My daughter’s Spanish class has spent the last couple of days watching a movie. I know many people who learned English by watching American television, so I don’t have a problem with using movies as a teaching device. I do, however, have a big problem with the movie chosen — La Misma la Luna — which is a movie that uses the travails of a charming and pathetic little boy to make the case that our laws against illegal immigrants are cruel:
The film tells the story of Rosario (del Castillo), a mother who emigrated illegally to the United States, and her nine-year-old son, Carlitos (Alonso). Rosario and Carlitos have not seen each other in four years, when Carlitos was only five. Rosario, now living in Los Angeles, California, calls her son, still in Mexico, every Sunday. Carlitos lives in a small Mexican village with his sick grandmother. Carlitos encounters two immigrant transporters, Marta (Ferrera) and David (Garcia). When his grandmother passes away, he crosses the border with them. After getting separated, Carlitos continues the journey, pairing up with another illegal immigrant named Enrique. Although Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) initially refuses to help Carlitos, he soon grows a bond with him. One day, Carlitos is sleeping on a park bench and almost gets caught by the police but Enrique throws food at the police, getting caught instead. Carlitos flees and arrives at the bus stop from which his mother called him. He sees her across the street at the payphone, and they are reunited at last.
This is not just me being a conservative contrarian, with a knee-jerk reaction to anything that depicts illegal immigrants positively or American immigration policies negatively. Even the New York Times figured out that this movie is pro-immigration propaganda (although, typically, the Times writer seems most upset about the fact that the propaganda is too obvious to be effective):
“Under the Same Moon,” an “Incredible Journey” for the socially conscience-stricken, arrives in theaters trailing a standing ovation from last year’s Sundance Film Festival and more than a whiff of sanctimony. And even allowing that Sundance audiences are notoriously unreliable arbiters of quality — for every “Spanking the Monkey,” there’s a “Spitfire Grill” and a “Quinceañera” — their wholehearted embrace of this manipulative, saccharin product is dispiriting.
This is screenwriting by numbers. Unlike, say, Ken Loach’s marvelous “Bread and Roses,” “Under the Same Moon” is too busy sanctifying its protagonists and prodding our tear ducts to say anything remotely novel about immigration policies or their helpless victims. The filmmakers know that middlebrow movie audiences prefer their thorny social issues served lite and with a side order of ham, an opportunity to shed happy tears and enjoy a guilt-free drive home to the (let us hope, legal) baby sitter.
“Under the Same Moon” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has bad white people, hard-working brown people and morally ambivalent people of mixed race. (Emphasis mine.)
So here we have a movie that is such obvious propaganda that even people who agree with the message are offended by it, and this is the movie our local middle school chooses to show the 11, 12 and 13 year olds who are taking Spanish.
The fact that it’s being taught in a Spanish class is important. Theoretically, if it was being taught in a Social Studies class, it would be part of a discussion about illegal immigration, national sovereignty, secure borders, social policy, etc. (I say “theoretically” because, in American schools today, it’s just as likely to be used as a stirring battle cry to man the barricades against the INS agents). In Spanish class, however, the kids just take it as it comes, all the while identifying with the plucky little boy separated from his mother only by America’s cruel laws. The only bow to addressing the issue was a question, “What do you think of illegal immigration?” which the kids had to answer in their beginner Spanish. My daughter, bless her heart, replied, “I think it’s a bad idea.”
The fact is that, whether the issue is illegal immigration, gay rights, or national security, there are always going to be people in a minority situation who do not benefit from the legal status quo and who are, in fact, hurt by it. I’d be willing to bet that most (although certainly not all) illegal immigrants who come here are decent, hard-working people, who truly want to make a better life for themselves and their families. Their sad stories, though, don’t change the fact that, collectively, their presence here is damaging to America’s well-being, nor do they change the fact that there is nothing morally wrong or unjust about a country protecting its borders, preserving its national sovereignty, and enforcing its laws.
The Left’s appeal to emotions — especially with kids as the symbol and the target — is what happens when you have a perpetually moving moral touchstone. I’m reading Paul Johnson’s masterful A History of the Jews right now, and found interesting his discussion about the Jewish belief in a single all-powerful God who articulates huge moral precepts (and a bunch of very specific contractual rules), as opposed to the Pagan gods, who were completely random. They were not fixed in name, location, principles, or anything. Morality, such as it was, was always decided by the whim of the moment of the God of the moment. There were rules, but there was no justice, at least as we understand it.
The same holds true with Leftist political positions, which emanate from feelings, not from fixed principles. Whoever feels most strongly wins. Sometimes those strong feelings march with morality, justice, common sense, and societal needs; and sometimes they don’t. But they’re so seldom grounded in anything more than “I feel your pain.” (Incidentally, I’m not arguing that beliefs grounded in traditional Judeo-Christian principles can’t and shouldn’t change. The Jews themselves are a perfect example of moral and doctrinal development over the centuries. I’m just arguing for fixed points other than “I feel your pain,” at least when we’re contemplating remaking society.)
Emotional angst is an especially good propaganda tool for young people. Pre-teens and early teens live in a flurry of emotions anyway. They are reasonable creatures, but that’s not their first response to any situation. It takes work, patience, information and intelligence to create a fact-based, reasoned argument that will be comprehensible to a very young adult. On the other hand, pathetic pictures of puppies, big-eyed kids and bad guys are instant winners for the younger set. I hope that Scott Brown’s victory, which resulted from independent Americans really seeing the Left for the first time, marks a culture shift that has Americans more vigilant about the creeping Leftism, not in D.C., but in every school in America.
(I should add here that I acquit my children’s school of intentionally using this film as propaganda qua propaganda. For these people, imbued in a Leftist world view, this movie is as American as Superman insofar as it has clearly delineated and, to them, entirely appropriately drawn good guys and bad guys.)