Musings on the Coast

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The Immigrant

By Michael Ray
By Michael Ray

I continually have promised myself I will not write about frigging D. Trump. Or think about him. I promised myself and I will keep that promise.

Instead I want to discuss my friend at the local cove, George. He is about 50, fit, more than well off, and of a humor that is misanthropic but wry and dry. He is from Honduras, which is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and has suffered political and economic chaos. Think of being a pawn in the world’s great power struggles. Think “extra-judicial” renditions, torture and executions.

George’s family fled when he was 12.

Time passed. George’s real name is Jorge, but he changed the spelling to George because he got tired of spelling “j-o-r-g-e” so that people would get it right. More time passed. Now he goes to Starbucks, orders, tells them his name is George, and when the drink arrives his name on the cup is spelled Jorge.

He just smiles at this. Shakes his head. It is what it is.

By whatever name, Jorge worked hard and became a successful SoCal businessman who hires others and lives in Laguna.

I was at my cove last Sunday. Locals where enjoying an afternoon of good sunshine. I dragged my kayak down, attached the seat straps, stretched and took off. It was my first time in several weeks because the weather had been lousy. But Sunday the sun broke through and the itch was too strong, so I kayaked out and back. For good measure, I dove into the shore break and then sat next to George/Jorge in a beach chair.

I wanted to discuss why the average age of death for U.S. white males is deteriorating. For older white males whose jobs have been globalized, early death is an epidemic. They’re stuck. Their jobs are gone, never to return. It is easy to blame China because it is such a big target, but it is way more than one country or continent. Globalization affects every country on planet Earth, and old white males in the United States are among the losers.

They see declining standards all around themselves and for all their friends. Everyone is depressed and there is little to do.   So they drink enormously and die from alcoholism.   Further, they recently have discovered the oblivion of prescription opiates, and abuse them too, and die from overdoses.

Then there is suicide. The rate jumped 40 percent in 10 years.

Among the three—alcoholism, opiate addiction, and suicide—older white males are killing themselves in increasing patterns.

George interrupts me, “Why don’t they move?”

My question back, “Who?”

“The old white guys.   Why don’t they move?”

“Okay,” I say. “Suppose you were an auto parts assembler from a plant in Alabama and the plant no longer exists. You mean move to Orange County with no employable skills? Are you kidding?”

“Forget Orange County. They could move to Texas or Colorado. They have choices. White males always have choices.”

Pause. He stared intently at the ocean, then, “What about the Syrians?   You think they want to be refugees?” Then he looked at me with something of a rage.

I had to say something, “But the old white guys were globalized so quickly, and they’re so many millions of them.”

He looked away, pivoted back. “Everything always changes. It always has. You can’t expect no change. That is stupid.” He meant stupid as in willingly stupid, whining, save-me-stupid.

“You wanna know who is just as bad?” he asked. “Kids. Recent college graduates. They’re lazy. I offered one a much higher salary, but it took more work. He declined. He was happy getting by with as little effort as possible.”

He looked again at me with that rage, but I interrupted. “Come on, older generations always say that about the younger generation.” His rage stopped, but his scorn did not.

Our talk drifted from there. He was done for the day. I drifted, too. We watched the tide rise and with it the surf, and then we were counting nine guys out in our tiny break.   Hmmm, I thought, our Pacific, it was why we were here.

So there you have it, an American success story from an immigrant whose family moved to escape. And with it you have Jorge’s opinions all neatly presented to you as though they were obvious.

And I made it all the way through without conjuring D. Trump once.


Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many non-profits.


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