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Columnists

It’s Time to Establish the Second-Greatest Generation

Americans born between 1901 and 1924 (give or take a couple of years, depending on the source) are collectively referred to as the Greatest Generation, because of the sacrifices they made for good of country. They risked life and limb to battle Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hirohito’s Japan and thereby save the world for democracy. Many considered that the pinnacle of selflessness, thus dubbing them the greatest generation of all.

America is currently facing another threat: our alarmingly porous Southern border. It’s a bona fide crisis that erodes not only our national culture, but our security and overall quality of life. That’s why we need another nationwide movement of selfless sacrifice, placing country ahead of self. However, because what we’d risk this time around pales in comparison to the challenges met and conquered by our World War II-era counterparts, I suggest we label ourselves, if successful in our undertaking, merely the second-greatest generation.

Donald Trump speaks about mass deportations in a second term, causing hysteria not only among social justice warriors, who champion the plight of transnational trespassers, but also the Wall Street Journal crowd, who’s bottom line is maximum profit at almost any cost. That so many who don’t take Trump seriously take him literally never fails to amuse. But I tend to be an optimist, so here’s to hoping Trump actually follows through on his mass deportations promise and it doesn’t turn out to be just a campaign bloviation.

One of the Journal’s longstanding columnists, William Galston, worries that if Trump truly deports thousands upon thousands of PHIs (Persons Here Illegally), it will hurt the economy, because the American-born college kid waiting tables in a restaurant won’t have any food to serve, since no one will be in the kitchen to do the gruntwork (‘Mass Deportations Would Be a Disaster’, Wall Street Journal, May 29). Galston epitomizes the conventional – and flawed – theory of would-be cultural anthropologists, who insist that no person born on U.S. soil will mop floors, lay bricks, or pick oranges. But they ignore the timeless principles of supply and demand: the better working conditions are, the more people will want to work.

To illustrate, let’s consider the fictitious George, a Greek-American diner owner. Along with the Americans George employs on the books, he pays three Central American PHIs – Diego, Juan, and Osvaldo – off the books. Then, suddenly, due to Trump’s policies, George’s PHI trio is deported, and there’s no one sling hash and wash the dishes. George puts out the feelers to recruit more PHIs, but they’re all gone. Swept away by Trump’s newly created Army subdivision called the Repatriation Regiment.
George tries local colleges, hoping some undergrads in search of beer money for the weekend would be willing to put in a few hours. No such luck. These kids can’t play games or surf social media on their phones while their hands are in dishwater – so they’ll just sponge off of mom and dad. Sure, there’s the undereducated single mom who needs to pay the bills, but she can make more driving an Uber than being subjected to the abusive language of a megalomaniacal male sole proprietor. And even if George bucks that trend and is a kindly and respectful boss, the reputation in the industry is such that few with other choices want the job. That’s why Help Wanted signs in restaurants nowadays are as commonplace as the silverware.
George finally realizes he can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. He substantially increases the wages for dishwashers and short order cooks. He even provides plans to assist with college tuition. His disposition becomes sweet. He’s sympathetic to his employees’ needs, and is generous in feeding them well. In fact, he gives large discounts to their entire families when they dine there.
All of that deeply cuts into George’s profits. To make ends meet, he sells his boat. He trades in his Mercedes for a Kia. He doesn’t take his family to Greece every year anymore. He buys a flip phone instead of a smartphone. He gives up satellite TV. And he doesn’t take the kids to Disney World; they can watch Mickey Mouse at home on TV.

Even with all those sacrifices, George still has to raise prices at the diner to offset the overhead he endures by paying Diego’s, Juan’s, and Osvaldo’s American-born successors so much more. Those price increases affect Mary, who lives in the neighborhood and has been a regular at George’s diner for years. Mary can no longer afford to eat at George’s four days a week; she cuts it to one day a week and skips breakfast the other days, bringing a protein shake to work instead.

To Americans who think all of that is giving up a lot, I suggest a trip to their progenitors’ native homeland – whether that be Greece, the Philippines, or Puerto Rico. Because whenever I go to Greece and experience what food is really supposed to taste like (where the French fries need no ketchup and the shrimp need no cocktail sauce), swim in waters too beautiful to describe with mere words, and marvel at the simplicity of small islands whose magic hasn’t yet been tainted by technology, I realize that America’s pleasures are mostly rooted in decadence: a thousand channels, sprawling supermarkets, and toy drones.
On second thought, maybe George’s and Mary’s sacrifices aren’t that big at all. Certainly not when considering what they – and the rest of us – would regain in return: a country. A true country. Because, like him or not, when Trump says “if we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country,” he’s 100 percent right.

 

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