Long Story Short: Watch your back

7/2/18



illustration by JP Thimot

 

We have met the enemy and he is us 

Note how close Buffalo is to Canada. So close in fact, that some of us can see it from our porches. Residents living near the Peace Bridge complain of diesel fumes caused by the endless line of eighteen-wheelers carrying goods back and forth between the US and Canada. And, of course, Canadians stream into Buffalo daily, nearly unimpeded (much as we stream into Ontario). We used to think of all this trade and tourism as good for our economy, but not anymore. Canada is now the enemy. How do we know? Because President Trump implemented trade tariffs on our former ally, which he can only do if it’s a matter of “national security.” That’s right, Canada poses a clear and present danger to the security of the United States, because of unfair trade practices.

 

Technically, Canada has had a trade deficit with the United States since 1985. The most recent figures put US exports to Canada at $320.1 billion dollars, while imports were $307.6 billion dollars. But those are facts. And when has our president ever let facts get in the way of unilateral actions? By supplying the US with steel, aluminum, and lumber at the best prices, Canada has been artificially keeping the cost of things like cars, buildings, and housing down everywhere here, including Buffalo.

 

Thanks to Trump’s tariffs on select Canadian goods, the Great White North will no longer hinder US inflation, which has been unusually low for years now. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders says the average cost of single-family homes in the United States has already gone up $9000 due to the tariffs. (Soaring house prices are evidence of a booming economy.)

 

Let’s not shed tears for Canada, though. After all, as Trump remarked to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, didn’t they burn down the White House? (No, the British did that in 1814, but, again, why let facts get in the way?) Trump has called Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak,” not to mention “indignant, bringing up the relationship that the US and Canada had over the many years.” Right, how dare Trudeau raise the history of our countries’ long cooperative alliance (symbolized by the Peace Bridge) in a discussion about our national security? Trump will win this trade war even if it means throwing our former ally into recession and causing precipitous inflation on this side of the border.

 

The immigrants are coming; the immigrants are coming

As anyone who’s seen a Trump rally, or read his Twitter feed knows, people entering the US from other countries are usually enemies. Trump warns us that MS-13 gang members are flooding into the country in unprecedented numbers. The irony is that MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by children of Salvadoran immigrants, who fled a brutal civil war largely funded by the United States. We exported this product of the Great Society to Central America, where the gang really took hold. Now we must keep them out at all costs, even though MS-13 represents a miniscule fraction of gang members in the US. Then there are the Muslims. Trump relishes every opportunity to label them “radical Islamic terrorists,” further inflaming anti-American sentiments in the Middle East.  

 

Over the years, Buffalo has welcomed thousands of Immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees into Western New York—including Muslims. While the US-born population of Western New York declined by 4.9 percent over fourteen years, our foreign-born population grew by 32.3 percent, stemming the region’s earlier population decline. Immigrants are starting businesses and reviving struggling neighborhoods. About twice as many (45%) of Buffalo’s adult immigrants have a bachelor’s degree than do native-born residents (23.2%).  

 

I’ve met many of these resettled foreigners—Muslims included—and they are all so extremely nice, and helpful! It makes you wonder, what’s their angle? In 2014 alone, foreign-born residents contributed $3.1 billion to the Buffalo region’s gross domestic product; paid $632 million dollars in federal, state, and local taxes; paid $146.4 million dollars to Social Security; and paid $42.1 million dollars to Medicare. According to a study by New American Economy (comprising Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders), “between 2000 and 2014, Buffalo’s increase in the foreign-born population raised the total housing value in metro Buffalo by $964.5 million.” The study also found that (as of 2014) there were “2,691 foreign-born entrepreneurs in Buffalo, and their businesses generated $121 million in business income in 2014.” So far, Buffalo’s immigrants have had much more violence and crime perpetrated against them than they have caused (echoing national statistics indicating immigrant populations are less likely to commit crimes than natural born citizens).

 

Clearly, this is some sort of plot.

 

Nearly one in twenty Buffalo residents are now foreign born. Where do they come from? Burma, Bhutan, Somali, Iraq, Liberia, Vietnam, Sudan, India, China, Ukraine, Eritrea, Yemen, Cuba, and other Latino countries, among others. Perceptive readers will no-doubt note that a few of these places are listed on President Trump’s travel ban, which was just upheld by the Supreme Court. Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies, reduced immigration caps, and the travel ban have already dramatically stemmed the tide of immigrants to Buffalo, threatening to move the region toward its previous rate of decline.

 

Side note: there is no better place to keep an eye on Buffalo’s immigrants than at the West Side Bazaar on Grant Street. These affable small-business owners offer a variety of mouthwatering food from travel-banned and un-banned countries, along with exotic gifts and hand-made crafts. They have been so successful (see yelp reviews), that they have outgrown their current location and are looking for a bigger facility. And though they immigrated here legally, often as refugees fleeing extreme danger, to reach the promise of freedom in the United States, our government says our immigration system does not work for the American people. Forget that since World War II, the United States has been the world’s leader in resettling refugees, and that the need is perhaps greater than ever; the leader of the free world places US sovereignty ahead of humanitarian commitments.

 

The media among us

I have saved “our country’s biggest enemy” for last.  The President has branded almost all journalism as “fake news.” “Mainstream media is really dishonest,” he bellows to cheering crowds, “Reporters are really dishonest, especially political reporters.”

 

And once again, Buffalo is at the epicenter of this war against America by the dishonest media. WBFO (88.6 FM) is the National Public Radio (NPR) station in Western New York, and it has the largest radio newsroom in the region—which means it is the greatest enemy of the state. WBFO has won more Associated Press awards than any other radio station—public or commercial—in New York State. In fact, it recently won nine first-place awards from the NYS Associated Press, including Outstanding News Operation for the fifth straight year. It also recently won four awards in the annual New York State Broadcasters Association's competition. Notice who is giving these awards? The Associated Press and the New York State Broadcasters Association, i.e., the media—ergo, the enemy.

 

Fortunately for America, Trump is winning the war on this front. A survey by the Writers Guild of America found that forty-six percent of news journalists say the President’s attacks have impacted them. Others suggested that the environment for political journalism has become more difficult. And trust in the media has decreased since Trump began his attacks—at least among Republicans.

 

To determine whether a news source is reliable and not an enemy of the state, apply this simple test: if the story seems negative toward Trump, it’s fake news, regardless of the facts, because the fact-checkers are also the media. If a story seems unbiased, it’s also fake news, because being unbiased means there was something in the story that was critical of Trump. If the story portrays Trump in glowing terms, it is “fair and balanced.” NPR has been independently judged to be politically close to center.

 

So, enemy.

 

 

The First Purge comes home

This Tuesday, July 3, at 7 p.m., the movie The First Purge will premiere at the North Park Theater, followed by a national release on Independence Day. Tee shirt and hat giveaways (more on those hats later) will be part of the festivities. The premiere celebrates one of the largest film productions ever mounted in the city of Buffalo.

 

The movie—the fourth in the very successful Purge series—was shot in numerous interior and exterior locations around town, employing hundreds of local extras. If you watch the film trailer carefully, you can spot Buffalo’s Electric Tower in the distance of one cobblestone district scene, and another shot features looming grain elevators in the background (director Gerard McMurray says he enjoyed the smell of Cheerios).

 

The plot of the Purge movies revolves around a simple, though highly improbable, premise: In the near future, Americans are allowed to commit any crime—even murder—for a twelve-hour period once a year. You know, to get it out of our systems. In the movie, Buffalo stands in for Staten Island, where the First Purge takes place as an experiment in extreme social mollification. McMurray says he liked the vibe of our city, all its nooks and crannies. That probably means the locations he chose were suitably dark and grungy. This may not be the movie you want to tell out-of-towners to see to appreciate Buffalo’s beauty.

 

Political satire for our times?

All of the Purge movies have had an element of political satire. The third one, called The Purge: Election Year, had the tagline "Keep America Great." Donald Trump has since said this will be his 2020 campaign slogan (which is eerily ominous). An early poster for the current movie simply displayed a red ballcap with the film’s title in the style of Trump's "Make America Great Again" hats. And the July 4 release date is no coincidence. The group that kicks off the Purge in the movie is known as the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA).

 

A 2016 article in Forbes calls The Purge trilogy “the political satire of our time, for our time.” Author Scott Mendelson says, “that’s what makes The Purge franchise so noteworthy, warts and all, as a wholly mainstream, multiplex-friendly piece of cinematic political criticism.” He argues that “The general idea was that ‘Purge Night’ encouraged the right/white/male citizens to declare war on those they deemed inferior by nature of gender, race, religion, etc. while encouraging the poor to wipe each other out.” The premise is farfetched, but, given recent events, there is a certain resonance. 

 

 

Buffalo: Little Hollywood

Besides The First Purge, numerous other movies have recently been shot at least partly in Buffalo. Most are small, independent films. Some go right to cable. Here’s a list:

The American Side (Noir mystery set in Buffalo, 80% Rotten Tomatoes.)
Dwelling (Suitably creepy horror film not set in Buffalo; critics like it; audiences not as much.)
Clover (Not yet released.)
The True Adventures of Wolfboy (Not yet released. Heads up: not a horror film but watch for this; advance word is it may be something special.)
Cold Brook (To be released later this year.)
Stage Fright (This supposed slasher movie parody for Lifetime TV, aired in January 2017, was not well reviewed.)
Marshall (An excellent Thurgood Marshall biopic—if you haven’t seen it, catch it on demand.)
Malasia (Not yet released. Notable for being partly shot in Buffalo Arts Studio.)
S.T.A.R (Space Traveling Alien Reject) Made by Buffalo-based DefTone Pictures Studios. The alien is a puppet that makes Alf look sophisticated—'nuf said.)
Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields (Christmas “video music album” can be streamed on vevo.com.)
A Christmas in Vermont (Predictable Christmas schlock set in Vermont; aired on ION Television in November 2016.)
Two for One (Set partly in Buffalo; as far as I can tell, it was only shown at the Napa Valley Film Festival.)

 

 

Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

 

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