The ‘Go Home’ vans

go home van
Yeah – that’s the way to get ’em.
(photo from BBC news)

Of the many less-than-hilarious memes the Elders of the Internet have given us, one of my favorites (despite its lack of correct punctuation) is ‘Go Home. You Are Drunk‘). The always helpful Knowyourmeme.com gives the following summary:

“Go Home, You Are Drunk” is an expression used to point out someone else’s failure or misplaced objects, similar to other well-known dismissive statements like You’re Doing It Wrong and Buzzkilling. The phrase is typically featured in image macros in which the subject is performing a task incorrectly or found in an out-of-place position.

Hopefully the connection is obvious.  The Home Office’s grammatical skills might be an improvement on those of the vast wilderness of the internet, but as for sensibility? For sensibility they’ve earned themselves a ‘Go Home, Home Office, You’re Drunk.’

Scare tactics & inciting racism

Maybe some of you were less internet-saturated than I (probably a good thing) and didn’t immediately think of Go Home, You’re Drunk, upon reading this bit of news about the Home Office vans. Maybe some of you are children’s literature enthusiasts and thought instead of a little book called Maniac Magee by the consistently excellent YA author, Jerry Spinelli. Maniac Magee’s eponymous character runs away from home and finds himself, a young white boy, living with a black family in the ‘East End’ (very much the wrong side of the tracks for a white boy)  of the  fictional town of Two Mills, Pennsylvania.  Although the family is kind to him and in time he builds friendships within  the community, there are still a number of East Enders who cannot abide his presence. One morning he walks out of the shabby brownstone to find the mum scrubbing graffiti off the front of the house, which says ‘FISHBELLY GO HOME.’

I don’t cite this little novel as evidence, per se, that these vans will cause / have caused racial violence. I cite it as a reminder that squabbles over territory and resources can often are linked directly to issues of outright racism.  Sending vans out that parade the number of arrests made and to make threats against illegal immigrants and expecting no backlash in race-motivated attacks is dangerously naive. The choice for a government to use scare tactics isn’t like pointing a laser at the people you want to scare and POW! ZAP! ZOIRP!  they’re scared, they’re coming in to local police stations in droves and begging to be deported. Scare tactics, especially these sorts of governmental bicep-flexing, generate fear in society as a whole. And that means those in our society who are deeply racist, both consciously and unconsciously, have their fear of those who are different – particularly those of a different race or ethnic group – magnified.

Simply put: fearmongering feeds violence, especially violence against ‘the other’. And in this particular case, there is no doubt about who those others are.

Go Home

The big question here is of course about the notion of ‘home’.  People who immigrate to a country are in the process of making a new home there – yes, with varied motives, not all of them good. The Border Agency, and implication, the UK government as a whole, isn’t saying  ‘go home’ as much as they are really saying, ‘get the heck out my backyard – it doesn’t matter to me where you go’. The fact that these immigrants may well not have a ‘home’ to go to becomes immaterial.

Isn’t really the Home Office who needs to be told, ‘Go home (you’re drunk)’? Or perhaps just ‘go back do the drawing board’?

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