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The Daily Banter Mail Bag! The Language of Immigration, Remembering Roger Ebert and Love Triangles!

In this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mailbag Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the language of immigration, Roger Ebert and whether you can be in love with two people at the same time!

Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mailbag! Today, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss immigration, Roger Ebert and whether you can be in love with two people at the same time.

The questions:

1) How do you feel about the Associated Press striking the term "illegal immigrant" from its style guidelines?
-- Carlos

Chez: I realize I'll get crap for this -- or at the very least I'll have to listen to the usual cries of "white privilege" -- but it concerns me when people cave on language for political reasons. Yes, "illegal immigrant" is an iffy phrase because it sounds like you're saying that a person is illegal but what you're really talking about is that person's immigration status. If you illegally emigrated to a country, you're an illegal immigrant, the same way that if you drive without a license you're an illegal driver. Now, is the term used as a dog whistle for the right and is it aimed more at Hispanic immigrants than anyone else? Absolutely. Is it possible that since it's really just a case of semantics it's a good idea to come up with a term that doesn't so easily feed bigotry? Yes. But those who are saying that the phrase in and of itself is insulting, well, when it's used properly -- and no one's saying that every person in this country without documents is here illegally -- no it's not. It's reality. I'm certainly not saying that what the AP is doing is wrong, only that a serious debate needs to be had every time political pressure is applied by an aggrieved party in an effort to stop people from using a word or words. Sometimes, it's justified. Sometimes, it's simply a case of frivolous political correctness.

Bob: I have many personal rules about language, and two of those rules are as follows. 1) If a group of people determine that the cultural title given to them is offensive and they'd prefer something else, I absolutely abide by that choice. It's not up to me, especially as a member of the white male majority, to decide what other people, especially minorities, find offensive or acceptable. It's their call. I dare anyone to call me out for being politically correct, by the way. I see it as a matter of respect and courtesy. And, 2) Language that's more specific is always better. "Undocumented worker" is more specific than "illegal immigrant" since, among other things, a person can't really be illegal. Running a red light is illegal, the driver who does it isn't called an "illegal driver." Entering the country without going through the immigration process is an illegal act. The person, or group of people, aren't illegal. Are the babies "illegal babies" or the old people "illegal grannies?" It's a clunky term.

Ben: I'm not sure the immigration issue is going to be resolved by changing the language around it. I mean, it's I nice gesture and all, but, er, what's the point? 'Illegal Immigrant' is a technical term that accurately describes immigrants who are in the country illegally. Sure there are negative connotations surrounding it, but they are actually breaking the law, so isn't it sort of justified? This isn't to say I'm not sympathetic to the hundreds of thousands of people here who have escaped terrible situations back home and are trying to make an honest living - I really am, and I don't think the media treats them very fairly. Who knows, maybe it will help, but I'm guessing it just gives more fuel to the Right who will paint this as political correctness gone mad.

2) It's really sad to hear that Roger Ebert died. So how long do you think it'll take conservatives to gloat since Ebert spent the last few years criticizing them and their politics?
-- Ted

Bob: If any of the usual suspects engage in such a thing, I hope the karma is itchy and painful. Roger Ebert displayed heroic courage and optimism beyond anything I can imagine given his circumstances and he deserves respect and accolades from everyone, regardless of politics.

Ben: I'm giving Rush Limbaugh about 24 hours, so that means he'll probably start today.

Chez: Very sad about Ebert. I grew up watching him and Gene Siskel. Their show was probably the first that made me realize there were people out there who loved movies the way I did. I know that for a while there were some in the conservative commentary peanut gallery who made cancer jokes because they didn't like the things Ebert was writing about them, but I'm going to give the right the benefit of the doubt and hope that only the dumbest and most crass among them take that tack right now.

3) Is it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
-- J

Chez: When you're in bed with them, sure.

Bob: I don't know. I suppose, but it's not within my own capabilities.

Ben: Depends on the person. Personally? No. And I honestly think that it's genetic - I'm pretty much wired that way. I know a lot of people who aren't like that, and I think it's for the same reason - they're just built that way. No ones fault really, but it can cause a lot of pain. I guess that's what love is all about though isn't it? Not a whole lot you can do about it, even if it's two people.


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