him off. "We don't want you here, you hear? You speak English? You understand English? Comprende?
"Jes, I speak eenglees, amigo," the spokesman responded.
"Don't amigo me, whatever your name is. I'm not your amigo. Go back to Texas, wherever you came from."
"But please, senor, we have costomers waitin' for our harvest."
"You have no business coming here! Nobody wants anything from you here or anywhere in the state of Arkansas." Whitehorn's voice had gone up several notches towards the end of that and before the Latino who was at least a foot shorter than his six-three could utter another word, he started poking him on the chest to push him back.
When they saw this, the rest of the Latinos in the bus-truck, five of them, jumped out and spread themselves close behind the others. The rest of the vigilantes in the other humvee, six of them, were just as quick at emptying from the vehicle, side arms drawn but pointing down, and positioned themselves on each side of their two lead men with a clear shot of the Latinos. Jeff Reid got busy with his pen and notepad.
The Latino spokesman, scared but not panicked, somehow found his voice: "Senores, please. You can not do thees. We are all Americans. Thees ees one contree we all belong to."
That drew a chorus of chuckles from the ones around Whitehorn and Reid.
"You? American?" Whitehorn mocked. "If you're American, I'm Chinese." More laughter around him.
"Senor," the Latino said, holding his ground three steps back where Whitehorn had pushed him. "I lived in thees contree twenty five year now. My parens brought me when I was ten year ole. Thees ees my contree like it ees yours."
"Oh, yeah? Show me some ID. All of you. You got immigration papers?"
There was a stirring among the Latinos behind their spokesman at the mention of the word 'immigration'. Some of them inched back slowly. One closest to the spokesman leaned forward and whispered: "La Migra?"
"No, no. Quedarse atras," (Stay back), the spokesman said and turning back to Whitehorn: "Senor, we don't want no trouble. Please let us through. We just wannu make thees delivery to our costomers, a few more miles. We carry no papers. Just like you. You don't have to carry no papers all the time."
"Darn right I don't. We don't have to carry papers. We were born and raised in this country. We belong in this country. This is our country. We have every right to be in this country. You don't. We're Americans. You're not. You put one foot across the border when nobody's looking and you call yourselves Americans? I don't think so. You are whatever the hell you are where you came from--Mexico, Guatemala, Ethiopia, El Salvador, India, Pakistan, wherever. Now I say one more time and I'm not going to say it again--go back!"
At that, the rest of the vigilantes raised their weapons, aiming directly at each one of the Latinos. Nothing more was said after that as Whitehorn and Reid stepped back behind the line that formed before the Latinos who had no choice but to get back in the bus-truck and head back on I-30 to Texas with their watermelons and produce.
In the Little Rock Journal three days later, Jeff Reid's piece read:
Vigilantes continue to help stem the flow of unwelcome Latinos into the state. Over the past weekend, a busload peddling watermelon and other produce was intercepted on Interstate Highway 30 west of Arkadelphia and made to turn around back to Texas. The group was headed by one who appeared to be a longtime U.S. resident, spoke well enough English to claim being an American but would not produce any identification paper when asked, even arguing that he is as much an American as any of us.
That brought to mind the question of 'What makes an American?'. Is it one's race? Language? Culture? Citizenship paper? Birthright?' Better yet--'Who is an American?' is it a white person born in America who speaks English? A non-white person born in America who speaks English? Any person born in America and speaks any language?
According to the Constitution, the primary requirement is one's birthright which means anyone born in America regardless of the circumstances of one's arrival into the world. Regardless of who the person's parents are. Their race, language, culture, religion, citizenship. This going by Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, one of the most shortsighted and severely harmful provisions, or lack of it, to the security of the country. Many attempts had been made over the years to repeal that section but none successfully.
The same holds true for an alien coming to America through the legal process of immigration--regardless of race, language, and the rest of that; again going by that Section 1.
In summary, through birthright and the process of legal immigration and eventual naturalization, one becomes a U.S citizen. But that doesn't really answer those two questions. The root of the problem, which no one is really prone to acknowledge, is that we, the perceived Americans born and raised in America never had an established national identity.
Are we one type of people or many types of people? From the point of view of a foreigner abroad, can one refer to any of us as simply an American? There are many types of people in America according to race, culture, language, religion and even ideology.
It is inarguable that to that foreigner abroad, a most distinguishing characteristic of an American is that one who speaks English and is an American citizen, regardless of race, religion and the rest of that. And this is where the distinction between being an American and being a U.S. citizen comes into focus.
From anyone's point of view, most importantly that of anyone outside America, an American is just that--a person born and raised in America who speaks English as the person's primary language. A person who is a U.S. citizen, on paper, and whose primary language is not English is just that--a U.S. citizen but may not be perceived as an American.
It appears then that we, Americans, do have the possibility of having a national identity, and that is being born and raised in this land and speaking English as our first and primary language.
Many attempts at making English the official national language of America the last two hundred years have been made, and failed. In that period of time in our history, this has proven to be one of the most, if not the most, lethal blows to the unity of the country, to the Union of the States or the United States of America, resulting in what we now have--a fragmented country, divided, segregated by race, culture and language.
Next to that which is even more devastating to the Union is the failure and the persistent reluctance of the federal government--to every natural-born American's disbelief--to secure the southern border, enforce the immigration law and implement a system to round up the millions of illegals in the country or cause them to self-deport.
It is mind-boggling. The national government itself, the body who is supposed to preserve and protect America, her sovereignty, freedom and distinct identity, would not do it. It had its chance many times over in the past. But now, with this current administration in power and a President of a hundred percent Mexican ancestry who spoke Spanish before he knew a word of English, it is too late.
America as the world knew her two, three hundred years ago is no more. But what we have left of it, however, we must preserve and protect; we, the true English-speaking natural-born Americans of America.
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