SAN DIEGO – I’m proud to be an American. But there are days when my countrymen don’t make it easy.
We’ve become a nation of wimps. Grandma and Grandpa were made of sturdier stock. They weathered the Great Depression, and had enough strength left over to fight and defeat evil in World War II.
These days, everything scares us. An elementary school goes into lockdown if someone finds a peanut in the cafeteria. Some parents would like to encase their kids in bubble wrap.
We’re even afraid of Super Bowl commercials. The Fox network was too scared of what would happen if it aired the full and uncut version of a beautiful ad from 84 Lumber about a mother and daughter taking a special trip. Braving the elements, the two of them arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border only to find that the welcome mat has been removed. Or has it? There’s an imposing wall, but there’s also an impressive door.
The commercial is a masterpiece that manages to humanize immigrants at a time when too many people want to demonize them.
Yet, the corporate suits at Fox decided that viewers weren’t mature enough to handle this material. After all, the topic of immigration scares the whole country. Always has.
There’s a paradox. Who do you think is cleaning up in the kitchen while we’re watching the game?
“Maria, could you clear these dishes … ?”
What exactly was Fox trying to protect us from? Reality?
In the end, the network ran a shorter and safer version of the ad that wasn’t as good as the original because it chopped off the best part: the ending. Meanwhile, the company directed viewers online to see the entire commercial. So many people visited the website that it crashed.
That’s when the fear spread to the public relations folks at 84 Lumber, who spent the evening doing damage control. On social media, the corporate flaks insisted that the company “does not condone illegal immigration.” One tweet even described the ad as a “symbolic celebration of a journey that ends with becoming legal U.S. citizens.”
Sure, the mother and daughter’s journey could end that way. Of course, it could also end with them being scooped up by the Border Patrol and sent back to their village in Mexico.
And now that more people have seen the full version of the ad, it’s the company’s turn to be afraid – of pushback, harassing phone calls, hate mail, talk radio tantrums, maybe even a boycott by those who want a closed border to match their state of mind. All things that make corporate folks nervous.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, 84 Lumber’s president and owner Maggie Hardy Magerko, said: “Even President Trump has said there should be a ‘big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.’ It’s not about the wall. It’s about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them.”
Don’t tell me. Tell Trump, who recently let the cat out of the bag when he talked about reforming the visa and green card programs to protect U.S. workers. In an attempt to please both nativists on the right and unionists on the left, he is going after legal immigrants.
After all, who do these people from India, China, Mexico, and a host of other countries think they are anyway? How dare they inconvenience American laborers by making them get up earlier, move faster, work harder and log more hours?
When you watch the full commercial, you understand why Americans try to keep out immigrants – for our own survival. Many of the newcomers have qualities that terrify us. They’re better than us, stronger, more optimistic, more willing to sacrifice, and have a fiercer work ethic.
The daughter in the ad spends the journey collecting strips of paper that she weaves into a tattered version of the Stars and Stripes. The message: Immigrants “get” the whole point of America, because they’re it. The commercial ends with an even more powerful tagline: “The will to succeed is always welcome here.”
Still, Americans don’t welcome the competition.
So, on Nov. 8, in desperation, we hired a protector to look out for our interests. His name is Donald Trump.
For that error in judgment, and for letting our fear get the better of us, we ought to be ashamed.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.