Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Will our legislators fall for trash talk?

Lately, I have been stumbling quite a bit on cable television channels on the film “Red Tails” – the one that came out about a year ago and told the story of the “Tuskegee Airmen” who had to prove their ability to serve as combat fighter pilots during the Second World War.

It has several scenes of white military officers who are determined to justify their opposition to black pilots based on various studies that we now realize were nothing more than cockamamie nonsense.

TOO MANY PEOPLE wanted their prejudices reinforced, so they came up with stupid-talk studies that were the alleged “proof” of the ineptitude of black men in the Army Air Force.

During this upcoming week, we’re going to hear quite a bit about an issue that could get considered by our General Assembly – that of permitting the Illinois secretary of state’s office to issue driver’s licenses to non-citizens.

The conservative ideologues of our society have always hated the idea because the driver’s license (in addition to signifying that someone passed the state driver’s test) is also the most commonly-accepted form of identification in our society.

Letting these people without a valid visa have a driver’s license grants them a certain legitimacy in our society that the ideologues are determined to have.

SO THERE WILL be opposition to this idea when it comes up both in the state Senate and (if it passes there) Illinois House of Representatives. There will also be significant amounts of rhetoric against the idea.
Will the Statehouse remain as "in the dark" on immigrant driver's licenses as it was in this century-old postcard?

And sure enough, there are signs that much of the opposition being spoken this week is going to have the potential to be as stupid-sounding as the anti-black attitudes toward fighter pilots was all those decades ago.

There’s the Illinois Insurance Association, which is saying in all earnestness that many large-scale insurance companies will not want to sell auto insurance to non-citizen drivers.

As though they can’t possibly be as qualified to operate an automobile as a U.S.-born individual who walks into a driver testing facility seeking a license. Even if they do manage to pass the same test that all other drivers have to take if they want to be able to operate an automobile legally.

ALTHOUGH I’M NOT as offended at the idea that a company such as State Farm or Allstate will turn down such business. It’s their own financial loss. Either they’ll come around to their senses, or else take a financial hit. Let them suffer if they can’t be sensible.

But I have to admit that the insurance industry’s hesitation is downright mild compared to the ideologues, who have put together their own video advertisement urging people to pressure their legislators to vote “no.”

I don’t know that they have the money to put this advertisement on television. Although they may just try to get similar ideologues to view it on YouTube and consider it a “success” that they spread their “message.”

Which is that they don’t want these “foreigners” being able to drive, or do much of anything else in this country.

THEY’RE GOING TO be the people who will show up at the Statehouse in Springfield and hold a rally in the rotunda to try to scare legislators into voting against the idea – which is one that really makes sense in that it further encourages those people now living here without a valid visa to come of society’s shadows and live openly.

The fact that these people are going out of their way to remind us of a 1994 automobile accident near Milwaukee involving a Mexican ethnic truck driver that killed six children helps further undermine their case. It also reinforces my belief that the ideologues real resentment of George Ryan (who was secretary of state at the time this driver got his license) was politically partisan – rather than any concern for public safety.

If anything, granting such licenses to qualified drivers is going to encourage more safe behavior in so many ways – including behind the steering wheel of an automobile.

Giving in to the ideological harangues of those whose view of our society has the stink of nativism to it is what ultimately will hold us back – and give us roads that are less safe with unqualified drivers out and about on them.

HERE’S HOPING OUR senators and representatives have enough sense to realize that basic truth and don’t fall for the trash talk they’re going to be exposed to this week.

Although betting on a legislator (or any political person) to show signs of intelligence is never a safe bet!


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