The Wife and I had high hopes for the Antelope Valley Freethinkers’ group meeting. We had such a great experience with the Rationalists of East Tennessee and we were really hoping for another group of that quality here. But there were trouble signs all the way and I’m not, or at least shouldn’t have been, surprised at how this turned out.
The organizer did not announce the venue on the website until the day of the event. I did not even know if there would be an event at all until I contacted him directly.
The event was scheduled for the night of Barack Obama’s speech, about the most-hyped political event of the entire campaign season so far.
And, it was going on during the Antelope Valley Fair. If you don’t live in the A.V. you may not realize the depressing effect of the Fair on other activities — it’s not that there’s nothing else to do up here. Obviously, in our case, we could have gone to the Freethinkers’ meeting instead. But the Fair is very well-marketed, enjoys a strong local reputation, and it’s only here for a few weeks. So if you manage to actually identify something else to do, the Fair still seems to beat it out.
When we got there, the meeting room at the back side of the restaurant was split off and there was a sales seminar for people trying to sell some kind of direct-marketing travel agency things. (They had poor turnout for their event, too.)
And then — one guy showed up. Nice enough fellow, I suppose, but there was only one other guy there aside from The Wife and me. And he was an illegal immigration fanatic. You know the type — the ones who attribute functionally every problem in society to the invasion of illegal immigrants our corrupt government has invited in but refuses to pay for because, you know, someone sat down and made a conscious decision that things should be that way.
Too much urban crime? That’s because it’s all the illegal immigrants doing those crimes. Not enough jobs? The illegals took them all. (There’s a lot of illegal immigrants out there prowling the courthouse corridors poaching work from native-born American lawyers, I can tell you!) Our educational standards are down? That’s because the teachers have to deal with all the illegal aliens’ kids. They’re the ones who won’t make eye contact with the teachers, refuse to speak English, have $200 cell phones and drive to school in Escalades paid for by section 8 vouchers. Racial tension? That’s because we have all these illegal immigrants around and they don’t like white people. War in Iraq? Well, that’s what the illegal immigrants are here for, so they can fight our wars for us. Not enough medical care and what is there is too expensive? That’s because illegal aliens are swamping our emergency rooms and not paying. Budget deficit? If we didn’t have to pay for social services for all those illegal immigrants, and they paid taxes like good Americans do, we wouldn’t have a budget deficit in the first place. Lengthy delay in releasing the second half of the last season of Battlestar Galactica? I’m sure illegal immigrants are somehow at fault for that, too. The list goes on and on and on and there’s no talking to them about how maybe the problems may lie, in part, with some home-grown issues we haven’t sorted out yet. Whatever our own domestic shortcomings, they’re nothing compared to the terrible burden imposed by illegal immigration.
Such types are also very, very quick to point out that they don’t have any problem at all with people who come here legally or within the system. But when you suggest that the system might be changed to accomodate more people in response to the overwhelming demand for jobs and get those people in the system, they panic and look at you like you’re some kind of a traitor. So conversations about politics are ultimately quite dull, and the conversation inevitably turns to politics no matter what you do.
Well, that’s not quite true. When the guy found out I was a lawyer, he did have a “bad divorce” story, complete with a bunch of incompetent and ineffectual lawyers and biased judges. …But his lawyer was really good. (Stop me when you’ve heard this one before, TL, but– STOP.)
The subject didn’t really come up so much but I’m not sure that what he meant by “freethinker” was the same thing The Wife and I did. We were hoping to meet some new people who wanted to look at the world from a secular, naturalistic, and rational point of view, people with whom we could be socially comfortable with our irreligiousity. (We would have been better off going to our regular Thursday night dinner for that.) Oddly, we found ourselves feeling somewhat awkward about explaining to others in the restaurant what we were there for, especially the travel agents. This makes me think that “freethinkers” may not be the best sort of word.
But our companion at the freethinkers’ meeting seemed to be looking for people with unusual opinions about different kinds of issues, so he could explain to them how illegal immigration was really the problem they were concerned with.