Sunday, April 03, 2011

Give Us Your Poor...and We'll Give You Our Huddled Masses

It's election season again, which means more of those voiceover-of-doom, black-and-white commercials showing unflattering photographs of the other guy--the kind that got Vancouver Sun columnist Pete McMartin to sputter:
Must we? The adolescent attack ads? The constant dispiriting insult to our intelligence and national sense of decorum? When did Karl Rove immigrate to Canada?
Should that be immigrate or is it emigrate in this context? I always get those two mixed up, the same way I'm continually confusing Bill Paxton with Bill Pullman. So I looked it up yet again (the immigrate/emigrate thing, not the Paxton/Pullman thing--I've given up on the latter).

The distinction is most often described along the lines of "to emigrate is to leave a country, while to immigrate is to come to a country"--an explanation I find less than satisfying because of course one does both at the same time. But it is a matter of perspective: the person you are seeing off is emigrating and the person you are welcoming (or, in the hypothetical case of Karl Rove, rebuffing at the point of a pitchfork) is immigrating--even if it's the same person.

So McMartin has it right. But the atheists are wrong. At least the atheists who wrote up the promotional material for their upcoming convention. They've posted a biographical snapshot of featured speaker Christopher Hitchens (who is attending via Skype, owing to ill health, alas) that says "In 1981, he emigrated to the United States." As anyone who has heard Hitchens's buttery English accent knows, the man is a product of the UK, meaning he immigrated to the United States, land of the Rovian attack ad.