Regular readers: This post is important, and provides a breakdown longer, perhaps, than the attention span we are trained for; truth deeper than a feel good rant, and tools to help us come to understand some of the forces at work today seeking to divide and dilute our political power and self image. David, a compa I work with, researched and penned it over at Hecho en Aztlán, and aside from the blurb, some minor formatting tweaks I gave it for UMX, and the title, it is David’s work, and we thank him for it. Please take a little time and arm yourself with this info. It is, I submit, foundational in the next shape of our movement, and more will come from various quarters that will build on it.
En lucha y amor, Nez
IF YOU HAVE MADE FREQUENT USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, you have undoubtedly come across the “LATISM” acronym a number of times.
LATISM stands for Latinos in the Social Media and is often used as a hashtag on Twitter: #latism.
Many in social media view LATISM uncritically and embrace it as an all-in-one remedy for bridging the technological divide between Euro-Americans and the so-called “Pan-Latino” community.
This media collective of pan-Latino Hispanics, which largely consists of east coast Puerto Ricans and Cubans, stand to gain much sought after attention and web traffic for their affiliated news organizations.
In the 12 year alliance with one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels, we have to ask ‘how much drugs has the DEA helped import into the USA?’
But let’s back up a moment.
It’s important to keep your eye on the horizon. Learning to drive, you will be taught that staring at the road right in front of your car’s hood will leave you with no reaction time, and increase your chances of having an accident. You learn to watch the road at the horizon. This will keep you informed of everything headed your way. This is a simple concept that will aid your critical understanding of everything in your life. Keeping a broad overview of your terrain will best prepare you to navigate it.
In the case of gangs like the DEA, they are not here to keep you informed. Like most gangs, they are about consolidating their own power. In public, their spokespersons will throw out all kinds of disinformation and PR chaos-control. Running back and forth trying to decipher the boilerplate from the reality will leave you slamming your brakes, wasting gas, swerving left and right, and eventually, slamming your mental filters into each and every piece of detritus coming down the parkway. You will end up confused and distracted and unsure—exactly how modern media empires and plutocrats want you.
So lift the eyes and suss out the patterns over time. Form your picture of people and things from a more detached and thoughtful place. Factor in all the info that comes your way from various sources and readings. The lens that includes context and experience and history is a more reliable one. The lens that trusts the eye behind it is unshakable. Trust your inner eye. » Jump the border and read on «
AND SO IT FALLS ON US here at UMX—as well as at other blogs and independent news sites—to spread the word; to remember the name and smile of Brisenia Flores; to make clear that this killing is no isolated event perpetrated by a couple “crazies,” but is woven tightly to the anti-Mexican/anti-immigrant/anti-Latin@ sentiment that festers in so many layers of popular US culture.
From the fearful, punitive talk about immigrants espoused by Republican and Democratic politicians alike, to the video games that posit Mexicans as criminal invaders, to the movies that only present Latinos as gangbangers or cocaine kingpins or street thieves or knife wielding degenerates, to the movements in states like Arizona to wipe out Chican@ culture and history and aim to have us living in fear, to the judicial brutality and disproportionate police punishments meted out to the brownskinned, signals are continually broadcast to the public at large that mark us as less than human and offer us as viable targets for derision, fear, and violence.
Uncovering that—clearly—is far too big a story for any station today to break.
This episode of News With Nezua throws a pointed jeer at the contortions these mainstream news sites must adopt in order to justify turning away from this particular story and stories like this.
CHE GUEVARA IS A HERO not only to many Cubanos, but to all people who understand and fight for autonomy from oppressive forces and human rights for all.
Why do I write of this now? Recently a question was posed as to if he deserved his place as a Chicano icon and legend; after all, went the argument, why should we revere this Argentinian who fought for Cuba’s independence? After all, it went on, he did nothing for México. He never once uttered the word “Chicano.”
But posing this division—that Cuban icons (or Argentinians) ought not be embraced by Mexicanos, or Mexican Americans—is not only ignorant of Che’s legacy, but at heart yet another symptom of the colonized mind. And I should make clear that my reply here—and any hints of ire you may pick up in putting down my thoughts—are not directed to the online friend who inspired this post. I think it was a good set of questions. And I’m glad I have the chance to answer it. Any intensity I employ here is aimed at the matrix of obfuscation and lies that demonize gente in our ancestral lands and attempt to keep us mental and physical captives of a corrupt system. If I wanted to play snarky, I’d simply reply that much-revered Chican@ (and Mexican@) icon Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe certainly never uttered the word “Chicano,” either. But I think the question deserves some thought, not a cheap semantics volley. Which is why I brought it here.
What is it that Latin America has in common? Why would México understand revolution? What unites the movements in Latin America—from México to Venezuela—so often? What oppression is it that has spread throughout all of Latin America and does to this day? What shadow covers one and all, despite their other struggles? It is the same shadow that has fallen on Haiti, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on India, and on México. It is greed and white supremacy. It is non-concern for human rights. It is a loathing of the poor. It is a yearning to be of the elites at the expense of all else. It is the audacity of hypocrisy—such as President Obama’s criticizing China’s Hu Jintao on human rights while the USA maintains torture sites on foreign soil, the right to assassinate US citizens without due process, and drone attacks that slaughter countless innocents in illegal and undeclared wars abroad.
This shadow that unites Latin America specifically is cast by the imperialist exploitive forces of Europe and North America who time and time again install occupational forces throughout so much of the world, steal resources, undermine populist efforts, and then, propagandize the media with tales of Latin America’s deviance; their criminality; their weakness. Do we, as Chican@s, suffer here in the USA from the echoes of this propaganda? You better believe it.
This is why the politically involved Chicano understands Che’s fight. Che ought only be a Cuban icon? Perhaps. Many Cubanos do not embrace Che for where some of Fidel Castro’s choices, or for the same reasons as posed at the link above. Che was not Cuban, but an Argentinian whose family lived in Mexico while he fought in Cuba. He was a doctor in el D.F! But what took him away from his familia? Corazón did. Concern for imbalance and human suffering. Che Guevara was horrified by poverty and by peoples’ inability to be treated for sickness. He was not someone who wrote in a blog every day thinking that was somehow going to attain this goal. He was a man of action. Is that something a Chican@ ought to get behind? Yes, he was extreme, and willing to bring violence behind such goals. Only unlike powerful nations in that they bring violence to continue an unfair imbalance of wealth and hegemony in the name of fossil fuels. Just as Batista’s military brought violence on his own citizens, torturing adults and executing even children attempting to squeeze them for information on the rebel forces in Cuba. Che’s violence was meted out in the name of human rights. Much as the mythical character Robin Hood. But instead of wearing tights, he brought a rifle and machete. Che’s vision was for global revolution to attain justice. Not just for Cuba. After Cuba, he wanted to take his fight first to the rest of Latin America. Which is why he died in captivity in Bolivia, after all.
Why did so many campesinos in Cuba accept him, ultimately, and support the revolution? Why did he win the support of not only the poor but the middle classes eventually? Do not the divisions that cause this question about whether us Xican@s should celebrate his life and efforts exist, too, between all Latin Americans? They do. And as you know, there is no common and all enduring bond between “Latin@s” within the US. The USA holds a microcosm of those divisions. Cubanos, Mexicanos, Puerto Ricans, Chileans, Argentinians, Venezuelans, and so on—you don’t need me to tell you that we struggle within the hierarchies and divisions sown between our peoples by the government that rules this very nation. Despite our being lumped together as Hispanics, or Latin@s—or Spics. These divisions, even while we all live here, are a product of colonization themselves and too often, prove stronger than the bonds that ought unite us.
Why was Che able to bridge the differences in ideology and methods that created various rebel factions in Cuba when he brought Fidel’s war to Santa Clara, closer and closer to Havana, and united them under his command? Why did Che speak (in the UN, no less) about blacks and Latinos and other minorities in the US living in “invisible cages”? What did he mean, referencing a sleep that we would (and should) wake from? He was reminding us, in public, in the full glare of cameras and history, standing in the belly of the beast that these cages—oppressive containers created by corrupt systems we cannot see—determine so much of our fate. And they keep us fighting amongst each other. They pose divisions between peoples who ought to band together to fight the real oppression. He warned us not to buy into the “Self Made Man” myth.
The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.”
– Che Guevara
Che’s philosophies and speeches and diaries reflect ideas much larger than an effort to oust Batista from Cuba. When he talked of love in the revolutionary’s heart; a love that enables her to fight for justice, her family, and her puebla, he talks of ideas that unite all people. (Or should.) When he speaks of the Imperialist US forces that divide and suck blood from Latin America, he speaks of ideas that affect not just Latin America, but you and me—we “Chicanos.” Us, the hybrid results of that colonization meeting the indigenous with a sprinkle of distance and comfortable living thrown in the mix.
Some of us, far too many of us, who are descended from Latin America (often with family there even now), fight to defend those very divisions and that exploitation, because we benefit from it or because we have been brainwashed by the ocean of propaganda that informs the mainstream of literature and film and television, all intended to continue the influence and inertia of anti-populist reign. Imperialist nations punish severely any of their intended subjects for remembering the truth, for having heart, or worse—throwing off the chains that bind. Haiti, Cuba, and México are all nations that pay this toll to various extents. It was the USA that sent weapons into Bolivia and trained their soldiers, aiding and abetting in the capture and murder of Che Guevara. Just as it is the USA today who sends weapons into México to aid the corrupt and installed Felipe Calderón as he slaughters the citizens of México. You see what the USA’s vision of human rights and health care is. It certainly isn’t to treat all and any whenever they suffer. It certainly isn’t to educate any and all, despite what nation they came from. Look to Arizona.
Where ought the Xican@ stand in this continuum?
Here the US government is occupying Guantánamo as we speak! The USA’s military forces reside on Cuban land and have constructed a torture and prison facility that the government stocks with individuals from Afghanistan in a perverse retaliation for an attack on Wall Street that was (ostensibly) perpetrated by Saudi Arabians. And all the while, we well-to-do, well-educated, well-fed offspring of both the oppressor and the oppressed who ought to be using all our power to help our disempowered brethren in Latin America are instead, arguing against a liberator and rebel worthy of lionizing, if any ever were.
Those who criticize youth for wearing Che's image would much rather you be too embarrassed to continue than actually inform yourself.
When Che was able to recruit so many peasants and townspeople to his cause, his ability and methods echo the dynamics that allowed the people in México to defeat the imperialist French at the Battle of Puebla, using ordinary objects. Rakes, sticks, stones, stampeding cattle. Like the mythologized early American patriots who attacked the Imperialist British scattershot and hiding out in the woods; like the Han warriors in China who defended against Cao Cao’s superior forces in the Battle of Chibi (Red Cliffs), Che fought off larger numbers and more powerful weapons, and eventually gave his life, for the Peoples’ right to be free from tyranny. How involved in la lucha today are you to believe that changing avatars on a social media application is resistance to government oppression?How revolutionary is it to sit in a well-cooled theater, chewing red licorice and cheering for the rebel alliance to defeat George Lucas’ imagined Empire, but then return to the bosom of the actual Empire and condemn true rebel forces?
Does Che deserve to be an icon for Xicanos, Xicanas, Latinas, Latinos? Only if we remember where the struggle lies and what it is about, at heart. Only if we believe that truth and autonomy and human rights are worth dying for. Only if we truly believe that those with the truth, and the welfare of the People, on their agenda are in the moral right, despite how many guns, tanks, or hypocritical speeches about Democracy and Justice are on the other side.
YESTERDAY’S SICK WARMONGERING SCION OF AMERICA, George W. Bush, once appeared on television and sternly scolded the People for taking television too seriously.
That is, this pampered rich boy who had every thing stolen for him in his life, swaggered up on his pulpit and berated the entire nation, warning us not to have too many emotions and thoughts due to all the televised news about death in Iraq; about suicide bombings in Iraq; about the Empire spasms that lashed out taking lives, maiming babies, weeping spent uranium. “The explosions on your TV.”
And I think that little irony there says it all about today’s media, about today’s “News” channels. We are supposed to take them seriously, even as they tell us not to do so. An inverted knot of suppressed and sublimated emotion and mangled thought process is how they’d have us. A busted open container they can pour poison into. But before that, like a vampire, suck up the energies and spirit of so many, and from all sides of the political spectrum. Inside this beast’s festering jaws are clenched a fabricated world brightly and wretchedly illuminated as if by 100,000 limbs set alight by white phosphorus.
Inside that box, the Iraq disaster is done with. Inside that box, it makes sense to keep bleeding billions into the Afghanistan sands. Inside that box, no important questions matter. Inside that box, your own heart and mind can’t fit. What would (does) our world look like outside of that box?
Today’s Right wing is not worth listening to any more than it makes sense to stick your arm into a spinning garbage disposal. What of those those who watch these hell-hearted plasticmen and seethe? Or mock them on a blog? Or debunk TV arguments every day of the year? A massive amount of energy and time is spent doing this. It’s sort of weird. Who do they watch for? Not for me. Some will claim it is a service. Do they do it for you? They deplete their own energies, and accomplish what? What is accomplished each day by doing this?
In truth, I’m sure it is a service for a few. Is it the most valuable service? Perhaps not. What of pooling all that time, pooling any monies, and creating a new station. Or perhaps a new network via radios. Yes, radio. This tool that many more people can use, and even carry mobile. A tool that many of lesser means can broadcast with, no less.
And to do what? Simply reporting the state of the world as it truly is. Sowing the airwaves with hope, with positivity, with history lessons. With plans, with campaigns, with community. Completely tuning out the false narrative as you would tune out a sick individual on a corner, ranting about death, devils, and disaster. Would you follow that person around, reinterpreting all their madness for the crowd? Would you shout side by side and call it a service?
This motion is not so much popular, though. The shape of thought that would completely swerve away and build something new in the place of something unsightly, unsafe, or unsound. Is that a revolutionary act? It is, by definition. Reform seeks to take something broken and reshape it. Redundancy says do it over and over even when it does nothing much. Revolution says that Thing is not worth reshaping, nor is it worth your energies and time. Revolutionary thought says you have the power and means and ability to make something new, in place of the old. But today’s Left is not revolutionary, of course.
Lately I hear a lot about how while so many are misguidedly blaming ALL muslims for 9/11, it was only a small cadre of radical extremist muslims who attacked us on 9/11.
Is that true?
Do you even know–as a person–who attacked us on 9/11? I don’t. How am I to know? How are we to know? I still have the newspaper where some foggy screen caps of a Fake Osama Bin Laden were shown supposedly crowing about the WTC attacks. For a tape that would be the hardest evidence in USA possession of who made the biggest hit on our country in its entire history, it faded out of existence very fast, eh? But then, I already said it’s fake.
Do you know it was the Taliban? Really? Why? Because your TV told you? Because the lying, corrupt government told you? That same government that was making deals with the Taliban in August of 2001? The same government that has been trying to sink its derricks into Central Asian oil fields for years? Why? Because they claimed 19 passports floated out of the completely exploded plane down onto the street and somehow stuck out in all that clutter, debris, ash, and litter?
What evidence do we have that the WTC were taken down by the people our government claims? What evidence personally? What trials brought to light the guilty? What process made this clear? What oracle pronounced this truth? The very same TV that our own government’s head of state told us not to take seriously? What forces forbade you to question this? The Right, and yes, the Left, too. From Bill Maher to DailyKos—earnest questions about this catastrophe that changed everything in our nation, from law to war to monies spent in congress, to school lessons—were verboten. Despite the shabbiest case ever built against any major crime. And those who insisted we examine it were demonized by those same Liberal forces, as we are today. Just as it has been the Liberals overwhelmingly leading the charge to sneer at those of us who still believe in protest, rallies, and boycotts.
That is your (Professional) Left.
Obviously, in 2010, what is ancient is again new. The empire is well into its recycling phase. We see conquer and divide. Hucksters and snake oil salesmen. Blatant class war. PSYOPS and a host of control mechanisms to provide a manufactured reality that keeps the People scattered, confused, scared, angry, and mostly, full of fake information. We were attacked and traumatized a decade ago, lied to about it by those who are supposed to protect us and be of us, and this rending of the truth helped destroy us as a confident and sane people.
We tried again to hope and believe in truth when Obama was elected, but as much as some “progressives” still cling to their ideology and party, it’s clear on a gut level that we were had and that the strongest forces in our nation today are those of war, greed, and deception.
And now, nobody believes in much of anything anymore as a result. And we are fast unraveling. Truth means nothing and TV pays it not even the tribute of a gesture. Racism is part of everyday speech, political campaigns, and dialogue. Hate groups are hand in hand with government. White supremacists roam the border and carry badges and guns, too. Laws that let police be even more racist in their operations than before are being launched left and right.
Even those who fight every day to maintain belief know, in their belly, that the game is rotten to the core. This is driving us mad, it is wrecking national sanity. Or causing people to simply turn away.
It’s not just because Obama is black that the nation is flipping out. It’s also because all the illusions of national identity and ideology that we were given as children have fallen apart. Now naked power rules, and shows itself in gross class war and cooked up news shows, court rulings, and police actions that make clear who will be okay tomorrow, and who will not. Those of us with little money or position understand we will soon be living in mildewed tents on the outskirts, while those with money or power will continue to enjoy tax breaks, ballrooms, and well-buttered toast smothered with imported jams.
Dreams of justice and fairness have been toppled.
Once that sinks in fully, things will become very ugly indeed. But many of us are in denial, in shock, or yet to see the final foundation buckling. Still listening to the siren song of TV.
Were there someone or some ones capable of organizing even a fraction of us—they’d need lots of money, and yet not to be beholden to the ideology of the Right—we might have a chance against our enemies. Our enemies are greed and disinformation. And a state out of control. It is those same illusions given us as children. It is the inertia that shoves us cliffward. It is the voice of the Television. It is today’s Liberal brain, brain like a slave, stooped over with the load of delusion, but weary and with no place to go to get away from it. The Left is a zombie holding a flag, with all its sly use of the Right’s most drastic weapons, with its reinforcing at key moments, what harms the People, with no real plan or courage to enact something better, something revolutionary. At every juncture where the Left might make a real stand and make a difference, it suddenly caves in. Just when the People might again hope or benefit. But it must. Because, you see, even the “left” politicians on the national stage know the deal. They hold no hope for justice or truth, either. But LIBERAL is their brand and they are stuck with it.
The GOP? The GOP is but the blood-flecked ID expanding like a rogue universe of wicked cells, the diseased and disintegrating lobe of the human condition. The freaked out, frantic, midnight acid-head mind that whips and coils like a half-smashed snake in the sand.
I’m not better than anyone else in all of this. I soothe myself with TV, too. I dive deeply into illusion. I simply happen to turn to it for storytelling, for movies. Otherwise, I’ll be out in nature. Give me the sun, the wind, the water, and the touch of someone close to me. And give me stories. Stories of clear-eyed humans, of paths lined with golden wheat that sways in the sun, trod by brave souls undertaking important journeys. Give me stories of unpolluted hearts, and simple, wise, and humble humans. Give me stories of the past, of over there, of a day faraway. A day when this looming tower of babbling bullshit has finally collapsed and lain itself upon the ground to bake and bleach under an aging sun, before long to be but a skeleton for tomorrow’s mountains.
is an International, Multicultural, Interdisciplinary, Multimedia Digital Arts Compilation featuring
2.5 Hours of Music
60 minutes of Video
Visual Art, Poetry, Photography,
Essays, Short Stories, and MORE!
FForward Movement was created to raise funds and awareness for the
United States Social Forum 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.
Featured artists include:
Agents of Change
The Unapologetic Mexican
Adrienne Maree Brown, AJ Viola, Al Jagiello, Allie Moreno, Bagwis, Big A, Chinonye Nsofor, Diskarte Namin, Erin Cramer and Zeke Williams, Fausto A. Lopez, Halima Cassels, Heather L. G. Bella, Iayaalis, Jhonathan F. Gómez, Jhuelz, Jim Perkinson, John Lyons, Just One, Kevin Valentine, Khary WAE Frazier, Kiko, Len Beste, Los Nadies, Mars, Mary Simmerling, Matthis Chiroux, Michele Crimi, Nashville Session Players, Nic Notion, Niko Marks, Paul J. Miles, Phillip Morris, Ramah Jihan, Sabrina Nelson, Sails of Whydah, Sim-One, Stephan Said, Steve Falconer, Stryfe, TaRee, Tha Truth, The Pachamama Band, Tom Neilson, Treble Army, Urbanized Music, Vanessa Huang, Zeina C. Washington
Proceeds from the sale of this compilation go to the United States Social Forum.
This project is a collaboration of artists and activists, individuals and groups who work every day in our communities to create a better world. Artists from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas are represented. Though we are different colors, cultures, creeds and religions, individually and collectively we express our common belief that Another World is Possible.
The completion of this project is the realization that by our action we advance the vision of the USSF from possibility to reality.
Another World Is Here. This is only a beginning.
FForward Ever! Backward Never!!
The US Social Forum (USSF) is a movement building process. It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history.
For more info [or if any of the links here did not work properly] visit USSF2010.org.
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.
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.
THOSE WHO RUN MAINSTREAM BLOGS and by that I mean white blogs, and by that I mean blogs that mostly pretend justice can be found by traveling all the well-worn channels of conversation and operation and who do not challenge the standing vampiric order by reminding readers of the systemic racism that girds the US’ international actions, domestic reality, criminal law system, entire prison industry, immigration law, and media portrayal do not have the same comment moderation experience that others do. That I do. That Racialicious does, that Zuky does, that ManEegee does, that Blackamazon does, that many of my friends do. They surely deal with blowhard know-it-alls and all forms of annoying commenters, but there really is something different about the responses you get when you DARE to write as if mexicans are decent, good, intelligent, creative humans too (IMAGINE!), or that Blacks or Asians are equal to, and at times superior in ability, to whites. There is a special form of outrage and murderous intent that comes your way when you write about real history, and don’t mouth all the propaganda our nation sells to us. There is just something really vile and disgusting about the animosity that rises in reaction.
So we moderate our comments. Because we are not beholden to some weird idea that we deserve hate and to display it like some little gold star on our blogchest. I have never, ever had any compunction about that. I used to have to battle with commenters about even that point. They seem to have given up, maybe my blog has a reputation for not dealing with that stuff, maybe the color of page I chose repels hate, I don’t know. But there is a very simple precept that I operate on. I am here (or on YouTube, etc) to create an undiluted message; to present a strong presence and reality that will not be found in other media. Giving hate part of the stage would make no sense, when it has so much territory of its own already.
Again, none of my friends (people of color) out here feel any strange notion to leave those comments when they appear, like flies clustering to saliva-slicked candy. Let the white feminist blogs battle all day with misogynists who flock to their threads. But that becomes a battle and an endeavor all on its own…and that is not what I came out here to do. I didn’t one day in 2006 say “Hmm. I really wish I could take all this hate I feel coming at Mexicanos…and manifest it in the form of comments on a page that was associated with me. I think I’ll start a blog!”
No. It was more like “There is too much anti-Mex racism and hate flying around in the air, on the street, in my neighborhood, and in the media and it is unchallenged and it needs to be CHALLENGED and COUNTERED and I need to be doing that.”
So I laugh when people leave whiny comments about my moderating their hateful screeds. They actually criticize me for not letting them center their vitriol! As if just by the direction the hate is traveling in, it is righteous. I’m thinking now of my YouTube video I made in February about SB 1070. I allow through a fair amount of the nasty comments when I feel like batting them around. But many I do not. Many are simply poisonous. And as I replied to one person who thought sneering in hate at me was the way to make their comments be made visible, “I understand. It hurts to find even one tiny place online where you are not free to spew nasty shit about immigrants or people of color. I bet you wish you could just run around rampant on my page, sucking up all the oxygen and centering your own hostility.”
And I’m fucking with him. But the truth is, they really are baffled! I know that. It really just seems surreal to them—in a culture, national culture, media culture—to find any spot where The Understood Hierarchy is not in place. White on top, color all underneath and subservient to any opinion and feeling and abuse white feels like dishing. We get normalized to anything that is around us, we get habituated, as is the term in the field. It’s that sense of NORMAL that destroys people of color in this nation. Our lives, our minds, our bodies, our families, our legacies, our opportunities.
When people—white people in this example—protest at reaching but not being able to grasp this power normally so accessible to them, you can hear the tones of frustration and fear. Those used to napping in the satin bedding of undeserved privilege don’t WANNA wake up and mow the lawn. They don’t HAFTA. It’s not FAIRRRRRRRRRRRR
Just ask Mitt Romney, who hires help to carve out a pretty, illegal lawn for him.
When Glenn Beck, the foofy crybaby millionaire vampire, moans about the “death of white culture”? This is what he means. The death of his ability to dish abuse on non-whites and have it be NORMAL. Arizona doesn’t quite understand either (or the legislators with power I ought to say, because I’m betting most of Arizona is brown people who don’t agree with these landowners and lawmakers). Right now they are all “Hunh?? Wha’ ‘appened?? All we did was institute the Rightful Hierarchy!”
It’s a changing nation. I mean what the hell did they expect? For all the slaves that were dragged here never to fall in love and have children with each other? Or that when the slaveowners raped their slaves (or even had love affairs with them) that the descendants would never have skin that reflected the dominant genes of one of their parents? That the Indians in the hot lands would stay down there? That the Chinese would dig the mines and then go home? That the Indians here in the north would teach the invaders how to farm and then fade away? That the Chileans and Japanese and El Salvadorans and Argentinians and Mexicans and Blacks who powered the economic and agricultural and garment industries would never procreate? Or that Melanin and epicanthic features can be wished into oblivion?
Of course the nation is browning! This land—not too long ago, some need reminding—was entirely populated by non-whites. Aside from the European (French and Spanish and British) forces that showed up wanting gold or goldlike opportunity, that is who lived here and that is who was brought here in droves. Or, for example, in the case of Mexicans, that is the workforce that the nation advertised for and solicited!
Some people—mostly the older generations at this point—dwell in illusion about this plain fact, and losing your illusions HURTS. Having the White Lens peeled off by the caustic hands of reality HURTS.
Here is the sad part:
Those people flocking online to spread hate…they are nobodies. In terms of who is caging whom? They are not staff at the zoo, only other visitors. They are just as oppressed in thought as anyone. They are tools. They say “go back to where you came from” without thinking twice about any of this. The logic is so….stupid that you can’t even argue with it. That’s why I don’t usually. Sometimes I’ll respond when they cry You are stealing jobs and breaking our laws! Maybe I’ll say I was born here. Or You do know that US industry advertises for labor in Spanish on Mexican radio, right? Or You do know that railroad towns in many instances originated from the shanties and camps set up by Mexican workers, right? But mostly I don’t. Because like the song almost says, “They only have eyes for you…below them.” And that’s all these ones can see.
And all the while, these people are being used. They show up spouting lines that would make politicians jump like monkeys and clap with their feet. Sure, they have a heart and mind and their momma loves them, I bet. Some of them, at least.
But as time wears away the illusions, they understand they have been duped on some level. And being fooled stings. It humiliates. The stories preached in films and on TV and in books and in classrooms about the inherent white superiority and natural ability to succeed and Be Greater Than (and this includes dominating in numbers) were lies. These people who now live the dawning of the lie need someone to blame for this new pain. There are already prescribed scapegoats. They begin to seethe with frustration because while many of us already understood the nature of the illusion (because we’ve already paid for our lesson with pain) they are just getting around to seeing reality. They want to punish someone for their having been tricked. And just like trained animals, this small group of reality-resisters aren’t great at producing original thought on their own, and fall back on their training. And point to us. That’s who they want to punish for their being fooled.
Progress will come. It is coming. It is arriving. It is on its way. We are living it. It won’t be instant. It will hurt. Like harvesting crops in the blistering sun, it will exact a cost, a toll of pain and sweat. Did ya think justice grows on trees? Even if it did, you’d need someone to pick it. This time, I say don’t leave that work to others. Because they might decide later that the orchard belongs to those who work it.
I might as well add that I don’t like the “we lined the border with all our crummiest states” joke and the noticeable roar of laughter that follows. It’s too easy for his audience to respond warmly to a comment that instead of bolstering up human rights or highlighting racism, instead practices the same old slurs AGAINST Mexicans. Because…why are all the border states the “crummiest” ones, eh? Right.
Anyway! Aside from that one sour moment, I found this a much needed relief. Thanks to mis amigas over at VivirLatino for the link.
THERE WILL BE NO MEANINGFUL IMMIGRATION REFORM. Not this year, and not next year. If it lurches up to the starting gate in any form, it will be in a cruel, misshapen, bruised, and weeping condition.
The Much-Vaunted LATINO VOTE
No, the question is how will those of us who took hope in hearing Obama’s campaign-trail passion on the issue react to this news, once it manifests? The immigration-talk theater being put on now between Democrats and Republicans boils down, as I see it, to a theatrical piece where the players joust to show their base who defeated/championed a legislative effort at all. Because they translate that piece of fantasy into votes for or against them when nothing passes.
The purpose of the charade is, too (and equally important), to let us down very gently in order to dull a wave of reaction that might hurt them at the voting booth. As was done with the Public Option popping in and out and in and out of play during the Health Care talks, until our nerves were greatly numbed to the idea of either outcome. These politicians are nearly sociopathic in their ability to read and manipulate large masses of people. That’s their job, they do it well, and they learn all the wrong lessons. But one they stick close to is blunt the edge of any potential progressive populist anger. That anger, after all, is not pro-corporation.
They tell us that our power lies in our votes. But does it?
The Democratic party assumes that Liberals and Latinos alike won’t defect, in the end. Even if they punt on the immigration issue. “After all,” they imagine us saying, as they play puppet games in the library whilst drinking outlandishly expensive cognac, “Democrats fought for health care! And what is the GOP today anyway, except a festering, miserable, fearful, warlike, racist contingent of the rich and the wanna-be rich? Surely no place for us there!”
Or…we stay home and do not vote. Or…we vote third party just to say fuck you, you cynical, cowardly, well-funded, well-fed, well-powdered power brokers. All of you.
I attended the march and rally for immigration reform on Sunday, March 21, in Washington DC. I shot a video of it for my weekly news/commentary video series, News With Nezua. This week’s piece—“200,000 Strong”—is featured at La Frontera Times.
Last Sunday, 200,000 immigrant-rights protesters shared the National Mall with a Tea Party crowd that shouted racial epithets and spat at members of Congress. Unsurprisingly, the media focused on the histrionics of the Tea Partiers, but Sunday’s immigration demonstration was an important manifestation of the movement’s building impatience. In its enthusiasm and optics — legal and undocumented immigrants chanting “Sí se puede,” singing folk songs, and waving both American and Mexican flags — the demonstration was reminiscent of the immigration protests in 2006.
Yes, you are right that it is “unsurprising” that “the media” focused on the histrionics of the relatively miniscule opposition. It is unsurprising in a context where an article writer like yourself poses the two as comparative entities in the first line of your essay! Ay.
Let me tell you something. The Teabaggers, and the NumbersUSA crowd were SO SMALL in the overall reality of that day that I never once bumped into them. I actually set out to find them, and could not. So that article (while not a bad one at all) begins disingenuously. Not malevolently, I just think the writer desired a certain entrance.
Further compounding the sense of unreliability in the text is the line equivocating the waving of “both American and Mexican flags.” Writer is stretching hard, here, to justify the mirroring that they propose between 2006 and now.
I shot photos all day. I took audio. I shot video–on both my camcorder as well as my iPhone. I interviewed the young and the old. I traversed the grounds from riser and Press tent to the street and the dirty dusty danced-up soil of the National Mall until my entire body hurt and I could barely walk anymore. I squatted, ran, walked, and even hung from one arm on a tree to get a good shot. There were maybe…three Mexican flags that I saw amidst the thousands I laid eyes on. And one was tiny and hanging from my own back pocket. You go ahead and peruse the images and video you find online. And if you discover any kind of ratio that would justify that article’s imagining of an equivalency between flag-waving, come back and tell me! (Incidentally, though a bit irrelevant perhaps nonetheless, I did see a handful of El Salvadorean flags, but RIFA went to a lot of trouble to avoid a replay of the 2006 march, where the sight of Mexican flags in the street caused many, many palpitations on the Right side of the aisle.)
What IS IT with reporters today? There is so much drama and passion and honesty and fight and meaning out there. You don’t need to make things up!
No, the message transmitted by the rally and march was strongly contained and crafted and directed. That much is clear. It was a good show. RIFA did a great job. White clothes (Mexican tradition as far as I know regarding marches and protest) for a positive, clean feeling; chants of “USA! USA!” to sooth the fragile trembling tissues of the Buchananites, who toss and turn nightly over visions of Indians leaping fences to plant flags bright with writhing cobras and hungry eagles in pure pristine AMERICAN soil; big showing of proudly self-identifying Christians for immigration reform….and so on. I don’t mind, I don’t think it’s anything but smart. You would have to take control of this message in particular if you were hosting an event that large, sure.
Anyway, human rights advocates understand (one hopes!) that being involved in a pro-migrant cause requires one to push back against many nation-deep memes that feed on Indian blood, a nation that overall prefers its darkies in cells and chains or at least busing tables.
And this is a show, after all! Politics is not about truth, and even when it is, Politics has two arms. One is draped in diamonds and silks and shows up on TV, and one holds a gun and leans its elbow into the dry sand of foreign nations as it clambers ever closer to the dizzying scents of petroleum and blood. The fine line between entertainment and war, says Rage Against the Machine.
So put on the show.
My video was not celebrating the chances of reform passing. I appreciate that La Frontera Times tweeted today that I “captured a celebration of hope.” That’s just what I felt was my imperative to do on the scene, once I was there and had walked around a bit.
As a…Journalartist or…an Artivist… (or someword that combines Journalism, activism, politics, and art), my job at these events is to capture and translate the mood and feel of the happening. To tell the truth as a journalist would—by showing you who was there and what was happening—and to send it flying with the power embedded in the poetic passport only an artist may employ to launch a truth into your heartspace. The “activism” part (if it must be called something, this will do) is simply in the fact that we all know, and it is not hidden in the video, that I do not pretend to be showing some middle-of the road, “neutral” piece, but am certainly there vibing with the people I am presenting. Nonetheless, I was not there to push any political entities’ agenda, nor to lie about what I see—and finally, not to claim that what I see is all there is, either. (Though I deny an equivalent number of Mexican and US Flags!)
Fact is, if it felt different in DC on that day, the video would have come out different. I soaked it all up, and I give it back. The day felt utterly positive, true, real, and beautiful. And that was not due to the speeches (which is why my video has hardly more than one line of those in it), but to the heart and soul and bodies and voices and needs of the people.
The very people who are being lied to and used by more powerful forces in a bid for continued power.
O, the People. Who is left to fight for the People? Many who won’t show up on TV. And if they weren’t out there doing their thing, we’d all suffer a lot more than we do. But as far as politicians and well-paid pundits? For the most part they are welded to the beast, to the iron tumbling beast that will soon find the bottom of the ocean. They shout into microphones, extolling the beautiful landscape along the way.
Indian Killers Vs. The Safe and Sanitized Left
The GOP grapples with a number of problems. But at the core, their main problem is their philosophy. It is not real. It relies on a reshaping of the Real which requires endless violence and delusion, rather than meeting the Real to see how we can learn from and nourish the human race’s organic arc. By their ideological nature, they cannot progress (“Conservativism” embraces stasis, tradition, a reductive approach, an exclusivity that stunts, withdraws, retracts, rejects; this philosophy cannot sustain itself) and so we see them tearing at themselves now. It’s ugly. It’s painful. There is no cure. The ideology has a fatal flaw that only grows more egregious and destructive as the rest of the world changes.
At heart, you can trace so many Right-Wing objections to the naturally-shifting ethnic demographics of the USA back to German philosophers like Johann Gottleib Fichte, with their notions of Romantic Nationalism. Undiscussed by the paid-for propaganda stations on your TV are how the very same notions of a cultural and national supremacy beset by invaders from within resulted in movements like Nazi Germany.
Surely nothing (aside from rounding up people and shuffling them en masse into concentration camps) is more Hitleresque than enacting laws and social norms and mainstreaming violent language that targets the spoilers of the Pure. (I make these comparisons very carefully, but know that half my family came here fleeing Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe about 3 generations ago and I for one do see a disturbing overlap in this revulsed, persecutory, culturally superior aggression against Mexican immigrants today.)
And that is what the US Right Wing response is to today’s immigration issue, health care reform (which they imagine is a handout to people of color), and Obama’s presidency boils down to. From the laws creeping forth like chokeweed in Arizona, to guns and sleazy assassination talk as rejoinders to Democratic (centric and corporatist!) legislation.
SOSHALIST! FOREIGN AGENT! FASCIST PRESIDENT! ILLEGAL INVADERS! MEXICAN FLAGS! WELFARE QUEENS! AFFIRMATIVE ACTION! I WANT MY COUNTRY BAAAAAAAAAACK
The deepening fracture in the GOP echoes that which took down the 19th century Whigs—centering, as it does, around racism. The GOP cannot move into the future. It is, at heart, built to comfort and sustain the lives and ideas of elite whites, and mostly elite white property-owning men. And that is not today’s real world. As it was, the notion has always had to be brought to bear behind the barrel of a gun in the first place. That is another reason the GOP is dying. You cannot sustain a culture without respecting and revering women. And you cannot sustain a political party on a room full of old white men…and a living pinup. That’s for other types of partying…I suppose.
When the Right embraces a woman, it has to be a person who is racist herself, devoid of intellectual integrity, and crammed full of hypocrisy, condescension, and power lust [Palin]. When it embraces (and I use the word embrace purely functionally, not emotionally!) a black man (Michael “Bling is My Thing” Steele) it is a cynical and insincere motion used only to counter a larger political or cultural force (the election of Barack Obama). When the Right elevates a Latino/Hispanic like Alberto Gonzales, he by needs must abdicate his own family roots (lie about how they got here, disowning story and allegiance and pride and truth in the process) and aid the US war machine in killing hundreds of thousands of brown humans in Iraq. When the Right has an Asian American hero, such as in the case with John Yoo, he would of course have to be a cold-blooded advocate of testicle-crushing, torture-wheeling, bomb-dropping aggressions in the Middle East.
These Indian-killers in the GOP (and when I use that term I reference the illegal Irish immigrant Phillip Sheridan who wreaked holy historical hell on the American Indigenous during his tenure in the US military) cannot change their stripes. They can only fracture within as some members attempt even the tiniest departure from a reflexive racist stance, or die out, sputtering, hissing, contorting, and shrieking all the way.
I say “indian killers” because there is nothing more rational at the root of so much of their ideology—be it opposing non-white immigration, denigrating the civil rights era, or fearing a black president’s every move—than what was behind General Sheridan’s imperative to genocide-by proxy the American Indian by slaughtering every bison on the land, when not directly killing indians. It’s built into their DNA by now; To these sorts (despite what they say out loud, and they say plenty out loud!) people of color stand for all the evils in the world, and these types have a guilt that has perverted itself over the many sins leveled against the Other and projected itself skewedwise upon us, just as the notorious Gang of Perverts (GOP) is well-known for introducing punitive anti-gay legislation all while secretly engaging in meth-fueled, scuba-geared, rest stop stall-centric homosexual hijinks on the down low. To these spoilers and stealers, it is people of color who stand for crime, for corrosion of culture, for the faltering of White Empire.
The Right simply cannot abdicate that position, because to renegotiate these ideas would be to admit their stores of wealth and (relative) sanity are but founded upon falsity and evil.
The latest shape in which the GOP offers up its ubiquitous racial animosity and white supremacy is one choice vehicle to truly draw forth their ire and bile: the immigration issue. The white liberal faction of activism and punditry claims the GOP attacks the idea of immigration due for the most part to their fear of instilling a mass of future Democrat voters. Not really. Not unless the Dems are employing their own code language here.
It’s just what it sounds like. It’s not far from the thirst for racial purity that we associate with some very creepy chapters of world history. And it’s just as dangerous an impulse. And it’s dangerous, too, not to name it. Because how will we face and defeat this ugly, ancient impulse if we pretend it’s about voting booths? Anyway, voting booths are just about power, and the power the GOP wants to maintain and propagate is one that—again—would erase the Civil Rights gains, suppress your wage, declare your teeth and health a luxury that you cannot afford, and while you sweat in the sun mowing their grass so pretty, invade your ancestors’ land to steal more fuel to power your mower.
How is the GOP and the “conservative” mind attempting to enforce racial purity in today’s world? In so many ways. From the loop that the Criminal Justice system sets up to pack the prisons with black and brown, to the banks’ targeting customers of color and immigrants to exploit with higher rates and scams, to the erasure or minimizing in Texas’ textbooks of the achievements of people of color, to the ENTIRE IDEA of IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT which by now seems to be discussed as an item of faith, as if it is not a trumped up WAR ON TERROR part two. Yes, other things come into it, such as the State making money for policing and incarcerating this new population. Our war economy is failing us. And our nation knows no better way to make cash than go to war on yet another population. At this point states are blatantly justifying 287g programs and such because new prisons and detention centers are springing up in their towns.
And many Democrats are championing those same programs, and the same “heavy enforcement” talk, telling me that they need to do all this to convince the American people that these word games indicate the right approach to “our broken immigration system.” But you know what? Social justice is not a word game. It is a bloody fight and if your hands are clean, you may be on the dodgeball court, but you ain’t in the struggle.
A Progressive Lens
This war on people of color and on the indigenous of this continent (because oh yes, the CIA has its hands deep in Latin America, too, and has for yearrrrrs) rolls on. This must be seen and championed by “Progressives” or they’ve got nothing. There is no Progressive movement without that lens. Nothing at all at the heart. And nothing for the future of the movement but running around the exhaust pipes of the GOP for the rest of their own doomed existence. True justice lies in employing a fearless lens upon the birth and the current fractures of this nation and how this plays out in our international policies and wars and thus, our current state. And it has to do with Imperialism and white supremacy and exploitation of the Other. Way more than most liberals are comfortable examining, aside from a snarky line or two in a blog post. These truths of our imbalances maintained must become part of our national dialogue. We must accept nothing less from the Democratic politicians. You cannot blame the US for being a “soundbyte nation” if you are validating and employing and not fighting that tendency! Run from the GOP and their accusations of “Blame America First”? Retreat behind flag pins? Join them in talk about locking up and deriding immigrants? This is the way down. This validates the very party and ideology the Left ought lock horns with and do fierce battle.
In my opinion, confronting that comfort is the path forward. And maintaining that comfort simply makes you a meek aide to the Republican machine; less than they. For at least they know their cause and they stand behind it unapologetically.
Not that there is any shortage of opportunities to engage. And the immigration issue certainly presents a giant opportunity. And by all means, join in. It’s not for Mexicans that anyone ought do it, really. It’s because unless the People take up the cause of all the People, then the People will fail, divided by the professional manipulators who have everything at stake in keeping us apart.
Another of Obama’s hopes is Republican Senator Lindsay Graham. Recently, Graham was the one to come forth and say that immigration is dead this year. And because Obama had to go and push the Health Care thing. That’s Graham’s story and he’s sticking with it. You don’t need me to tell you he’s full of shit. The GOP must try to destroy Obama and all he does. And anything he does. This, too, is tied to their belief system. This is why they went crazy when Obama spoke in schools. For children to see a black man as President destroys a space in the mind that Republicans would use to plant their ideologies about racial superiority. Just that sight—of an articulate, handsome, well-spoken, kind and powerful black man—could alter the lives of those children in a fractal sense. One new image that provides a foundation for a series of other thoughts and beliefs, that very possibly do not lead to a worldview supported by Conservatism. So the GOP cannot rescind Obama’s electoral tidal wave, but their next best hope is that the nation feels the first black President was a failure. That—now that—could be worked into their ideologies. “Sure,” they’d say to their deluded children, “it was White Guilt and Black Racism that elected Obama. And maybe a bit his pretty speechifyin’. But mostly the first two, just like I tell you all the time about Affirmative Action. So he caught a boost into the Oval Office. He got to play dress-up for a while. But of course he failed in the end, Ruthy! He’s….well. He tried hard, you gotta give him that. And he sure could play some mean b-ball, eh kids?”
So let’s just get that straight and know that Lindsay Graham would never have helped Obama secure anything he believes could be successful for Obama, Democrats, or people of color. I mean, didn’t we just learn from watching the GOP tantrumize the entire Health Care debate how willing they are to work with the Dems? Lindsay, pleeeeease.
Nevermind that this immigration issue affects Irish immigrants, as well. Don’t even bother with that. This issue is about Mexicans. Period. That’s all we are talking about with fences and “invaders” and “culture changing.” Shit. Nobody is concerned about one more Irish fella at the pub on March 17! Pat Buchanan is not terrified that O’Malley’s will run out of bar seats under another wave of Irish immigration. This is about Mexicans. You know, cockroaches. Etc.
WASHINGTON, D.C.— El senador Lindsey Graham (R-SC) la figura clave del Partido Republicano en las negociaciones sobre reforma migratoria en la Cámara Alta, aseguró a La Opinión que los indocumentados tendrían que “declararse culpables de un delito menor para obtener su legalización”. A su vez, el legislador enfatizó que la reforma migratoria no tiene posibilidades este año en la Cámara Alta.
La semana pasada, el presidente del Subcomité de Inmigración, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) y Graham presentaron juntos una columna de opinión en The Washington Post, donde aseguraron que los indocumentados tendrían que admitir que violaron la ley.
“Para los 11 millones de inmigrantes que ya están ilegalmente en este país, teníamos que ofrecer un camino duro pero justo. Se les exigiría admitir que violaron la ley y el pago de su deuda a la sociedad mediante la realización de servicio comunitario y el pago de multas e impuestos atrasados. Estas personas estarían obligadas a pasar controles de antecedentes y ser competentes en inglés antes de ir a la parte de atrás de la fila y ganar la oportunidad de trabajar hacia la residencia legal permanente”, dice la columna.
Consultado por La Opinión respecto a “¿qué significa admitir que se violó la ley”, Graham aseguró “la parte que se refiere a la solución de la inmigración ilegal, es que van a tener que admitir que cometieron un crimen, declararte culpable de un misdemeanor o delito menor, pagar una multa y realizar servicio comunitario”.
Un delito menor es una ofensa criminal que resulta en un récord. Tiene un grado menor de severidad que las felonías, pero mayor que las infracciones civiles. En general, se le considera un crimen que se paga a través de prisión, libertad bajo palabra y multas.
It goes on. He is essentially saying that a) Immigration Reform is dead this year and b) his terms for signing a bill in any case involve the usual terms offered by the GOP such as learning English, but the novel and disturbing proposition that the undocumented community, before becoming proud and naturalized US citizens, admit to criminality and carry a misdemeanor crime on their record evermore. In addition, the newly-shamed and minted criminal class will do community service and pay a fine.
The Eternal Servant-Criminal Class
I am not surprised at these types of ideas coming from a Republican. From an old white Conservative man. Never mind that currently being undocumented is not even a criminal offense but a civil one! (ICE has got around this by charging people with document fraud, thus shuttling the cases into criminal court where immigrants often don’t have adequate representation and sign whatever they are told to, ending up in—yup, you guessed it—a detention center where the taxpayers support their imprisonment, rather than benefit from their working and adding to the local economy and workforce.)
Do you know that law officers already generally assume you are a criminal or have an arrest record if you are a person of color? Or at least that you were up to something recently! Or perhaps that your shirt smells like Marijuana. It’s true! That is why people of color get stopped for driving for no reason, get tailed in stores (hate this one, it’s very distracting) get harassed by cops in the first place. It is part of the Prison loop. See you as criminal, create you as criminal. Target you more, prosecute you further, assume guilt, search ’til they find some. Punish. Repeat.
Republicans like Graham and Sessions and so on are essentially incapable of viewing an abstract Mexican or group of Mexicans as ANYthing but something deviant, shameful, criminal, and destructive. Of course he wants ten million brown people to have a police record! In his mind it’s already one and the same, he aches to flesh his bias into life. As Joe Arpaio does by criminalizing those he feels are already criminal by nature.
And a police record will lead to further trouble with the law. It’s bad enough getting harassed more because of a name or physical traits, but to be harassed and then found to have a record already? As I said, these things compound each other, and sometimes, very fast. Punishments increase in severity, less lenience is given, you feel more uptight about further trouble, which might make you act funny around cops who are already looking at you funny…see? It’s a loop. And that’s the point of it.
So Lindsay Graham (R) is basically saying “Okay. I will agree to let millions more Mexicans into this culture, but they must play the roles in which I see them. This preserves my white supremacist culture, after all. I don’t want you here, but if you have to be here and you are already, then you are criminals. That fits the script.”
And Arizona is all over this, too. As I covered in the latter part of News With Nezua | Whoa Canada! (the specific Arizona segment is here on YouTube), a mesh of laws are being enacted in that state that turn the presence of any undocumented person into a violator of criminal laws, as well as anyone who transports them to work, or to look for work, or home from work. These laws (primarily enshrined in SB 1070) empower police and government workers anywhere in the state to stop anyone they think may be undocumented for any reason and require proof of citizenship…or be swept into ICEville. Yup. Bad, bad news. Bad, bad move. (Did you know the massive marches of 2006 were mostly in reaction to the Sensenbrenner bill which proposed the very same thing?)
That is essentially the ground that Graham is preparing for the entire nation.
You think cops harassing people of color is bad now? Just imagine. Watch that segment on the new Arizona laws, and imagine how that could play out on an entire nation where people of color or who have accents are already under fire or derision; already being scapegoated for the economic destruction wrought by greedy blue-eyed bankers. These laws that empower local police to increasingly view and treat the undocumented—and by extension, Latinos—as criminal suspects who owe obeisance at any moment (Your papers??!) serve as a very, very poor response to the shifting cultural face of the nation. In fact, it’s safe to say that this creeping violence and force is the last gasp of Whiteness, meaning to do by gun and prison what it cannot maintain by propaganda and illusion.
In today’s civilized and progressive era, everything will be by law and decree and politically viable and sound and acceptable. And yet, the jails continue to grow. And grow too small. And be it in Haiti or Iraq or Mexico, it is still a certain kind of dweller on this planet doing the plundering. The Marines and police are still sent in to secure the Imperialist hustle in every market on the planet.
And the Democrats are often the ones tearily waving them goodbye as they embark on their patriotic journeys.
And Ye Shall Reap What Ye Sow
Bill Clinton recently admitted to what many have been saying for many years: that creating conditions that flood a foreign nation/entity with imports from the US while disabling that locations ability to farm and produce food for themselves wreaks destruction on an area. This is actually a pretty important statement for him to make. (Must be why after the first day, the article is buried and took me a while to track down!) Because the US does this…as a pattern. And when you stop and think about it, there is no more confusion about my level of emotion on how my own birth-nation treats humans around the world, known here as “immigrants” or as “illegals” or “illegal immigrants” by all the GOP and some members of the Democratic party. Because it’s a very nasty and disgusting and immoral and deceptive way to act. And I expect better from this world, in this time.
You cripple a nation’s agricultural market so that THE USA MAY BENEFIT from this NATION OF BROWN PEOPLE. This destroys the market in Haiti, as it did in Chile, as it did in Mexico. It’s not an accident. It’s not that Clinton is just realizing it. This is how the US stays strong and economically viable. China makes a lot of things we use! I would be lost without all my gear imported from China. China has a leg up exporting because they make SO. MUCH. STUFF. The US exports by creating famine conditions and then conveniently being around when people are hungry. In essence. I’m being a bit dramatic, but good, because it all ends up the same. It’s like locusts. We strip them down so that we can fly. It’s vile. But that’s not the end of it.
When these people flee, and come here—the much-trumpted LAND OF OPPORTUNITY and LAND OF PLENTY—from those lands that are economically stunted or crippled, we consider them criminals. We say they have to admit what wrong they did. Even Democrats insist that they be punished, this low person on the ladder! Dems and GOP insist they be shamed! It sickens my gut. Where is the discussion of what the US has done wrong in this? Better yet, a way forward where we can do right by what went wrong? An intelligent cause and effect talk? This is tyranny of the strong, to punish these tiny humans scattering about in the wake of imperial boots that tear through towns collecting our bounty.
Bill Clinton has made it clear that he understands this. And if this tiny piece of truth could make its way into our national dialogue on economy, foreign policy, and immigration? It would upset and rearrange the entire trajectory. Or it would have the potential, at least. We know it wouldn’t have a chance in the murky, corrosive depths of US political discourse.
And then people even on the “left” want to talk about a “soundbyte culture.”
The Democrats are now talking about sending in guns, or having some special type of arrangement with Mexico so our Marines can go in and join his drug war that has spiraled out of control and is eating human beings every day. It’s not like they can run through the desert to escape the war. I suppose soon our troops will be waiting for them there, and our bullets firing upon them from Mexican rifles.
Bill Clinton’s tears mean about as much to me as Glenn Becks’.
The Democrats are doing their job. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, and recently wrote about journalists: it’s not that they aren’t doing what they were elected to do, it’s that people are confused about their purpose. And the Democrats’ purpose is to siphon off genuine populist outrage on the Left side of the spectrum. To give us the Good Cop to the GOP’s Bad Cop. That results in our being “trapped” into a Two Party mindset. The dynamic is a powerful one, because it taps into a couple things personally (nevermind the practical chances/difficulty in electing a third party candidate). One, most people who are scared of outcomes or of being in a scary situation (or perhaps I should call it “uncertainty”) will choose the easiest way out. For another thing, The Good Cop/Bad Cop routine presupposes you don’t have enough personal strength to offer yourself a third option in what currently presents as a binary, and a pressing one. These are generally sound assumptions to make with most people, at most times. And of course, there are other reasons that are systemic.
But however you shake it out, the current Democratic party is a pretty inadequate choice for people truly interested in social justice; in a sound, healthy, vibrant society that respects human rights and has the confidence and joy at heart that a thriving culture would. No, the American voting public is, sometimes, like beaten children ready to take what we are given because our imaginations and hope has been kicked in until it cannot expand any further.
Given: The way the GOP is veering downward and righty-right-righto-right as of late draws the distinction between them and the Democrats a valuable one, admittedly. Also, while the insurance reform bill that was just passed does enshrine the worst parts of the capitalist system, as I think Taibbi said, and is a giveaway to the corporate moguls, the current GOP was really rubbing its Class War Club quite unabashedly and certainly is off on an irrational trajectory that ends in abject class war. Beck telling us our teeth are not a Constitutional right. Oh, I’ve got a few things to tell Mr. Beck and people like him about teeth! But that’s for another time.
That said, even with the historic healthcare legislation achievement, the Dems will continue to fund the utter destruction of our neighbors in the world. Be it in Afghanistan, where the CIA now operates as if another branch of the military; in Pakistan where drones drop down death on the daily; in Iraq or wherever the US Pentagon decides we go next without needing to call it “war” and thus launch it legally. And people will continue to flee these nations (if they live through it) and many will make their way here. The US—both Left and Right—will continue to speak of these migrations as violations of our law and border, a law and border that are like one-way doors for bullets, bombs, and people and through their precise functioning undermine any and all we say about opportunity, fairness, and liberty. The US will continue to lock people up in the already overburdened and ridiculously blooming prison system. Movies like Blindside will continue to win Oscars and make white America feel it’s a good place, at heart. And once in a while, the Democrats will make a big show of passing a center-left piece of legislation.
Meanwhile, no branch of our government is doing much to help heal the world at large, or at least slow the destruction and degradation of our global community and its future.
It can be a scary thought if you dwell on it. Dancing helps.
Fear Felt Up High
And so the Democratic Party is now feeling a bit of anxiety over the immigration issue. I know because I am contacted sometimes by Democratic aides in DC. The Washington-Blogger relationship is new, and I’m sure they are not quite sure what to do with it, but I credit them for approaching and making contact with me and making an effort to…well. I guess that is the question. What are they after? How do they see a blogger? We know the protocol for the Press and the White House…but I am not quite that. All these areas are new. I am open to how they flesh out. But I am certainly not here to simply pass on messaging. I am not a tri-corder, or whatever Colbert called the MSM. No, Jim, I’m a blogger. And that means I’ll not just pass on what was said, but how I perceive that statement, or various statements. I’ll report on it, but I’ll report on it, and I’ll report on me, too! REPORTING ON IT! It’s like frakken Gonzo Ummagumma up in here.
After my multiple talks, I began to feel such a desire on their part to have me carry out certain actions and spread specific messages that I replied that they should find a way to pay me! This of course sent them off running for the moment. Not to mention it would ultimately be a unethical. That remark was my way of hinting that I don’t do specific jobs that other entities benefit solely from unless I’m paid or want to.
But I’ll pass on their words in case you do want to, or in case they are valuable. In that sense, sure. I’m happy to help. And they said to pressure Graham. Activists should be “outraged” about Graham’s proposal to criminalize immigrants. We should pressure the GOP so that they come on board to Obama’s side (bill?) and feel the heat.
But what bill? What leadership? Are they really asking bloggers, now, to fulfill Obama’s promise to the community?
Oye, if the nation can see or hear or yawn at what’s been going on so far with the immigrant community, well. As I said, we are pushing back against some deeply entrenched imaginations of what brown people are and so on. It’s a tough economy (I know, it’s hitting me hard) and it’s easy to begin hoarding and fearing. Especially when the government feeds that impulse! As I said to to both of them in so many words, how do you expect the grassroots to get excited and work for you? You are out there saying all these things about immigrants! Helping to spread fear and a punitive outlook! I laid out my thoughts as I’ve done here to them, to one of them. I brought up the larger global picture of what is going on in immigration. He said, true, “but this is a soundbyte nation.” And I said that I don’t want to treat my country like it is stupid. Why are the Democrats not educating people on this? Why do they bow to the Right with the talk of criminality and punishment? I talked about blaming the weakest link in the chain and about the Tyranny of the strong. And I said I had to take serious disagreement with the idea that making the People comfortable involves playing into the criminalization of Mexicans and immigrants. Nope. Not buying it.
I didn’t really know what they could do with everything I said. Maybe they passed it on, maybe they just wondered why they called The Angry Mexican in the first place and left it at that.
But I had to speak on why I had no passion really to run errands for the Democrats’ capitulatory, cowardly asses. “You need 60 votes for anything” one said, over and over. Which is fine. But who is leading the charge? Not Obama. Not the tiniest bit. And who made beautiful speeches to la comunidad via NCLR events and so on? Wait for it…yup. That was Obama.
After speaking to both an aide to a major Democratic player in Congress and their Hispanic Outreach person, I can tell that they are sweating our reaction. New Media, activists, advocacy groups, the People. Why? Probably because they don’t plan on moving anything. President Obama tells the GOP that they have to offer up a bill, or that he said he was open, but he needs more of them on board. Reid’s office states it will introduce something by the end of the year if nothing happens. Schumer and Graham are out having beers and swatting at piñatas or something as they talk about how to extract the most shame from one square mile of tomato skins.
President Obama won’t be leading this charge. I love the man, no doubt. But look, son. He wouldn’t even come out swinging for his old disabled aunt. You think he’s gonna risk his ass over ten million Mexicans? No, I know stall talk when I hear it, and he won’t be championing the issue. He’d already be out there.
Today and Tomorrow
Which is why I began this piece with the question how do we react to this? Now? Let’s think and plan and know now, so that by the time it’s made inarguably clear through the ole up/down/up/down Public Option style desensitization method, we already know our plan. Do away with the doubt and hope so we can get practical. In what way? I don’t know. I guess that depends. It might be a purely personal plan, having to do with voting, or lifestyle or living area, brand of pop-tarts you buy…I can’t imagine. But despite our own personal reactions, we have to understand that this is not a tiny let down or broken promise, nor should it be. I can’t call it for you. But I think it’s safe to say despite the excuse-making, we were had.
That the Democrats will continue deporting Latin Americans at an astonishing rate (1,000 a day now?), enacting laws that devastate communities and punish individuals for what is really a larger issue (next we can punish the seals for drowning as our industries melt their icebergs) and our charming, sweet, and eloquent President will most certainly not use that enlivening tenor to educate the US masses on what they really need: to understand exactly what is going on that ties the health care issue together with the economy, our international policy, and immigration. The GOP will continue to react as if despoilers of the Pure need to be fought within her borders and across oceans, and never will the entire picture or truthful dialogue be presented to the People so that something—some real thing—might change in this whole setup.
Finally, as expected, the Democrats will stall on immigration and offer feints and tuff-guy soundbytes, but they will not come through, nor will they break it all down and get real with the People.
They can’t. The Good Cop, no matter how comforting, still needs you to fear the cell for his shtick to work.
DESPITE my many misgivings on how What-May-Become-CIR is shaping up, the energy at the rally on Sunday in DC was undeniably strong, fresh, vibrant, positive, and loud. More like a loving block party, concert and picnic than a “march,” the National Mall hosted hundreds of thousands of people supporting our fixing the broken immigration system. I’ll have a video for you (the next News With Nezua video) that I am going to use to convey some of that energy to you.
Because there are separate aspects of any “cause” or political issue. Which is what makes the whole thing so frustrating sometimes. We all forget, we all remember, are reminded, when we talk it over. We begin pushing for the very best we can, as we should. Ideals lead the way. Then some others get angry and say that the first group is being too purist, or non-pragmatic. Compromises must be made. Then your undocumented friend says those compromises are cruel and unneeded and unnecessary. And then another undocumented friend says, hey—I’m willing to make those concessions. Then another citizen friend says but I am not willing to have a biometric Social Security card, and we shouldn’t let that be ushered in using this issue. Then someone else passes a link about a protest or march action and then someone else says isnt there more to making change than protests, than making noise? And then you attend a massive gathering like this in the absence of any movement from the white house after all the beautiful speeches made to la comunidad and you remember that every gathering is not about making an immediate change. Or rather, more comes out of something like this event than just definitive legislative action.
Sometimes you need to be around people who feel as you do, who look a bit like you, or have a name like you—especially when those things are under attack by various groups and voices in our nation. Especially when you are out there working that activismagic-whatever you do, making your heart visible and evident in the world, trying to chip away at wrongness because that gives you a lust for life, that makes you feel you have done more than take from the world. And that good things can happen, and that you are not alone, and that you stand with hundreds of thousands of other people. And that even though the people who would stab the very balloons out of the hands of mimes may be given too loud a voice at times, on the other hand, the people who know that justice is a right all humans have can gift each other with a very powerful weapon to place in the arsenal. And the event had a lot of that energy. It was very comforting to know that with so many Latinos around, even if we were dissimilar in many ways, we were standing together at the moment for things that go so often unchampioned or unmentioned by the most powerful voices in media, if not altogether slurred and derided. We were, for a handful of hours, a city of solidarity and flava and positivity.
And at the same time, all those aforementioned currents that can sometimes complement and sometimes contradict, were in play.
I saw a number of people who work this scene, the regulars, the activists (undocumented and citizens), some org people, some new media people…you get to know each other after a while! We always see each other at these events. Our feelings on what is right and what is possible overlap in places. And not in others. And always varying at different times, perhaps, depending on how the issue is playing out in Congress or on TV or in the White House. And to see that weave of multiplicity on the issue just in that group of people gives you a peek into how tough it has to be to move legislation with so many people in government, many whom are not just sometimes at variance with, but directly opposed to each other’s value systems and desires and ideologies, and many who don’t even deal in good faith, who are simply making decisions on cynical and power-based motives. It’s a wonder anything gets done. And it explains why so many of us on the Left are beaming sunshine out of our blogholes because the White House just passed insurance reform that still leaves us with a health care system that should hide in shame compared to that of many “less powerful” nations—not to make light of the very big deal that is this bill being passed, nonetheless….
One of these activist type friends I know—he is involved with one of the current orgs that speaks for/stands for/benefits from the Latino&Immigration type issues—was a bit bitter about the event. It was “cynical,” he said. “Why aren’t they telling people” that this is a big hoo-rah event when in reality, Schumer and others are lining up a nasty little deal before they even consider trying to sell it; a deal that involves National biometric ID cards/SS cards, and passing an English test (who says you have to speak English in the USA, we still don’t have any “official language,” after all!), admitting shame and criminality in being here at all (I’m still waiting to hear the US govt explain the reneging on NAFTA as well as many other actions that contribute to global inequality and spur immigration in the first place!) and blowing more money on a militarized and harmful border mentality and weaponry/wall, as well as funding (in part) Felipe Calderón’s drug war that has claimed over 17,000 lives by now. And I understand what he is saying. These things are not acceptable, in reality. At least not to me as a citizen. And I do live here, and have to live here for now. And so I feel I have a right—while not speaking for anyone else—to take part in pushing, shoving, nudging the world closer to where I feel it should be. Beginning here.
At the same time I could have said “Okay. Fair enough. But if that is cynical…then why don’t you tell that truth through the org you are attached to?” Because he does not, either. Nor do they. They stand for good things, too. But not the whole truth. Does anyone? Does anyone think the whole truth stands a chance in this nation? And yet you can’t really aim any lower and have too much self-respect. Because you know invariably that ideal will fall short, being channeled through an imperfect vessel—be it your own humanity, or Congress.
So it’s never cut and dry. We all have our interests, we all have to make a living, we all have to make compromise, we all have our hands stained from rowing in the Empire Ship, and even in those moments we truly want to do only good, only the right thing, that still doesn’t mean we’ll agree on what exact shape that Thing will be. We come from different places. We stand in different places. We’ve had different beginnings. I’m still personally trying to learn how to be true to my own vision, and at the same time make room for yours. In a way, I guess at heart, that is what the USA is supposed to be about. (At least judging by the mantras children are pressured to speak to the flag in school.) Lately I feel we are not being too successful at making that vision happen. But maybe as a nation born squalling and bloody and steeped in lust and reverence for property, as well as violence and exploitation of the Other, we just take smaller steps than those that satisfy me right away.
What is there to do but to keep putting energy toward such an idea, and toward fighting the good fight?
Which is why I thank Reform Immigration for America very much for making my trip possible. I appreciate the help in getting there, and the no-strings freedom to report the way I report. Speaking of which, I have to get back to editing the video. Meanwhile, here’s a slideshow of the fotos I took. Maybe they will give you an idea, for now, of what I’m talking about….