IN THIS PLACE, my writing touches on a specific realm, and while I certainly exercise flex and fluidity, the range remains limited. I began the blog for a purpose, and I hew to that. For example, while I do talk often about identity, family, history, and borders, I don’t spend much time talking about the side of my family that came here from Russia & Poland. For a few reasons. Mostly, the tangle with that part of my identity was simply not as painful as growing up of México. For the record, I wasn’t raised as a Jew (although I did eat latkes early on, and Matzoh was always in the house) nor do I practice a formal religion today. Both sides of my family, and the stories to be told about them, are very important to me, in any regard.
I suppose the 600 humans who braved Israel’s wrath felt similarly compelled to do what they did. Though I am under no illusions that writing a blog post compares to—
The Mavi Marmara was carrying around 600 activists when Israeli warships flanked it from all sides as soldiers descended from helicopters onto the ship’s deck. Reports from people on board the ship backed up by live video feeds broadcast on Turkish TV show that Israeli forces used live ammunition against the civilian passengers, some of whom resisted the attack with sticks and other items.
The Freedom Flotilla was organized by a coalition of groups that sought to break the Israeli-led siege on the Gaza Strip that began in 2007. Together, the flotilla carried 700 civilian activists from around 50 countries and over 10,000 tons of aid including food, medicines, medical equipment, reconstruction materials and equipment, as well as various other necessities arbitrarily banned by Israel.
Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waterscarrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured). The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs, knives and “handguns” when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured. Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting. An IDF spokesman said: “Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed.”
The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which included 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.
Again, there is no way I can compare that act with writing this post! Those people are heroes, to my mind. Nonetheless, believe me when I say that writing this doesn’t come easy to me.
Reading From An Esoteric Text of Pain
Watching, over time, this situation with Israel (US aids and funds a ‘secretly’ nuclear state that is oppressive and cruel and gets special treatment that appears less and less valid over time) leads me to believe that those who make decisions about Israel’s military and political stances operate on a different plane, and are reading from an esoteric book that the rest of us do not. It doesn’t seem they realize this yet. But I imagine the painful truth is beginning to dawn on them, and if they are anything like the USA (which they are) they will not admit wrong, but only clamp down harder.
Every day, every year, every time their guns are fired, and aid to the Gaza strip is blocked, and the disgusting, barbaric oppression of Palestinians rolls on with much a wink and a nod and a dollar from Uncle Sam, so many of us of Jewish descent here in the USA) grimace and flinch and hide our faces in shame.
Short and sweet, Israel: This is the new legacy you create. You are reading from an old, dusty text of pain and then imagining it still strikes a righteous light on you today. But to younger faces and minds, there is a drastically different perception. We look out and the biggest shame we feel is not so much people hating our Jewish lineage, but people hating what Israel is doing and is known for in this current era.
If I had any hope it mattered or those in power would consider it, I would beg you to take a whole new direction so that we can again have pride in our people. But I fear this stance is rigid.
An Ideology of Trauma
Never Forget, it is said. And Never Again. But what about Never Obscure? Because that is what has happened. The righteousness you read from; the pain and struggle our people endured and met (my great grandmother was lucky enough to stow away a ship and escape the mass murder in Poland); the great oppression and nightmare that you ask all to Never Forget has not been forgotten…but it is safe to say that this memory is being clouded over and replaced with a new reality. A reality in which you are the oppressor.
And honestly? I hate you for that.
Are we—is anyone—to hold a memory—one they did not personally experience—in sharper relief and having greater weight than the reality playing out before our eyes as we live and breathe today? This is not possible. Or if it is, one might call it a hallucination. Or a persistent delusion. A fugue state. Or…
Or trauma. And that is the probably the best choice. Rather than an individual’s trauma, the notion of Israel as signified by her repeated deeds and consequent or underlying justification is but an ideology of trauma. Like an individual victim of horrific violence, the Pro-Blockade Isreal mentality is a consciousness of trauma: she cannot see a new day; lives in that violence, still. (There are distinctions to make between Israeli citizens and the military, but again, this is my point of view from where I live. It is what I see as “Israel.” The state. Of course it is the ruling class and military who wage these wars, just as it is they here in the US who mire us in international violence.) In that state of trauma, Israel cannot discriminate who is worthy of violence. Israel is locked into a bad memory, and now is revisiting it upon others.
And expects that the rest of us can see the same ghosts dancing in our crosshairs?
This Is What You Have Taken
As is clear, I feel an anger toward Israel’s actions. I am angry that you steal my cultural pride, Israel.
I’ll share a tiny piece of a story I almost didn’t share here because it feels far too precious to be exploited for any political means…but it’s real. And it is part of my feelings and why I’m so angry, and should be spoken.
There was a man who was kind to me and a friend for a while before he died. I was four or five. He was a Jew. I’ll keep his name to myself, though I’ve written it before. He asked my mother to marry him (her and my father has since divorced), but it wasn’t to be. Sometimes, he would speak fondly of Israel. I’d look at pictures through my Viewmaster and imagine the place. This was Israel in my world, a world that existed a long, long, long time ago.
You have stolen that image. You have stained that memory, Israel.
In my own life, it is not Anti-Semites who make me feel any shame at my lineage. It is Israel. You are the one who makes me want to shy away from, to abdicate my history, to turn my back on what should be a story and roots I embrace loudly and proudly. But everywhere I go, I fear that look will come upon me, that look filled with the feeling that I harbor for you, and for any people anywhere who use guns, or even superior might to crush the hungry, the helpful, the weaker.
Shoot down or wreak violence upon as many ships who attempt to bring help or food to those you are torturing and slowly starving, but know that this is what you are today.
Don’t be fooled or become breathlessly euphoric breathing recycled air within your small circles of self-affirming attendants, all exchanging and exhaling and reinhaling the same esoteric effluvia. The reality of the day is that more and more of us here in the USA see Israel for what it has become. An instigator of suffering, a willing participant in violence and terrorism.
These two humans dedicated so many hours of their lives and energy from their hearts to speak for a greater awareness of these challenges, as well as to try and make the DREAM Act a reality…I am confident they would want this part of their lives to aid the same fight.
So, for the ones still living and forced into a limbo none of us would want for ourselves; and in honor of Tam and Cinthya, we must pass the DREAM Act. These are not “issues.” These are people’s lives we are talking about.
SOME POSTS begin as a reaction. A reaction to ugly events involving hate crime, or discrimination, or persecutory legislation, or some other spur that launches anger, protectiveness, or an instinct to fight. These are necessary when they arise organically. And so is outrage in the social body.
I remember as a child being so amazed that so many (everyone, insisted my immature mind) took everything in stride. I mention this now and then: the sensation I had that the world was upside down and burning and everyone in the world (i.e., school, stores, etc) was happy go lucky and not talking about it. (I am sure this had something to do with the conversations and teachings in my early home and community.)
So, I grew to feel out of touch with society’s reactions and evaluations of life as presented in larger settings, TV, newspapers, general social dialogue. And I suppose that is part of the age. These are normal conflicts we have to evaluate at a certain age.
In too many cases we simply have to accept untruths or mechanisms that confuse the mind. We read the real thinkers in college, and then we pretend it was just for a course. We accept that when X is really going on, the TV will frame it as Y. We accept that advertisements, essentially, lie. We learn to restrain, perform, operate in society. We are taught not to be ourselves, as it does not pay. We are sent on job interviews to offer a well-groomed doppelganger which may have little basis on truth, but have more to do with how you can appear a valuable commodity to a corporate mechanism. The media helps sell wars that feed the fatally wealthy, and focuses on celebrity nose jobs while the public is robbed blind on the backside by the bankers.
You know how this goes, top to bottom. Same as it ever was.
But did it jam at you in your adolescence? Did the first sweeping vista of disappointment make you weep? Did that initial understanding of how little we expected of ourselves make you angry? Did it nearly topple your mind to gaze out at the wasteland of hypocrisy? Did the wrongness matter? Did it touch your inspired soul, your feeling soul, your uncallused soul and provoke a reaction?
There was too much pretend-truth and too much noise and too many lies in the world, and too much apathy. When I was young, it chewed at me. It would not let me be. I could not imagine why there were not armies of citizens banding together to fix every ailment facing the People.
I was a little naive.
But to me, this is adolescence in US society as I’ve seen it, in more than a couple cities and states. Children, those vast stores of human possibility, reach the end of the playground grass. They must grapple with letting the reality of our sickened culture overwhelm the childheart with one, long, coal-tinged static-studded sigh.
We at least make a decision about how we as people fit in and engage when truth is a disrespected and nearly non-existent entity in a thriving system, when greed and fear are leveraged and fed, when misdirection and manipulation drives the media in most cases.
And with this body and mind…with this amazing system meant to rebel against untruth and to wade toward joy, we must force non-sense and illogic and ignorance into our own tubes. You are required to Get Over It and Learn How to Manage. It makes us ill.
Get on a few stomach drugs, some head drugs, have the doc say its cool, grind out the salary. Protest virtually. Do what you can and have time for which is mostly go mad or be distracted.
The American Dream?
As I grew up, those times when someone was inflamed about injustice and saying “HELL NO, THIS IS NOT RIGHT AND WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS!” I felt my spirit respond in kind. The scales, as they say, fall off of my eyes. I could feel that truth ringing sharply right behind my breastbone, a massive silver bullhorn calling to me. And I loved them for that. For taking that on. I thanked the universe for whatever it was that compelled that person to speak, at that very moment, from a place that was truthful and outraged at whatever entity or action was trying to establish itself in our world.
That voice belongs to nobody, it belongs to all of us. We access it when it is time, when the moment calls for it. There will always be that moment in this very flawed world!
There is another voice, too. One that rises in the absence of reaction, maybe. One that needs a bit of stillness to emerge. One that listens, and hears those things being said, and lets them melt into the moment. And finds where they don’t quite nourish. Finds where they fail to adhere to a true shape. And seeks not to batter, deflect, crush, or challenge…but only to question. Only to probe and discover what may be overlooked.
If you listen to the dialogue on immigration, you hear so many voices rising up from fear. From fear of being diluted, to fear of being killed. You hear fears given voice every decade or less or more. You hear so much about—and from “both” “sides”—Securing the Border. Building the Danged Fence. Securing Our Borders. The Insecure Border. Lasers Every 500 Feet and Surveillance on The Border. More Troops to the Border. Nothing Can Happen Until We First Secure the Border.
We might rebut with the rational. With statistics about how crime generally (and now) goes down as immigration goes up. Or how there is no increase of violence that Leaps Over the Border. Take El Paso, Texas for one obvious example. El Paso, across the border from the very violent Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. El Paso is immediately accessible to non-supervised entry. El Paso is known as one of the safest cities in the USA.
Or I may sketch less specific and talk about how until we take on Mexico’s problems as our own; until we be fair to their economy and their chances of opportunity and stop acting like some rich cat on the Upper East Side calling the cops on a lone hungry figure in the street; until we see our economies intertwined, amassing violence and troops on the border is a super-destructive non-effective stopgap to the cold wind rushing into so many fearful minds.
But in the general, when I hear this shaming, persecutory, prison-preaching talk, what occurs to me underneath those thoughts or before them, is that these people talking about immigration in the public lens are very insecure. And that they may need to secure their own borders. To feel out their own perimeters, find where the air gets thin, and the feet scramble for purchase. Peer into their shadows to dispel the figures they imagine.
And I think until that happens, we can and will have no real progress.
After all, how can you approach an issue that is so important and affecting so many people, and involves so many areas (Economics, Environment, Migration, Culture, Race, History and so on) if you have not yet first secured your mind? And your heart? If you do not do those things, you cannot honestly evaluate these dynamics.
To one of these politicians obsessed with force and armies and walls…I ask you: How will it feel (in you, personally, in your body and belly and throat and mind) to imagine millions of workers in today’s workforce being celebrated for helping to run this mighty engine? To see millions of unauthorized workers simply swept into the bosom of our workforce and economy? Legitimized?
Does your lip curl?
I’m not talking about reparations, just a shift in lens and consequent behavior, regard, and legislation.
I’m not talking about some abstract past workforce, or one that creates goods the rest of us never actually handle or purchase or use. I’m talking about the workforce out there right now. Many today, this moment. Many more will report tomorrow, on Monday. Those ones, those humans who are working. (Yes, for a moment I’m simply going to talk about workers.) The ones who accept not being paid when the boss feels like sticking them. The humans with no benefits, and who work long hours and for substandard pay. The ones who are on edge lately and ready to drop everything and run if ICE shows up. Those ones. I ask you how would it feel, Mr. Politician, Mrs. Politician, for you to ponder their being given protections that insure they work a happy and safe workday and enjoy a fair paycheck? And instead of being vilified were suddenly welcomed and celebrated as part of the large, always changing, colorful, and strong American community? No shame, no criminal record, no more pummeling around people trying to hang on with one hand. Can you even possibly house that imagination in your body without any serious instinctive gag reflex?
Or do you feel a need—before connecting empathetically to another human who may be in slightly different circumstances for the moment—to first punish and shame them for not signing in at the door? Do watch them slink to the magical Back of the magical Line? To admit complicity. And error. And wrongness? All while ignoring the rest of the chain of consequence, which of course leads back to our own nation and government and even our own home.
Does this punitive projection soothe you?
With this litany of demands that unauthorized/undocumented immigrants admit wrong, be charged with a crime, pay thousands, take a walk of shame, and so on, it does occur to me that some people are certainly trying to secure something. But it’s not a border.
And I ask you, the People: Can those politicians evaluate what might be an honest and fair approach to these fluctuations in our population and workforce if they harbor gross ideas about Mexicans? Or if they see borders as a way to legitimately express socially-unacceptable race-based or white nationalist-related ideas? Obviously not.
If we want to pretend life is very simple, we might point only to the GOP. But many on the “Left” are certainly chomping at the bit to punish immigrants (aka Mexicans.) If you’ve read the concept paper drawn up for the possible forthcoming immigration bill, it involves much more ICE, much more money for them, more surveillance technology, body armor, and so on and so on and so on. Fact is, the forces that desire a police state are using the public’s general apathy toward immigrants and Mexicans to institute measures that would never, ever fly coast to coast, were the perceived target to be Regular Americans. That’s on top of scapegoating Mexicans, which is always in American Style.
Would that these mentally and spiritually and emotionally lacking political and punditry players would disqualify themselves from the dialogue, but that’s not how things work. However, if your mind is self-deceiving in this way, you cannot hope to fairly render an opinion about issues so large concerning so many. Period.
Political gamers, humanity is in dire shape.
This challenge comes to us in many forms right now. Wars over petroleum. Poisoned oceans with petroleum. Police state pre-pubescent and gangly. Class divisions becoming untenable. Economy severely unstable. Political dialogue false. Media turning to sheer propaganda stations. Banks taken over our economy. Corporations taken over the courts and both wreaking massive havoc on our national security.
Our society is, in the next few decades, going to undergo some drastic changes. We must secure our own hearts and minds and be ready to deal with these changes in a way that is reasoned, loving, progressive, broadminded, flexible, and kind. We must first secure our own consciousness in a grounded, positive place before we can pretend to represent millions of human beings.
RECENTLY, I wrote about Arizona tipping its hand as to what its cultural and legal agenda is about—and it ain’t making sure people have VISAs or green cards. It’s about minimizing if not wholly eradicating the power and presence and legacy of the people and culture of Mexico—a legacy and culture that are integral elements of Arizona. Arizona’s flurry of laws over time (not just the last month) spell this agenda out pretty clearly.
Recently I wrote to a list-serv what these moves conjure up in my mind…a deranged soul clawing at their own face, trying to tear away the mask that obscures their purity…all the while not seeing that they are destroying themselves in the process. Arizona separated from Mexican culture and people is…nothing but a hot spread of sand treaded by delusional white power-grabbers. A haunted land, indeed.
Firstly, we really have to pause to appreciate the snug fit of the White Lens that clouds out the big picture so vehemently and with an assumed air of righteousness that is born of nothing more than a slurry-slush of ignorance, violence, and fear. We simply MUST giggle a bit at the notion of white lawmakers being outraged that Latinos dare to think “the white man is oppressing them” and then, to prove how wrong we are…those white lawmakers summarily outlaw us from telling our histories.
[slider] (Note: Montenegro is Hispanic, but is indeed the face that provides cover for these types of laws. African American communities have names for their own parallel members who act in such ways—after all, Mister Montenegro is an immigrant, himself (from El Salvador). But I won’t call the man names here and now. I’ll show you his record, instead. It includes sponsoring HB 2354, which makes holding SS cards with invented numbers that match real numbers a felony even if the holder is unaware (I think the Supreme Court struck down this type of “identity theft” category recently, however); SCR 1027, which defunded ACORN; HB 2406 which allows people to bring concealed weapons into a bar; and HB 2383 which enables the governor to mobilize the National Guard at the southern border to ward off what s/he decides is an unacceptable amount of “unauthorized crossings.”
Montenegro is not popular among his Latino peers, and has recently been called “an immigrant that voted for the worse anti-immigration bill in the history of the United States.”)[/slider]
Wow! That’ll teach you to think you’re being singled out as a group and oppressed!
Tom Horne is happy!
If such a contradiction escapes their reasoning, their is no intellectual meat to be had in that stew.
Montenegro—who admits the target is Chicano Studies specifically—and others, are putting the legal torch to the spinning of time-honored stories. This is what conquerors do when they fear the people maintaining their own legacy, their own gods, their own allegiances, and patching up, decorating, and honoring the fabric that has kept them together and which threatens to dull the blade of the new reign. Yup, even in a land of Free Speech™.
There are few extant Aztec codices created before the conquest and these are largely ritual texts. Post-conquest codices, like Codex Mendoza or Codex Ríos, were painted by Aztec tlacuilos (codex creators), but under the control of Spanish authorities. The possibility of Spanish influence poses potential problems for those studying the post-conquest codices. Itzcoatl had the oldest hieroglyphics destroyed for political-religious reasons and Bishop Zumarraga of Mexico (1528–48) had all available texts burned for missionary reasons.
Joe Arpaio, a big respecter of other races and classes of people
But I guess this current attempt to quash the teachings of those descended from the indigenous of the continent is easy to understand.
The heavy and incessant indoctrination of White Ethnic Studies is, truth be told, still not very strong. Even while taught in every school in the nation while simultaneously reinforced on our televisions and movie screens, the illusion of white and European supremacy over all things indigenous or otherwise Brown™ is a fragile one and must be protected from even the challenge of one single schoolroom; is under dire threat from the possession of even one book that argues to the contrary.
Montenegro (R-Ariz) feels that banning Mexican American studies is righteous, because “[p]arents send their children, students, to public schools to learn reading, writing and arithmetic skills, not to be taught to, you know, hate or have resentment toward other races, not to be taught that they are victims or educated to be victims.”
Which of course is what Arizona authorities like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer are all about! Not resenting or hating other races or classes of people.
Dios mio. The depth of their delusion is impressive.
Jan Brewer Signs SB 1070
But do parents send their children to school to be taught to view foreign invaders and greed-inspired killers from another continent (Europeans of yesteryear) as benign “settlers”? Do all parents of all color and background pay taxes so that the public school can teach us lies about our own backgrounds and beginnings? Or separate our history from how it affects today’s reality?
Montenegro would say yes. Montenegro would say just as Dubya is a hero and savior of America, so was the greedy President James Polk. And yet we pay taxes so our kids can learn those “truths.”
Montenegro would prefer that people of color are the ones with self-loathing in our bellies. Anything that avoids the old white folks feeling any discomfort in their own!
Montenegro and Brewer, no doubt, would prefer us not to learn about and apply the lessons from our nation’s living through the Chinese Exclusion Act; the raping and killing of indigenous families justified by divine white right; the endless exploitation of Mexican labor, the dehumanization and continued oppression of our black brothers and sisters, or how the legal burning of books that tell our tales in Arizona today are but an extension of the Spanish conquistadores torching the idols and codices of the Maya. Most of all, those connections to today must be severed.
Above all, oppressors need you to have no memory, no books, no lessons, no language—no power.
Make no mistake—those who aren’t in the position to know different—this tripe offered by Montegnegro to justify this law is not about what is said in Chicano Studies classes. It’s not about anyone being told to “kill the white man” as Montenegro ridiculously asserts. (What is this, 1969?) We need no new law to prevent lessons about professors advocating murder. I’m pretttttty sure the standing laws cover that!
These claims on what is going on behind sneaky Chican@ doors are but projections of white fear. And it’s that white fear that is powering these moves; moves to prevent us from being self-educated, to stop us from being Uppity. These moves are about us daring to think we can rearrange or even simply augment the many lied-up lessons that are ubiquitous in US nationalistic messaging.
I mean, one thing we can be sure of is that Arizona’s new law is not about avoiding positive depictions or messaging about violent overthrow (as they claim). After all, our very first lessons on US patriotism revere terrorism! They celebrate a violence completely unrelated to Mexicans. What else was the Boston Tea Party? What message is sent there but that violent overthrow of the standing government is, or at least can be, righteous!
Yup. This is taught and nobody flinches. Those merry bands of brothers are “patriots,” like the violent “patriots” of today: Joe Stack. Oathkeepers. Tim McVeigh. Those white boys all learned their lessons well. And even the MSM of today vibes with them, understanding that the True Enemy is always darker in hue, despite the acts or ideology eschewed.
People of color have to sit in school for years upon years and hear a carefully arranged platter of propaganda that is designed to disempower us, confuse us, derail our strength, confuse our arc, and once we are grown, befuddle our children. This is today’s schooling, this is today’s White Ethnic Studies that dominate the land and the mind. People of color have to sit through countless movies where our people are painted as fools, criminals, the rot of society, the dregs of US culture, the despoilers, the thieves, the ruiners, the background to all your shining glorious heroic and imaginative deeds. This is today’s widespread White Ethnic Studies assault upon our minds and hearts and souls.
Rituals and Roles. Bodies and Souls. Possession or Negation, your choice. Their goal.
But Arizona, in its anti-brown panic, fumbles again.
Nobody need teach anyone to be “a victim.” That’s not what we do! Poor confused minds.
No. All that needs be told is the truth. After all, reality tends to have a radical bias. And all that needs be told about yesterday (as well as today) is the truth of goldthirst. The truth of divinely-rationalized mass murder. The holocaust of the indigenous. Legal papers that pretend to justify unwarranted invasion. Lessons about theft. Lessons about imperialism. Instances—like today—of attempted culture-murder. After all, Montenegro, you hardly prove such charges false! You actually reinforce those lessons and make our point for us.
Further, we do not need your school to tell our tales. Look at me. I never took a single Chicano Studies class. No, what I know has been passed down in my family or gleaned by me from reading books and knowing other Xican@s. This is what we do, you do know that? And here I am today, still telling our stories.
And we have been telling our stories from before the first stone was set in Tenochtitlán. We will tell them long after you are dead and gone, Montenegro. Brewer. Arpaio. You age and in your age, you fear.
We, on the other hand are only growing in number and political power. And we are hardly simply dishwashers, gardeners, and meatpackers. We are poets. We are teachers. We are artists. We are journalists. We are taxpayers. We are drivers. We are software designers. We are tech entrepreneurs. We are musicians. We are actors. We are legislators.
And have many, many young ones. And more each day. You can fear…but that is an imposition you insist on. We are not here to fear or cause fear. Only to say, no, you won’t shove us backward on this last tiny piece of dirt. No, you won’t make us eat your sugared, high-priced dirt. To say, yes, you can try. And you will try, you’ll try.
But like piñata confetti, or the sand on temple stone, we rise.
Though, apparently, you don’t need to be Xican@ to access a larger picture on these issues:
Short of an all-out fascist state, the flow of Latinos into the country will not ebb. And frankly, I’m not sure what we expected, given decades of imperialism and interference throughout Central and South America. We crushed regional social movements and turned vast areas into low-wage zones for global capital, a bi-partisan production of our ruling parties. Turn the region into an economic basket-case, create conditions that fuel the drug trade (while supplying countless consumers north of the border), and you better fucking believe that people are going to migrate, “legality” be damned.
But then, our invasions of their native turf are not seen as a problem. As with so much else, we tend to rail against the ends while overlooking or justifying the means. […]
In a sense, we’re all migrants renting our daily lives from private power. To them, we’re no more citizens than those crossing the southern border. I don’t know what Arizona thinks it’s protecting, but it sure as hell isn’t democracy. You needn’t wander the desert to see that.
Immigration Populations: Estimates Versus Actual Statistics
ANYTIME I JET SOMEWHERE to attend a conference, panel, or event, it throws me off the beam for a minute. Time/schedule, moneywise, headwise, too. To be expected, as I am a one person operation here juggling many angles, and up and taking a few days off is a gap in normal doings that will have an impact. Especially when you are flying cross country, which for me means three planes and a full day of traveling in either direction.
The last post I wrote on the French American Foundation Conference was definitely the one I needed to write when I first came back as it was the one with the most visceral impact. It was fresh in my mind, it helps me set a pool of info and memory and idea to refer back to when I edit the video, and even by itself, tells some of the story that needs to be told. The soon-to-be released video will tell a richer, more visual, sonic, and emotional side of that same angle—what I think of as the emotional/cultural/social side of the trip. The field work where we got out in the mix, and the setting that occurred in.
Soon, I will post on the informational side of the event. The drier, academic side wherein notes and lectures and data added up to create clearer picture of the global immigration story and movement. Because there really was a wealth of information. I have recorded most of it. So I can listen back and make notes. I simply can’t do it now. I missed my weekly deadline for NWN, so I am working on that as we speak; also working with the Digital Stoneworks Gamecrafting Studio team on a couple games, cleaning house and maintaining website stuff, you know how it is. Changing diapers, banging congas, sweeping floors.
I’ve included one picture of one graph (above), which at full size, may be readable. I found it very interesting and useful information, in fact. It shows how large a surveyed part of a handful of nations’ perceive their immigrant population to be versus how large it actually is. As you can see, in every single nation, people grossly overestimate how many of “them” are among “us.” Points away from factual happenings spurring the overall society’s feelings on immigrants and toward other realities, internal ones, emotions, beliefs. There was a slew of this kind of data that will be useful in discussing immigration in many contexts. I hope to find the time soon to break those recordings down and share them with you.
SURPRISE, a cop is caught beating a Mexicano who lies on the ground while shouting slurs at him.
Obviously, the cop is racist. Worse, he is a fifteen year veteran on the force. This is not the first time he has done this. Were it not for the ubiquity of video in the hands of everyday citizens, these incidents would still be happening without witnesses or being reported.
The anchor on the television clip at FOX doesn’t play the police officer’s entire statement, so I don’t know if he apologizes to the innocent victim of his hateful brutality directly. Which is weird, but then again, not. I hear him express regret at bringing dishonor to the force, embarrassing his colleagues, and acting not in a “professional manner” before he finally gets around to apologizing to the Latino Community because he says he knows his “words cut deep.”
What??? Your words? Ay. Save your tears, dude. Sheesh. You and Glenn Beck.
The anchors say Officer Racista was responding to a tip called in where a man claimed four Mexicans with a machete robbed him. I say anonymous tipsters work hand in hand with William Gheen and FAIR and CIS and NumbersUSA and Stormfront and random teenagers in Long Island and Arizona and New York and California and Patchogue and Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio and random gurgling cesspits of latent police racism—maybe without knowing it, all tapped into the same dank vein, the same gross vibe, all wanting to eradicate my people and our legacy on this continent, all handmaidens in the long war on the indigenous.
I note it here so I have a post to link to later when I speak (once again) about how the law in this land, and the prison system in this land are arms that work together with many other factors to bring sanctioned destruction on gente.
Mala at VivirLatino offers an important political reminder that many of us constantly have to remind DC folk:
The point is that laws like SB1070 and the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform framework put out there by Senator biometric Chuck Schumer works from the default position that immigrants, painted broadly as Latinos, painted broadly as Mexicans are criminals. It works from the framework that we need to prove ourselves worthy of humane treatment via speaking proper English, paying fines disguised as taxes, getting to the back of the line. Resistance to this, asking for legalization and/or basic human rights is seen as ungrateful and as an unwillingness to play the political game we asked to swallow in the name of political efficiency.
I am happy to see the boycotts and the civil disobedience in response to SB1070 just as I am happy to stand on a corner of my hood with my hija just talking to my vecinos about what this means for ALL of us. Pero I am bothered by the treatment of what happened to this man in Seattle, the disrespect towards the lives of our hermanos andhijas, and the accolades paid to Democrats for moving forward on a CIR plan that takes its lead from Arpaio. I am bothered that too many being credited with leading the movement talk about all of these things as if they are separate. As if one monster isn’t feeding the others and are all being led by the same master.
Kai Wright at Racewire agrees, and points out who bankrolls that monster as well as where the slime trail leads:
The officer’s obnoxious language can easily overshadow a deeper concern the video betrays: a casual and capricious use of police violence when confronting “gang” suspects. The fact that the offending officers are from a special gang unit is significant; the presumably elite special forces that federal dollars have supported in police departments around the country have long been criticized as acting with too little oversight as they militarize communities of color. As I’ve written previously, incidents like these exist along a spectrum of police violence that ends with the high-profile suspect-shootings that draw national outrage.
It’s horrible. And it’s the reality on the ground. Every day and for years. Any bets on the verdict of any investigation launched to determine his guilt?
the feedback loop of positive resistance and support
This is what needs to be understood by anyone warning me off of linking to (admittedly reactionary) trailers like Machete. Or the tone of my writing. This is what needs to be understood by online typists who muse that the Arizona Boycott will “surely backfire.” Cuéntame, in our interview a couple months ago, even asked me (among many other questions) if I thought I was making things worse with my strong stances! O, Cuéntame. I hardly knew ye. (But welcome to Facebook.) Only if you consider years of email responses from raza (and others) thanking me for stirring their fires and helping keep them going “making things worse.” Look, people. Indian-killing sentiment and brutality ain’t new! I call it the Long War for a reason. And guess what? It won’t get better by those being targeted and hunted stooping even lower and being even quieter. It will end when you stop asking those standing up to shhhhhh and start opening your mouth and standing with us. And loudly.
This is why black and brown and gold and red unite in so many cases to push back on white supremacy and racist currents and actions in our society. I welcome as many gente to join us as want to. We already understand what is at stake, and how long it has been at stake. We understand this danger. We all know it always awaits. We all know the law forgives the violence in this direction. We know the TV stations don’t care much about violence in this direction. We know how it all ties together, in law, legislation, and media saturation. We know we are stronger standing together.
THE REPORTING OPPORTUNITY AND IMMIGRATION CONFERENCE I attended May 7-9 was quite an amazing experience. There was so much information and energy and ideas and new reality crammed into such a small time and space that there is no doubt I will be mulling it over and brewing on it and coming to a full understanding of it all over the next week, at least. Within a week or two, I’ll release a special NWN video where I hope to express cinematically what I will communicate here now with images and fotos.
I am grateful to the French-American Foundation, to the Knight Foundation, to New America Media, to La Opiñión, to Sandy Close, Claudia Nuñez, and to all the journalists and scholars who shared their wealth of expertise and experience with all of us. I am also grateful to the Miami Workers Center and the African Heritage Cultural Center in “Little Haiti” for being so welcoming to the lot of us, dropping into their midst as if tourists starving for information about their lives. I am grateful to all the service workers at the EPIC hotel (especially my own housekeeper, Helen) for being so helpful and professional at their jobs. Finally, I am happy to have made some new friends at the conference—intelligent, energetic, good-hearted, and ambitious human beings.
As usual—and this really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with my work at this point in the game—the influence and mechanisms of race and class stood out to me and were worth noting. As I was representing both New Media and Ethnic Media (as it is called in the US…for now) I consider those elements part of my work, important parts of my observations. (Or essential parts of my milieu, I might word it, after so much company with so many very French-speaking people.)
The view from my hotel balcony
As you can imagine, Nezua did once again drop down some…controversial statements into the midst of the well-catered and arranged event. (Mmmmm! So well catered.) Not intending to, only speaking from my heart, and again—it ought to be clear by now to anyone with any familiarity with my subject matter that this is to be expected if you are going to ask me to observe and report on any event. Just as I did when flown to the last (as named) YearlyKos Convention in 2007. Just as I did in my doc on the DNC08 convention, the trip I took sponsored by Kenneth Cole Productions in 2008. In the case of the YearlyKos event, as this time, there were a few moments perhaps, of misunderstanding. Maybe there were a few people taking it personally as well as wondering why on earth I might head out on such a course…as if I am disappointing the Hand That Feeds.
It’s powerful, touchy stuff to talk about race and class. I also am convinced these are the conversations we absolutely need to have in this society. The pretense that these differences are not everywhere and that they do not affect everything and can be cordoned off for special conversations that don’t intrude or provoke is a dangerous one to maintain.
This doesn’t mean bringing up such topics is easy. As usual, it can be a terrifying and nearly nauseating task to take on. Because the messaging we absorb all our lives is one that screams never to bring these up in such ways. And pushing back on that inner indoctrination is not effortless.
I want to be careful not to make too big a deal out of the few arguably negative reactions that inevitably follow in these cases. Because while those seem to hit the belly harder than the positive, the truth is those are far fewer. In this case, numerous people came to me—I should note they were overwhelmingly (though not in every instance) people of color themselves—and showed me great support and thanks for bringing up the topics I did. In fact, overall, I’d say the reactions were 90% positive and unwavering in their stance on the matter.
"The Brown Contingent" is what the very fabulous Mona (Eltahawy) named us here in the hall. As such we decided it was best if we photographed ourselves stacking and otherwise doing brownish things. This moment was after my presentation and they found me, or we found each other, and talked more on the things I discussed. They were very supportive and it meant a lot.
There is no feeling quite like taking that risk, taking that leap, feeling shameful and as if in danger for doing so (a result of flouting the indoctrination and social pressure that guards against these conversations happening)—and then being immediately surrounded by people who understand exactly what you mean and give you love for taking that risk. If that were not always the case when I do these things? I imagine I couldn’t keep doing them, wouldn’t keep taking those risks. Because the nervous system usually takes a big hit when “cracking the bubble” as Sandy worded such dialogues on Sunday.
Stylish French Cat, Mona Eltahawy, Damaso Reyes, and Mizanur Rahman. This is, unfortunately, one of the worse pictures (focus-wise) I've taken in a while. Yet, the joy cannot be obscured.
Sandy Close wrote to me, in an email after the conference:
You added a great deal to the conference through your honesty and humility.
Sandy Close, Executive Director of New America Media
This brought tears to my eyes. Because in such events and speaking opportunities, I am trying my best to present these issues without aggression, but instead with a calm and centered front, and a more receptive energy. Which is a very difficult line to walk at times. For me. It is no easy feat to move surely and strongly on unsure ground, and yet remain unguarded and ready to respond with sensitivity to any lashback.
But if I can do that? It means I am growing in my craft as well as in my own skin. And that means I can be more effective in the world doing the things I do.
Of course there will also always be those who hear words on race and class as not only an affront to, but practically violent toward polite society. And if you think about it, they are right. Even when you speak those words calmly. Because polite society is another way of saying status quo. And today’s status quo is one that crushes people of color on the regular. And thus, it deserves a sort of violence. Not necessarily physical, but ideological. At least initially, to break the inertia and confidence of its arc.
So we cannot get hung up on supportive energy from all, or if everyone likes what we say. Though these affirmations from like-minded community help center my mind and push back on the inevitable doubt that tries to insert itself when you attempt to upset a standing order, destructive or otherwise.
But there is a creation happening in the midst of that destruction, as well. One of the most rewarding results of invoking these conversations, I’ve found is that it can spur further revelation or sharing of thoughts that might otherwise remain cloaked in caution. Such as after my presentation amidst the Q&A and back and forth. What a great feeling, to see that perhaps you have helped start or enable a conversation wherein people feel comfortable discussing something so important to them…and thus to the larger society and its method of informing itself in all quadrants about all quadrants.
I know I learn and feel inspired from those talks. Such as when Professor Kwong (for example) spoke of how “objective” lens shuts out many ideas, like his writing about Chinatown in ANY way that isn’t about the Chinese New Year. How he has an extremely difficult time getting any articles published if they present Chinese American culture or Chinese Americans in a way that the dominant culture (my phrase, not his) doesn’t desire to reinforce. And then Demaso jumped in and spoke about how a newsroom will miss stories and angles if “we all look the same.” And how today’s emerging Ethnic Media or the appearance of changes that facilitated the rise of Ethnic Media present a challenge to journalism. And an important one.
I think those are powerful things to be saying and discussing in such a setting as we were in. They are a boon to the future of journalism and social cohesion—not racial division as some might think. After all, as I said in my presentation, as I see it “Ethnic Media” arose because various communities felt we were not represented in the fake objectivity of the dominant culture’s media. If the larger view and conversation expands to represent all of us, that draws us back together, doesn’t it?
I like mine pulpy
I know by some reactions, as well as the fact that many whom were there will be reading my reporting on this to see both how they are portrayed and how I saw things overall that I need to clearly state a couple things.
1. I am not a traditional journalist.
Roles like mine are something new. Organically made possible and necessary by cultural realities and technological advances that won’t go away. You cannot align this image over the old blueprint. Attempting to do so will yield a distorted result.
I do not need to be warned about getting emotional or remaining Objective™ or being too “passionate.” What I do relies on my feelings and third eye and heart and all those other things that are not to be found in the AP Stylebook. I am a new media journalist. Or a writer/activist/artist/reporter who began as a counselor and filmmaker and melds it all together. Find a word or phrase that works. The exact title doesn’t matter to me right now. What I do know is that I have a function and I know my path by feeling it out intuitively. While I was trained minimally by MTV in NYC as prep for my year-long gig repping Oregon, I did not go to J-School. I don’t need to for what I do. I do need to honestly report what I see, not try to hoodwink anyone, do my very best to be right on any numbers or facts that I can. But also to employ other senses…ones I think as a human society (in the USA) we are long taught are ephemeral, unimportant, unreliable, and dangerous. I happen to feel that this overall judgment on the less tangible senses of the human creature is extremely dangerous to our existence. At least if it is the only approach it sure is.
So. That’s what I do. Please frame all I offer you in that light. Don’t try to evaluate it by an old filter. Through that mesh, what I do will seem all wrong. As if you drank a cup of orange juice but were expecting to feel milk run over your tongue.
2. It’s not about you.
This one I offer to those who feel hurt by anything I say on race and class and culture. It’s not about you! In fact, I only ran into one person whose energy I found rather disturbing, as he raised his voice talking about how it was appalling and wrong to “smear” FAIR and CIS; that younger reporters are fine, but they should be “trained” (do you see a leash in your mind?); that we ought take sympathy on Arizona for passing SB 1070 and not boycott, and so on. He was an older gentleman and I understand that he comes from a completely different world, or uses a wholly different lens that I do. I disagree entirely with him. But feel no need to demonize him. I feel he simply doesn’t understand certain currents or angles or viewpoints that are alien to his experience.
My larger point is that my comments on systemic patterns that happen to be symbolized and manifested at any given moment by concrete happenings are still not about individuals. Or their hearts. Or their intentions. Or their goodness. I know it can be possible to mix critique of systems up with criticism of a person. We are all capable of making that mistake from time to time.
I just think we need to talk about these things. I must trust each human can deal with hurt feelings in the end. I know I’ve had to. It’s up to me to grow past that. That’s life, eh? Just as I would have to respond to those who have said at various times that “being called racist is the most damaging thing that can happen to a writer/journalist/pol/person” with “No, the damages of racism upon communities and souls and bodies….that is the most damaging thing. Please don’t redirect the camera in that way…that angle misses the big picture.”
Rolling into Miami!
Before you go shipping that nitro…
I am aware that I am potentially annoying you by talking all around the event at this point, while not yet having talked about it but bear with me if you will—even though my regular readers are probably saying “Why is he re-explaining all this? We know his take on it, we won’t misinterpret! Enough disclaimers!” But there will be people reading this post who are not used to the way we discuss these things. And in this case, I’d do all I can do avoid misunderstandings.
Outside the Hotel
Here’s another surprise for ya: I agreed to not post my video on the event until I showed it to the organizers. This is something I never do. I figure if you have me appear to speak and know what my work is about (and if you don’t, then you really should have researched), then it is my right to tell truthfully what I saw.
But I did agree to having the video pre-approved anyway. I was approached before I left by two very cool gents and had no real issue with agreeing to that. Honestly, I think I am partially at fault for perhaps inspiring some anxiety about how I was going to present my findings. But I would make clear that by saying repeatedly on Saturday “Just wait til you see the footage,” it was only my way of pushing back on the couple voices that insisted my views were off/inappropriate. It wasn’t “Oh wait til I drop this bomb on you,” it was simply me saying “I cannot argue this point here and now. I’d much rather express what I experienced with cinema. It will simply make things clearer to you.” But I think perhaps the “just wait til you see the footage, then you’ll get it” was misread as something more threatening. Again, given the view that some have that being called racist is something terribly damaging, I can understand anxiety around this. But the truth is, I received different responses in some cases than some others did. This only reinforces the things I am saying. So my point was, “you won’t understand the full truth of what I am clumsily saying here until you can view for yourself those responses.”
Dinner on Friday
The Two Gents said no, they didn’t think I would mischaracterize people’s comments; they trusted the “professionalism of my approach.” And I sure appreciate that.
Because yes, I know these journalists are all professionals with careers and I am not out to harm any person. I know aside from my repeating “Just wait, then, until you see the video,” I—as THE BLOGGER—am simply not predictable, am not bound to conventions in place, am my own editor, and so it is easy for people to feel threatened by what I might write or create.
But while I certainly am a small fish in the scheme of things, I take the power that my words and film might have seriously. I do feel a certain responsibility. I do not believe in hurricaning through lives and saying anything you want in the service of a personal mission…actions involving messaging and communications and film (as they have the potential to impact society exponentially) must be weighed carefully.
Also, the practical reality is even if you are telling truths the world needs, a career or opportunities can be destroyed (mine) or at least greatly harmed if powerful or well-monied people who have reached out a hand to you feel they were burned.
These are tricky things to weigh. But in the end of course I always value my responsibility to the human race to be truthful about what I see and feel. Because my eyes, heart, and belly and mind were given to me by the highest authority. And nobody here on earth supersedes that imperative. And if my career in some way needs to take a hit in that service, okay. I am calm about that. [Update: Some wording strikes me reading back and I know why, and I know why it is not so hard for me to prioritize telling my own truth…it’s because my blog is not my career. It is what I do because I must! My career is art.)
However, I’m not worried about the approval. Because as I said…this is not about individuals. And to make my points I need single out nobody. And surely they are not interested in censoring my discussing race and class and cultural divides entirely! And certainly not when it comes to immigration! These things are definitely all interwoven.
And if they don’t want me to discuss even that much, well. I’ll peel that orange when I come to it.
One thing that strikes me in these situations when you drop into a setting to connect with the reality of those who live there, is the differences in class and positioning in the world. Maybe that is because you approach attempting to connect. This is what makes me videotape the lavish buffets that always appear at conventions and such (or often do.) That’s what made me feel more at home with the (latina and latino) NYU janitors and cleaning ladies than almost all of my peers there. I simply cannot be unaware of different racial, cultural, or socioeconomic signifiers and positions.
The Stylish French Cat (on left in the “brown contingent” photo) spoke to me about his similar sensation when sitting in Starbucks with his interviewees. There was “something off” about that particular setting and situation and contrast to him.
Another tall, well-spoken intelligent seeming white cat (forgive me, bro, I forgot your name) spoke to me in the lobby of the hotel on our way to dinner, as well. He mentioned my words the day before on our walking into these settings in such a way—a way where class privilege and signifiers shriek out of a gap. “It’s not the ideal situation,” he admitted.
First Course at Gabbiolo
What to do? I certainly am not saying reporters should get blisters in the sun and arrive with dusty hair and hungry! Nor that these conventions that are purposely comfortable in order to buffet the human spirit a bit from the weariness of the travel we make (many from out of the country) and the long, busy days should be held at motels or in tents, or anything. I know I sure wasn’t lamenting, refusing, or feeling shame over the five course meal at Gabbiolo’s, complete with fantastic wine and dessert! In fact, I’m still salivating over it.
I am simply pointing out that the disparity in watcher and watched distorts the information gathered. And this mostly becomes dangerous when that is not acknowledged in the reportage itself, in some way. And thus the danger of false “objectivity” which never says “Here I am, with my particular lens, at this particular time, and thus am seeing this particular angle.” The Objective™ voice pretends to be the godvoice, to be neutral and not situated on any particular piece of land or from any particular era and thus lacking a viewpoint that can be evaluated and separated from the text itself.
Stylish French Cat’s example was “Africa Experts” who were there one time, “or who have a neighbor who was in Africa once.” The Objective Façade (damn, I am hitting all the French words today, yeah!) brings a bias, erases the serial number, and calls it Truth.
Ethnic Media in Europe and the United States
The conference documents themselves stated that the US is “further ahead” in terms of “Ethnic Media.” It is taken more seriously, more widely supported, and is more legitimized. The Europeans themselves are aware of this. On the other hand, one or two seemed to yet grapple with the very voice/tone/angle/”passion” that has led this to be so! At moments, it may be a hard bridge to gap, in such a short time. The one between the US and the UK, or France, for example. But I think we did pretty well, anyway. I can only imagine how, for example, my voice—already considered confrontational in the USA!—comes across to them, if Ethnic Media is much less part of the conversation where they normally operate. So in that sense, I appreciate that we did as well as we did.
I really enjoyed the French people I spoke to. There’s always been something about their way of avoiding as many hard divisions that we have in the US that really appeals to me. Their newspaper front pages are, apparently, often a melange (ooh, “melange”!) of departments all weighing in on one topic. (Possibly where Huffpost got their “Big News Page” idea for various hot topics.) Rather than walled off, isolated columns appearing in the same area. In my very limited experience of their literature (translated to English), the “French” way of writing and thinking on page often wanders and free associates and takes you through an experience, through the thoughts until you have become filled with the idea and story that the author wished to impart to you. As opposed to a tightly structured, tightly-contoured, and arranged series of parts. Is this making sense? I am interested in minds that see this type of movement and mezcla as viable. It feels like freedom to me.
One of the things I am attempting to do by drawing out all the nuance is avoid implying or giving the impression to anyone that this trip and this experience were not useful. Nor that the money was not wisely spent, nor that other journalists should not attend if they are lucky enough to have the opportunity. Exactly the opposite. I feel these types of discussions galvanize thought and spur progress. And I have no hesitancy in saying I felt damn honored to be amongst all these professionals.
I only offer my experience so that if desired, the organizers can think on it and use it to make the next one even better…at least to include the awareness of this dynamic, or more discussion in such directions. But again, I did not operate under any such seemingly altruistic agenda. I simply spoke what I saw and felt.
Karla Gomez-Escamilla of Univision exchanges looks with me as we are given an unexpected post-discussion/ pre-dinner speech about not letting our 'passion' or what we heard in the field get in the way or overshadow our journalism on these topics.
Objectivity: the Man Behind the Curtain
“You don’t know how he’s gonna hit you,” said Mona (she’s the one flashing the peace sign in group shot above), about the so-called “Objectivity Lens” of much Mainstream Media. He’s a man behind a curtain. Won’t show his face. “That’s why I left that world,” she said. I’m tired of that type of objectivity. “I want to tell you how I feel and how I see things,” she laughed, loudly, with what I perceived as a damn enchanting British accent.
And I encouraged her to please do so, please keep on. Mona is a spirit-filled, wise, powerful voice and she’s shaking things up, informing the world, and shattering Muslim stereotypes left and right, every time she speaks on her community.
Stylish French Cat said The Objective Lens is a way of keeping YOU OUT. “No! This is objective! No room for you!” he laughed, dramatically holding both his hands up.
Professor Kwong mentioned how the typical gatekeepers would only allow articles from him that prop up their own visions of Chinese culture. He said the “Objective” model is one that functions to exclude. And that the objectivity model is a misleading one.
Mizanur said “I don’t mind even FOX news having an agenda. I don’t have a problem with expansion of the menu. More choices, to me, is good.”
Karla Gomez-Escamilla of Univision (I repronounce the way she says it from time to time in the back of my mind…oonee-vis-YON!) and I met at the first breakfast and hit it off right away. Over the next two days, we spoke a lot about these things, and as she is a working TV reporter, I’ll keep all her words off the record. But we spoke of all the currents in play, and speaking for myself, I’m glad she was there. There were moments her presence—and what I knew to be her background and opinions and experience—were a touchstone of safety and comfort. Even without words. After all, at this event I was—and even called as much over and over—”The Blogger.” The potential for me to have been isolated, given not only that aspect, but also in what I kept talking about, was high. Again, I have a lotta love for all the friends I met who made sure to surround me with support, both days.
In my presentation, I spoke of the MSM as being ethnic media in its own right! Just not the brown contigent of Ethnic Media. A different ethnicity. It is the lens that pretends it is no lens. It is the invisibled lens. You’ve heard me speak about this in years past as The White Lens.
I spoke of my ideas on Ethnic Medias’ strengths—prefaced by the warning that I can only speak for what I know of Ethnic Media. Not all “ethnic media.” Also adding that race and ethnicity and culture matters are obviously unique to each country and that country’s history. I said that communities of color have longer memories when it comes to history. Here in the US, we factor in slavery, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Wounded Knee, General Sheridan, the US invasion into Mexico, the CIA interference in Latin America, or the railroads and how they came about when we speak of the echoes that still play out in oppressions and laws and politics today. Etc.
I said that Ethnic Media, in many cases, would know right away there is something problematic about dropping off a van of mostly white—or simply outsiders—into a community of color and then prompting that community to reveal the divisions they have between them and other communities of color. Ouch. Which was our assignment, in essence. To fish out the positive interactions they have with new immigrant communities, as well as the conflicts. [UPDATE: I tried to leave this out, but doing so leaves a question mark as to the strength of my reaction. The first day we were given our papers explaining the assignment there was only the directive that we should discover the conflicts. That completely weirded me out, and I was glad to see when they handed out updated papers the next day, the assignment was much more even-handed, and was changed to the version I posted above: to find out the positive “as well as” the negative. So if anything, those planning this adjust and self-examine quickly, and clearly are aware enough to be on guard for those kinds of biases. I felt better after the edit, but still found the entire scene odd. I also brought up to the group that I noticed this edit, and was happy to see the change.]
There was some pushback to the things I said to the group. I know I didn’t word everything as perfect as I would have liked. I know, too, though, that the process of interacting with free speech and getting to the bottom of these things will be imperfect and at times messy. And yes, we must be careful not to be essentialist or to overgeneralize.
The Big Cheese. (And Mizanur.)
I feel it is far more perilous to pretend these dynamics are unimportant.
What should also be made clear is that I was not informed of this practicum part of the experience until after I had agreed to speak on a panel! I had no idea the trip would involve my going out and into a community for a couple/few hours and interviewing people. If it was in the documents they sent me, I missed that part (very possible). Regardless, that part came as a total surprise. As it was, though, Miami was Part TWo of a two part (International) symposium, the first of which was in Paris. (Damn! Missed that one!) So everyone but me, pretty much, knew we’d have the reporting component.
I also loved the field trip and am very glad it was, indeed, a part of the trip.
Sandy Close of New America Media said on the penultimate day of the symposium “I always learn the most when I am uncomfortable.”
And that’s why I’d never want anyone to draw the conclusion on this event that it was not supremely educational and worthwhile, despite ripples in the smoothly-ironed fabric of our planned dialogues. Because part of what happened—conflict and all—was part of what needs to happen and is happening everywhere.
As Mizanur said to me, this is the way news is trending, like it or not.
We were warned to apply sunscreen liberally. Here are some folks putting some on before we took our field trip.
You deconstruct…but do you create?
The gentleman who was speaking up hard for anti-immigrant extremist groups FAIR and CIS also said that writers like myself, bloggers like myself (he did not mention me by name, but to tell you the truth, many things he said might have been interpreted as almost direct responses to some of my writing and videos) who “go off into their own tribal enclaves” are dangerous. He sounded very worried, to be honest.
I am not dangerous to him. At least that is not my intention, nor do I put any energy into harming him or wishing him ill.
Again, though, if we go back to the Polite Society idea, you can see how voices like mine (voices not “trained” and reined in to the standing order and conventions) might be perceived as dangerous.
But I am not here to simply deconstruct or challenge or as some say about us “ethnic media” types, to complain. I see this type of writing more as…sweeping sand and clutter and debris away from the floor so you can see where the weak spots are. So you can travel safer, faster, and truer. I am certainly not saying I see all, or have all the answers. Which is why Ethnic Media is very often associated with community, with the need to connect with each other and support our communities, and from which political action is basically inseparable. This consciousness and tradition is passed down in our communities from generation to generation.
When I dropped into the African Heritage Cultural Center on Saturday, I had little urge to either cleverly or directly inquire to them—as someone from outside their community with only an hour or so to spare to build up any rapport—regarding the conflicts between US-born African Americans and Haitian immigrants or Cubans. I am not saying that these conflicts do not exist!
What you don't see is that the moment after I surprised him with a lens in his face, we grinned at each other and shook hands without uttering a word.
But I am saying…why? Why go in there and try to get at that? In this short time? What is the interest there, first? And I have to say, I steered away from that for the most part. I am glad the organizers were sensitive to this, to the fact that the conversation or day might go otherwise. And they did remind us that those questions were only suggestions before they sent us out on our trips.
Though I did, a few times, attempt the questions, anyway. And what I found—it’s what I expected to find, even though I may have been assuming too much by extrapolating from how the activist/community-oriented Ethnic Media blogger-types I am familiar with are—these people wanted, instead, to speak of how their solidarity crossed over divisions in communities of color. They talked to me about how we are all in this together. About how we are not settling for the conditions in which communities of color find themselves, and are fighting it. About how nobody is illegal, and if someone is, then its everyone but the indigenous. They were mostly black, Haitian, Latino, and they radiated and demonstrated such love and acceptance of each other and positive energy that I was swept up and was reminded of my days at Centro Cultural de la Raza where as a young chico, I first remember feeling that community love.
Love and Community
That’s what it’s about.
I’m not saying there are not tensions that need to be explored! Especially when they erupt into harm or violence on one or more of a group of people. But like at least one of my interviewees, I feel that tension we are chasing is very often exacerbated or initiated by Arpaio types. By Brewer types. By Hayworth N McCain types. And that the focus ought to be on them, and the big border lovers who do NOT see us all as together here, and on those with far more power in the system who would ferret others out by their accent, or their otherliness. Or put the glare not on the poor housing and impoverished conditions they live in quite as much as on those who operate in this world and make so many rundown areas possible by their own massive and disproportionate siphoning of wealth.
I know at least one person at the conference felt that this focus was a weakness of Ethnic Media. Okay. I won’t argue that. I disagree entirely. But I have nothing to gain by arguing it if you don’t get that.
More importantly, the focus is better served being on positivity. A constant broadcast of fear, scarcity ideology, terror, and division resonates in the collective heart. The focus ought to be, sometimes if not almost always, on the ties that connect, on the common causes, on the strength and bridges built between commonly marginalized communities. On the love and power there that not even the most objective person could deny feeling, even as but a stranger invited into the bosom of another community’s presence.
This was my rundown of all the cultural and social elements of the event and setting. Soon I’ll post again on the info and insight that I gained through sitting in the presentations and hearing the findings and teachings of scholars and journalists. Both these worlds coming together reveal more, I feel, than only one or the other.
I’M HEADED TO THE STATE Newt Gingrich once called a “third world country” right here in the US: Florida. Miami, Florida. Where I once lived for a few years in my pre-teen years. Miami has long been one of my favorite cities. Just something about the heat, the tropical smell and feel.
Here’s just a few passages out of the introduction to the conference:
Reporting on immigration by focusing exclusively on the situation in host countries often means missing a big part of the story. Immigration is a complex economic story that requires an understanding of such factors as globalization and international trade and how they impact the developing world. Stories on immigration need to provide greater context by relating migration trends to the economic “push and pull” factors that propel migration. In turn, migration has an important, and often contested, economic impact on host countries.
The global economic crisis has had a marked impact on migration to North America and within Europe. For instance, according to a report published in 2009 by the Migration Policy Institute, immigration to the United States from Mexico has dropped significantly, with a decrease in undocumented immigration driving this trend. At the same time, Mexican immigrants resident in the United States are not returning to Mexico, despite a large increase in unemployment within this community. By contrast, almost half of the 1.4 million workers who came from Poland and other EU member states to settle in the United Kingdom and Ireland have returned to their countries of origin.1
This session will cover the economics of immigration, specifically addressing:
• Why are workers crossing the border? What are the real factors that push people to leave their countries? What economic impact does migration have on immigrant-sending countries?
• How can journalists make complicated economic issues understandable to a general audience?
• How can more comprehensive reporting on the economics of immigration have an influence on general public opinion? On public policy?
• In their work, how should journalists cover the domestic costs and benefits of immigration and the workings and failures of the labor market? How can they tackle the common notions that “immigrants steal jobs” / “live on public benefits” / “are responsible for public deficits”? What role does immigration play in host countries’ economies?
And here is the text introducing my panel:
SESSION 5: ETHNIC MEDIA IN NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE: A COMPARATIVE APPROACH
Despite difficulties wrought by the economic crisis, ethnic media in the United States are well positioned and often considered reputable. For instance, according to New America Media, the audience for ethnic media in the United States stood at 50 million people in 2009.5 Ethnic media in the United States are also evolving alongside their audience. The Project for Excellence in Journalism has observed that as the proportion of American-born Hispanics continues to rise, some Hispanic media have abandoned a purely Spanish-language format, becoming bilingual or even adopting a solely English language format.
In Europe, according to a report from the Institut Panos,7 the role and characterization of ethnic media is often influenced by the specific culture and history of a country. It is known as “diversity media” in France, “multicultural media” in Italy, “community media” in Belgium, and “ethnic media” in the United Kingdom. In many cases, notably in the United Kingdom, financially successful ethnic media outlets are attracting the attention of the mainstream media, which views these outlets as serious competition.
However, in many cases, ethnic media in Europe lag behind their peers across the Atlantic. For example, there are no Arabic newspapers in France despite the sizeable Arab community in the country. This session will adopt a comparative approach to ethnic media in North America and Europe to try to understand their differences. A few questions that will be addressed during the session:
• How can we understand the relative success of ethnic media in North America compared with that in Europe, where in many countries, ethnic media remain relatively weak?
• Under what constraints do ethnic media operate when representing the voices of their communities both in North America and in Europe? How do they deal with pressures imposed by the community? Does this compromise their objectivity when covering such an emotional issue as immigration?
• How does immigration coverage by ethnic media differ from that of mainstream media in North America and Europe? How does their local / community-based focus complement the coverage found in the mainstream media? How do the mainstream media work with ethnic media?
• What stereotypes are faced by ethnic media? How do they affect their credibility?
• How have ethnic media played a political role in mobilizing their communities?
The blog will probably go dark for a few days, but that’s not new. We’re not held to a daily schedule here. Regardless, I wanted to let you know where I am at.
[fixed] & Replaced with a newer, longer, slower paced version of the trailer that lets you into the story a little more. It’s not as funny, macho, or punchy as the shorter version, but is more dramatic narratively. And is still corny enough to make you laugh. But clearly, this is one hella graphic movie, as this preview shows. Rated X.
“Please father, have mercy!”
“God has mercy. Not me.”
THE FRIENDS I KEEP NOWADAYS are involved in the struggle.
Meaning, they are engaged in standing, speaking, or working for social justice. It’s not as pretentious as it sounds. After all, they are Xicano writers, or Boricua thinkers, or queer lawyers, or Black entrepreneurs or Asian auteurs, or Gender-Breaker System Shakers, or disabled poets, or feminists or Feminists, or some overlap of all these things! So all it means to say they are involved in social justice in some way is that they love themselves and are self actualizing, and support others who travel a similar road.
They are sane; they do not listen to paid contortionist leeches like Glenn Beck who take a phrase like “Social Justice” and try to make it into something strange. They know what it means. (Most, if not all, don’t even listen to the Rupert Mindfuchs Station. They love themselves that much.) They are kind and wise beings; while faulted, they never imagine they have the right to take, stomp, or siphon simply because they have the opportunity, or because a law happens to allow it. They are broadminded and intelligent; they get that imbalance is a dangerous scenario to nurture, and that helping ourselves does not have to hurt others, nor should it.
I don’t really want to waste time with people, otherwise. It’s just a drain, and a battle in the wrong place to get hung up on an individual who is not “there” with you.
Of course it is no utopia, even in activist/advocate circles. We all have our interests, and they do not perfectly align. But again, with the wise lens of interconnectedness, we work together to understand how each our particular “causes” are bound up in the same struggle. Because they are.
I am not blind to reality. I understand members of each community have members who do not recognize this. There are always class issues that can divide any community. There are members of the Latino/Mexican/Puerto Rican/Cuban, etc communities who have homophobic issues without realizing they harm the many queer Latinos with such attitudes. There are still members of the Feminist community who are oblivious to the staggering amount of issues women immigrants face. There are members of the Black community that support SB 1070, without realizing how siding with lawmen like Arpaio or politicians like Russell Pearce who are bringing laws made possible by extremist groups like FAIR puts them on the side of their very own persecutors and killers. And thought I know all won’t agree, I would hope that most Asians are already aware of today’s Yellow Peril-like glare, and that Jews shiver to watch authorities randomly requesting people’s papers—
Because we need to recognize these overlaps in social angst and persecution. And not only in retrospect!
I, too, tire of the poem about who “They” first came for…because the poem serves nowadays as a sweet Facebook status or Twitch of wisdom and then we move on. I tire of it because the point of that poem was to warn the human race of our own tendencies to side with the oppressors, even when by all means, we are of the same cloth and in the same loom.
It is an old, and beautiful piece of writing. It sprang from another time, and sadly it applies today. But let’s step out of distant sorrowful gazes; let’s leave the library and the history class for a moment.
Now Is the Time!
Because Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to say “I’m not waiting for Them to come for me. I’m educated. I’m fluent in English. I’m a citizen. I’m middle class. And I believe in what is Right, not in What is Currently Legal. I believe that what I do is a part of What the USA Is.”
Now is the time to get your hands dirty and fight. The most vicious elements of bigotry and racism are not takin’ it easy. They are ramping up and have infiltrated politics and media and prowl the streets at night, as well. Your heart is needed, brother. Your strength is needed, sister. Arm yourself with knowledge, and enlist that wild, thriving heart.
And don’t fall for the ILLEGULL-SCREECHERS venomous and self-righteous screeds.
A LEGAL lens is not the Equivalent nor the Determinant of Truth
Law does not equal truth. Law is but a clumsy attempt that the human being wields in order to reach into the murky and layered realities of our huddled mass of culture and times and fish out Truth. And justice. And thus, this high-power but sometimes clumsy crane arm must always be closely scrutinized, because that steel contains no nerve endings. And if our aim is off, it reaches into people’s lives, grabs them by the hair and plunges them to the bottom of a lake where they will be suffocated and perhaps never emerge from the clutch of human passion gone wrong.
So to screech THEY’RE ILLEEEGAL really just makes you look like…a pod person. Like a YouTube commenter. And a bigot, in truth. An unsophisticated one, is all.
But some of the most effective bigots are not unsophisticated. They know not to use all capitals. They know not to screech “ILLEEEEGUL.”
They know how to affect the veneer of the respectable. But they are still acting in the name of bigotry.
I grew up poor. We made our way to American Mediocrity and with our own VCR and new car by the time I left the house at 15. But before that, for a while, we had less than nothing; we had the road. We had a bucket for a toilet and three stumps for front steps. I don’t give fuckall about veneer. It means nothing to me. I hardly see it. I know what a spendy and fancy coat bestows on the wearer. And I know you can snatch that coat off and the same miserable, stinking, stick-figure will be there underneath it. I judge not by the coat, but the stride and the shape inside.
A Wallet Sized Snapshot is No Substitute for A Big Picture
The article brandishes an impressive thread count, and the buttons are handcrafted by the most worthy of workers; the history of the cut and the fashion is well documented and highly regarded. But the figure within clamors with ignorant angles, stumbles in the darkness inside. The coat is simply too large for its occupant.
While claiming a grasp on the “big picture,” the writer seems ignorant to what the big picture is, instead offering us phrases that eerily echo some of the most vile anti-immigrant voices out there before finishing up.
As an African-American who lived through and before the Civil Rights Movement, I’m no fan of assessing people based on their skin color. But holding a struggling State’s feet to the fire on tactics is missing the point . Why are protests not being directed to our national government and the government of Mexico? Why aren’t these groups demanding that our porous border with Mexico be closed, once and for all? It’s not impossible. We have the most sophisticated surveillance and monitoring technology in history, the most formidable military in the world, yet we are unable to stop the daily intrusion of illegal immigrants from Mexico into the United States? This is a failure of policy, not one of capability.
The author is African American, has lived through the Civil Rights era and is “no fan” of racial profiling. Which is good. Because Facebook’s rules won’t even let a group that stands for Racial Profiling have a fan page. No dilemma for him.
But not fanning a Racist Facebook Group’s page doth not a humane or thorough thinker make. Standing under the banner of one of social justice’s greatest icons and leaders—MLK jr—Jones is baffled as to why we are not using our “formidable military” and surveillance technology to “stop the daily intrusion of illegal immigrants.” And thinks this is “the big picture.”
Here is a quote from a Utah Minuteman site that today linked to my site as a “Race Monger” blog:
The Utah Minuteman Project, is a grassroots effort of likeminded citizens and legal residents of Utah whose goal is to defend Utah and America from the scourge of illegal aliens from around the world who have invaded us, plundered our public treasuries, killed our citizens, stolen our jobs, and aggrandized their demands against the common weal. Similar to patriotic movements across the Nation, the UMP is dedicated to securing our borders, recovering our sovereignty, and re-establishing the Rule of Law in Utah and Washington D.C. Just as important as these imperatives, our efforts are intended to educate the ignorant and motivate the apathetic to understand who we are as a people and what binds us together as Americans. Truly, if we do not know for what we stand, we cannot know for what we struggle.
With an editor’s quick touch, the Utah Minutemen could be sophisticated bigots. They are not quite there. But really, their words and sentiment seem not too distant from Mister Jones’ overall message.
Are these the people you feel aligned with, Mister Jones? Do no bells go off simply knowing about these many ties and affiliations? Or…are those sorts of details a part of the picture not big enough for you?
That is why we target SB 1070. Now, while there is time.
Do you stand with these efforts? Or with those of FAIR? Perhaps—Mister Jones—you should donate to FAIR? Because I’m sure all the efforts expended to turn our nation into one that does their bidding and resonates with their own neo-nazi flavored philosophies have drained their coffers.
The writer continues with his “big picture”:
Any version of amnesty for illegal immigrants and efforts to organize a boycott of Arizona will detract from the number one priority affecting substantial segment of the American people: unemployment.
Ah. “Amnesty.” So this is perhaps a Conservative writer. I see. That explains some things.
Well, you are wrong, Mister Jones. And I feel sorry for you if you think words like “Amnesty” help project a wider understanding of a Big Picture. It is a loaded term as you well know; it is a Right Wing talking point meant to infuse a disgust in people that they ought feel kindly about letting Mexican criminals off the hook for invading/overwhelming/outsmarting/outnumbering Real Americans.
Why don’t the pro-amnesty undocumented immigrant leaders join forces with the “anti-illegal immigration” leaders and bring the Government of Mexico to the table?
Because the human rights activists cannot “join forces” with people like FAIR, nor would they! That would be like a human being “joining forces” with a hungry crocodile. Yum! Your suggestion that people who would rally to the same causes that MLK jr has—seeking justice and humanity for the downtrodden and vulnerable poor—should sit down and join forces with people who sometimes wear hoods or congregate with those who do shows you have no clue what you are talking about, and further, are despoiling the name and legacy of Martin Luther King, jr.
The annual cost of maintaining and providing services to illegal or “undocumented” citizens should be tabulated, assumed and paid by the Government of Mexico or credited against the annual cost of oil we import from them until such time as immigrants from their country become U.S. citizens.
Okay. Fair enough.
Before that, let’s return all the illegal social services contributions that were taken from many undocumented workers’ paychecks. I bet that lump sum would be no paltry pile, and could cover most if not all of that. So let’s keep going, and return any taxes that were taken at all from their pay, and while we’re at it, let’s return all the illegal goods that were produced by their “illegal” labor, and all the affiliate profits that were leveraged on the doings of those businesses by various agents.
Right after that, let’s tabulate the costs of NAFTA to Mexican campesinos and the Mexican corn market and larger economy. Let’s—while we’re at it—tabulate the costs of human lives, suffering, destruction of historical items and the looting of museums and buildings that the USA has wrought in Iraq. And let’s keep tabulating the damage our own nation is doing around the world. Let’s tabulate the costs of funding Mexico’s Mérida Initiative, which gives cash and police weaponry/surveillance gear to enable Felipe Calderón to bring about more torture and murder of its own citizens in his disastrous Drug War.
Or…is getting to the Big Picture done by only focusing on one small area that supports your argument?
I’ll come back to your cost argument in a moment. First I want to finish quoting you by dropping your last sentence in here.
Let’s face it: right or wrong, the Arizona legislation is treating the symptoms of an international disease that needs much stronger medicine.
And there, I am almost with you. Almost.
Yes, immigration needs to be taken up on a federal level. Though certainly not with the backward lens you propose! That is not taking up immigration; that is militarizing our nation. It rhymes, but will have very different consequences.
As far as blaming the non-movement of legislation for Arizona’s very special hostility toward Mexicans, you are wrong. And unsurprisingly by now, you are the one missing the big picture.
The Long War on the Indigenous
SB 1070 is not some new phenomenon cooked up by Arizona lawmakers just this year because Obama’s White House has not acted on Weeding Out the Illegals™! Arizona is acting out a long-running battle against inevitability. I touched on a bit of this the other day, but a more thorough and academic explanation can be found here:
“Looking Hispanic” has always been a misnomer; what it really means is those who are dark and short and who look the “most Indigenous.” Truthfully, here in Arpaio Country, that profiling that everyone fears is already here with us. And to dispel illusions, the darkest amongst us have always been subjected to racial profiling by the “migra” and by law enforcement agencies everywhere in the country. This is true whether we’ve been here for a few days or for thousands of years. And to dispel further illusions, this civilizational clash alluded to is national in scope; witness the many hundreds of anti-immigrant bills nationwide since 2006. Only its epicenter is here. […]
SB 1070 brings us to a moral precipice. After World War II, a consensus developed here that it had been wrong to have incarcerated the Japanese in internment camps because such action was morally wrong. Virtually no one had the courage to assert this while it was happening. Law enforcement has that chance today, to refuse to obey SB 1070 that is both, morally repugnant and outside of the U.S. Constitution.
Regarding the larger civilizational struggle, the context is akin to when Europeans first came to this continent. The conquistadors came for gold, land and bodies (slaves). The friars, on the other hand, came for souls. Similarly, the migra and extremist legislators want bodies deported; the state school superintendent, Tom Horne, wants souls.
Bodies and Souls. I have long called it “The Long War.” Meaning the war on the indigenous and their resources by outsiders who have had a few generations of offspring by now, who have in turn absorbed enough of the new dogma to forget whom they owe for what, and who they are in the entire big picture. It rolls on, in many shapes. SB 1070 is the latest.
The Big Picture
Like you, Mister Jones, I want us to discuss, the Big Picture. Or, I should not be snide: unlike you. Because despite your open-minded subhed, you are not offering Big Picture fixins. Just more oppressor snackybits.
Here’s my final point. And it goes back to your tabulation masturbation; it goes back to who costs whom what.
I get that we are a nation long encouraged not to think for ourselves, and not to think with our heart or mind’s eye. We are a people long conditioned to powermongers who do all they can to shore up their power, weaken ours, and tell us how to think. And I get that we’ve been told to fear so so so much in the past ten years. Trust me. I feel it weigh at times on my spirit…then I remember who I am. I am an energy and consciousness allowed space and time on this earth for a short time; I am not beholden to adopt any other person’s idea, fear, or hope. I am free of that.
But it’s out there. And I get it. Fear the Arabs, fear the blacks, fear the mexicans, fear the poor, fear the crazy, fear the ugly. Fear anything that throws a shadow on your beautiful castle with it’s lush Green Zone and moat.
I also get that this immigration furor that has been cooked up is simply theater. And many players stand to benefit.
Big business, which wants (ideally) a million people working for a penny a day so those Goldman-Sachs types at the top can have a hundred wardrobes and twenty planes.
ICE, this new police/military/federal force that surely costs billions, needs justification to continue. Cities and towns now count the enforcement measures as ways of propping up their economies.
Racists and white nationalists see a way to reshape the populace by lies and violence.
Humbler goals are harbored by most of these undocumented people. Families want to stay together, want to be Americans, want a chance to live in success or at least not in misery. Workers want to earn 8 times more by simply moving to another area; just as Jersey residents might travel to NYC to work every day, and just like people fudge their own insurance to pretend to drive in one state while living in another. Except in Mexico, it’s not about a slightly lower insurance rate. Families simply cannot survive. Parents abandon their kids simply to be able to work and send them money so the rest of the family can live.
To see what is going on, and then to sneer about law and call for the military? Wow. It sure is one way to respond, no doubt. No doubt. But if I were doing that, I’d not have the nerve to then attach Martin Luther King Jr’s name to anything I wrote. Honestly.
But back to my thread. There are a lot of actors in the game who make honest accounting of the issue difficult.
But this enforcement mania is theater.
If there were a way to remove all ten or eleven or twelve million undocumented people at once, and place them back in Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Poland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Venezuela, China, Chile, Mexico and wherever else they come from—I’d say okay. Do it. Do it so you can see how the US way of life collapses entirely. Just falls to the ground. The difference would be cataclysmic, the results echoing out everywhere. You want to talk depression? Economic trouble? Class warfare? The rich or moderately well-off would need walls around their own yards, screw the border.
Can you imagine the number of businesses that would collapse? Cease to exist? Neighborhoods empty and vacant and crime filled? How many Postvilles would play out across the country?
If you had some conceivable way of sweeping every undocumented person out of the nation, I’d say do it because the outcome would cripple America, all that labor and family and energy going back to where it could do good and be recognized for the good it does. And then we might learn.
But there is no way to do that. Nobody really wants to do that. No honest actor in all of this thinks we can do that or actually wants that to happen.
So…what do they want?
Those who work to persecute the undocumented today want to keep this ongoing terror theater going for a couple reasons.
Politicians want to manipulate the vulnerable and to keep as much labor as they need to keep the American Economy wheels turning. Turning with fear. Turning because those working the gears have no choice and are just holding on to get by. Which is a sort of slavery by other means. Serfdom by other names. It’s abuse and exploitation.
The anti-immigrant factions that attempt to turn the hostile lens of criminal law on their own counties simply don’t want to see Mescans in their damn ‘hood. That’s what SB 1070 is about. Get out of our nice, pristine, fake-ass neighborhood. But that’s as far as they want it to go. They, too, need all the wheels to keep turning. They don’t want factories and businesses and crops and restaurants and communities around the nation to fall apart.
So it’s terror theater and economical rewards and its an abuse of human beings and a spit in the face to our purported abilities to think and feel and act reasonably as a society.
By These Deeds We Shall Be Known
In fact, the way we approach or fail the Immigration issue today contains the key to all our current societal and cultural and moral dilemmas. It is what will determine how far forward we want to go in this era. What are humans in this land capable of? Are we still bound by greed? Are we still defenseless against our more primal inclinations? Racism. Equality. Feminism. Individual greed vs the collective good. Questions of property and what it is used for, what land means. How connected we want to be to the humanity that helps us set our tables, to mother earth, and those who feed us.
As I see it, we are being called to step up in a very particular way. It is a unique time. The conversations are all shifting, rapidly evolving, almost too fast for the belly to keep up with. How will we do? Will we rise to the occassion? Or meander along in mediocrity, still sowing great pain and propping up imbalance and bigotry justified by bad law and force?
Walls in the mind, walls in the desert. Rituals and roles. Bodies and souls. You can contain another’s with a show of force, but it will be at the cost of imprisoning your own.
THIS IS A SPECIAL DAY for a number of reasons. Here at UMX, I cannot help but think of my own, as this is The Unapologetic Mexican’s fourthbirthday. That’s like 20 years in blog years! Empires rise and fall out here in a couple years! Seemingly sound friendships are utterly exploded in a three day flamewar! Massive campaigns ripple across the blogiverse, change the world, and then subsume into pixelated fade out in an eighth of that time!
And I’m still going, and still raising hell, and still talking to some of the same cool cats I met in the early days.
In that time, I’ve seen immigration and the human rights issues involved there, and the ones needing attention regarding the Latino community, become centered in the meanstream media in a way I never expected. I’ve seen numerous lists, groups, companies, and orgs spring up to address these needs. The landscape has changed a bit, the challenges remain the same, la lucha sigue.
Echoes. I became gradually more and more aware of all those issues for various reasons, but a lot of it began with my father’s activism/poetry/writing on our community’s situation. I’m thinking now of the late 80’s-ish Coors’ boycott. (People telling gente not to boycott AZ may not understand the tradition and success of our boycotts.) I remember jefito and Margarita takin’ me along to chill with some of their friends, and that issue came up on the way to their casa—no Coors, whatever we end up buying to bring over!
And I learned about Prop 187 through different pieces he wrote, and it was HR 187 4437 that of course prompted the massive turnouts in 2006…it was part of that energy that gave birth to this blog. But our community has been in this struggle since I was born, and of course, much longer.
Here we are in 2010, and SB 1070 is not so different than the Sensenbrenner attack. Same poison, same sentiment, different name and state. Same backlash. And the bill is headed for the same defeat, if we stay strong.
Today are the marches. All across this nation. (I’ll be in Salem). Let those who decry protest and marches and demonstration note of how we do, from coast to coast. And let those who join us be empowered and happy in their hearts, or at least stirred deeply with righteous fury. I send much love to all of you who are takin it to the streets. Feel this beat. Stay safe. Steer clear of provocateurs and tense police! Be loud. And be joyous!