I dialed up the venerable Phoenix costume and party supply store Easley's Costumes and Fun Shop to see if they had one of the illegal alien outfits currently causing a stir, and if anyone was raising Cain about it. I spoke with one of the owners Carol Easley, and she informed me that they had started with haf a dozen, but quickly sold out. She says people have been asking for it, though.
"It was funny, a play on words," Easley said of the orange-jumpsuit wearing "illegal" space alien with a green card. "I think people need to get a life."
Generally, I agree with Easley about this year's most politically incorrect Halloween outfit, which has been yanked from Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens, etc. The costume retailed for $34.95, and was fairly mild compared to some of the other costumes you can purchase out there. Also, there was more than a little fake outrage in some lefty quarters over the garb. Particularly, since the same play on the word "alien" has been used by activists to lampoon the other side in the immigration debate.
On several occasions, I've seen local, pro-immigration activists don alien outfits to have at either Sheriff Joe Arpaio or the nativists. And I've yukked it up right along with them as they did so. My favorite such lampooning occurred in March of 2008, when a troupe of local anarchists "invaded" Salvador Reza's Macehualli Work Center, where nativist meanies had set up camp to harass and intimidate the day-laborers. They wore alien masks, put shiny baubles in their hair, and made merciless fun of anti-immigrant idgit Buffalo Rick Galeener, who had recently been cited on a public urination charge, to which he eventally pleaded guilty.
The "aliens" befuddled the nativists, and generally enraged them, because the rednecks couldn't figure out what the hell these interplanetary activists were up to.
The next time was at the Arizona American Italian Club, where Sheriff Joe and his ally County Attorney Andrew Thomas were making an appearance, campaigning for re-election amongst the bikers, hillbillies, and reactionaries who'd come to cheer them on.
Amongst the rambunctious protesters was Tamara Underiner dressed as Lady Liberty, and her unnamed pal, who had an alien mask on his head and a rake in his hand with a sign on it that read, "I'm here for work."
Now, would we regard these outfits as racist or bigoted in any way? Of course not. Nor is it the harshest satire or performance art that the pro-immigrant side of things has meted out. Remember the Cinco de Mayo pinata-smash at Pueblo Center for Legal and Human Rights where Arpaio foes had fun creaming papier-mache Joes with a bat? Or the Day of the Dead costume contest with Joe represented as a horse's patootie and "Buffalo Rick" in attendance with his bottle of urine?
But while I find the orange-jump-suited illegal alien costume to be in this same vein, the other illegal alien mask, the one bearing a baseball cap and a huge gaucho mustache does walk the line, mainly because it is drawing on a cultural stereotype, one that could be perceived as racist by some.
On the other hand, what if some Latino comic did his version of a Cheech and Chong skit wearing that same mask, would that be socially acceptable? Likely, it would. And at a Halloween party, where outrageousness reigns? There, too, it would likely get a pass. Special interest groups and my fellow liberals can be far too humorless and knee-jerk. In the case of the orange-jumpsuit alien especially, I believe they've overreacted.
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